Hemswell Antique Centres

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What is antique glass?

What is antique glass?


Beautiful and fragile, antique glass is an area of collectables that encompasses something for everyone, at every price point. Our latest guide tells you what to look for.

What is antique glass?

As with period furniture, glass that is over 100 years old is classified as antique and anything between 40 and 100 years old is considered vintage. However, antique glass is such a wide-ranging and all-encompassing area for collectors, and includes so much more than wine glasses!

The difference between crystal and glass

In a nutshell, all crystal is glass, but not all glass is crystal! Put simply, glass is made from sand whereas crystal has a mineral content (often lead and anywhere between 2-30%) which gives added strength; because of its mineral content, crystal is also generally heavier than glass. When placed side by side, glass is ‘cloudier’ than crystal, hence the term ‘crystal clear’ and, depending on the mineral content, crystal can sparkle in the light, creating a prism effect. When tapped gently, crystal will emit a bell-like tinkling sound.

Identifying antique glass

  • Where you have a piece of glass or glassware that you think is antique, compare it to a modern piece of equivalent size. An antique piece will be heavier.
  • Check the piece under a magnifying glass – antique glass will have imperfections such as tiny bubbles within it.
  • Like any antique, glass will show its age and the wear and tear of usage so look for chips or scratches and check any gilding that may have been lost.
  • Punt, or pontil, marks on the base of the glass are left where the rod was broken off during the glassblowing process.
  • There are certain colours associated with antique glass that are created by the addition of compounds during the manufacturing process. Taking the lead in terms of value is red/cranberry/pink glass (made with gold oxide), followed by blue/cobalt (cobalt salts), green (uranium), and yellow or amber (sulphur).
  • Some, but not all, antique glass may feature a maker’s mark. These engraved marks can help to identify the maker and also date the piece. To identify a mark, consult an online guide such as the Glass Encyclopaedia.
  • Glass patterns can be similarly identified, as patterns were often used during a set period of time and can be a great indicator of age.

How to clean antique glass and care for it

Glassware and drinking glasses that have survived longer than 100 years, deserve to be used and displayed and enjoyed for another 100 years! Always pick up glass pieces with two hands and display away from any danger of being bumped into, such as seating areas.

Antique glass can be handwashed in a bowl using a soft cloth and a solution of washing up liquid in warm water. Wash antique glass in a sink or bowl with a towel to line the bottom – this will help to avoid any chance of cracking the glass. Always wash one piece at a time and NEVER put antique glass in a dishwasher as the temperatures reached can crack the glass.

In hard water areas, previous washing may have left mineral deposits on the glass and these stains can be removed by soaking in a commercial denture cleaner. Using purified or distilled water will avoid mineral spots, as will adding white vinegar to the rinse water. Do not mistake cloudiness caused by age with hardwater mineral deposits.

Blot dry with kitchen roll or a microfibre cloth and, wherever possible, leave upside down to air dry.

Antique glass from Hemswell Antique Centres

Whether you are looking for antique wine glasses, or antique glass vases, you will find the perfect piece at Hemswell. With over 200 pieces of antique glass online, including Art Nouveau glass and antique glass paperweights, our dealers have put together a treasure trove for you to explore and discover.

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