Coxsackie Antique Center

Where Yesterday Meets Tomorrow

Recognizing Old Glass

by Bill Johns

The study and collecting of glass covers an incredibly vast and complex field. Hundreds of different types of glass were manufactured and are collected. Thousands of different patterns, shapes, and decorations exist. Reproductions have been created for hundreds of years. Millions of pieces copying earlier originals have been produced over that last fifty or so years. They have attained sufficient age to begin to blend in with the authentic originals and have even become collectible in their own right.

Most reproduction glass was not made to cheat glass collectors. It was made to sell to the general public. It copies old glass when those shapes and patterns are attractive to modern buyers. It utilizes old molds because they are much less expensive than new ones. It is mass produced using modern machinery and methods. In these distinctions lie valuable clues to estimating age.

Of course, there are deliberate counterfeits being produced. Effective counterfeiting must duplicate the production methods as well as the appearance of the original. Very rare and valuable pieces of glass were hand made and decorated by highly skilled artisans. The faker must duplicate the hand work and decoration of the original. That level of fakery is expensive and is reserved for Galle, Tiffany, Lalique, and the like. If you don't collect $1000 pieces of glass these are no threat to you. There are also inexpensive knock-offs being mass produced today by unscrupulous "repro houses" that are intended only to be good enough to fool the hasty or ignorant buyer for the two minutes it takes to extract the purchase price from them. It is these pieces that this check list may help you guard against.

So, here is a very non-comprehensive discussion of some of the characteristics to look for in a piece of glass. None of these clues is decisive by itself. You have to take the totality of the evidence and made a judgement.

And after you've done all this, you still don't have a definitive answer. Maybe it was a gift to great great grandmother on her wedding day and she packed it away in the attic unused for 120 years. Maybe, but not likely. Use your common sense. What does the preponderance of the evidence say. Then make an educated guess.

The only way to learn glass is to study it - touch it, look at it and through it, read about it, and look at as many different pieces as you can. Eventually, you will be confident in your conclusions and glass will become a source of great pleasure.

We have many fine examples of early glass at the Coxsackie Antique Center. (and, no doubt, a few repro pieces skulking about in the dark corners.) Come on in and spend some time looking at the pieces and caressing them and studying them. The only way to really learn glass is to see it and touch it. We've also got an extensive glass section in our Reference Library that you can study. We have some excellent 10x color corrected magnifiers for $12.95. Comparable ones at a jeweler's would cost in the $30 range. And finally, we have a number of excellent glass references available for sale in one of the dealer booths.

(Antiques in Coxsackie #2 March 1997, Bill Johns)

© 1997-2002 Coxsackie Antique Center

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