Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's just Brilliant!



    From the end of the 18th century to about 1820, when glass cutting became a commercial production, a great number of pieces were made in small shops by individual crafters, who cut and decorated blanks of glass pieces, that were blown somewhere else.
    Patterns in cut glass are geometric and determined by that process.Early American cut glass patterns were taken from English and Irish cut glass. These  were the only patterns possible, as curves could not be cut.
   Bakewell and Company,1808-1882, of Pittsburg, were the first American Companies to make cut glass commercially.
    In 1818, the New England Glass Company was founded and from the start ,a cutting department. with cut glass mills, ran by steam, were very profitable. Most work was done from pattern books with over 400 designs.
    Cut glass continued to be fashionable and the desired glass, by all who could afford it, until the first part of the 21st century.
    In texture and design, American cut glass of the last half of the 19th century was unequaled by any in the world. Over 60 manufactures from the  Mississippi to the Atlantic, were producing cut glass. The industry was centered in Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts.The glass was of the finest flint and the incisions were clear, clean and sharp.the the patterns  were heavy and BRILLIANT.
     Glass is a remarkable substance born of sand, alkali and fire.Glass has been produced for more than 3,500 years.Cut glass is glass that has been decorated entirely by hand, by use of a rotating wheel. Cuts are made in other wise completly smooth surface of the glass but artisans, Various sized metal or stone wheels , and running water,  are used to do the cutting. Cut glass can be traced to 1,500 BC in Egypt, where vessels of varing sizes were decorated by cuts that were believe to have been done with metal drills.Artifacts dating to
the 6th century BC indicate that the Romans had mastered the art of glass cutting.



   The first cut glass in America has been traced back to Henry Stiegil, an immigrant from Germany, who founded the American Glass Company in Pennsylvania.
    During the 18th century  high grade deposits of silica were discovered in America,leading to glass making being  vastly better than glass made in Europe. About the same time, natural gas furnaces replaced coal ones and electric motors replace steam, making it much easier to cut and control the glass. At this time cut glass became a symbol of elegance and leisure and demands for beautiful glass products,spurred intense competition and creativity with in the industry
    The BRILLIANT  PERIOD of cut glass was the late 1800's to early 1900's and it brought about many changes in cut glass. Stunning new patterns, quite unlike the earlier European designs ,were developed and patented. Fine cut glass was soon sought after by wealthy Americans. By the late 1800's prizes were being won all over the world by American glass makers,
  American cut glass during this Brilliant period became the choice of Kings and Presidents. The Presidents of America, Mexico and Cuba, fancied this cut glass. Pieces of Lincoln's cut glass, are still on display in the dish room at the White House today. Edward VII of Great Britain was a big lover of the American Brillant cut glass.
  Since true cut glass is entirely hand decorated, high labor cost made it expensive and out of reach to all but the wealthy. The introduction of pressed or  pattern glass, lead to the demise of the cut glass industry. During the hay day of this period there were more than 1,000 cut glass factories and by  1908 there were barely 100. From 1908 to 1915 some of these cutters created some of the finest designs ever made of cut glass. Glass of this period is heavy, cuts are deep and the pattern is Brilliant, when held to the light. There never has been anything to equal this since. In Ireland the Waterford Glass Company has managed to stay alive and do pretty good, but just last month, it was announced they were closing there productions..  Waterford glass is loved and collected by many, but to me, it is nothing ,compared to the old Brilliant Cut glass. I lost interest in Waterford, when they began to sell things at TJ Max and Home Goods.

    I have never been a big time collector of the American Brilliant Cut glass, I am , however, a lover of it.. When I was younger and starting out, these cut glass pieces were over the top as far as prices went. I have always loved it and bought and sold many pieces. I especially love punch bowls and lamps. I have never felt I could find either one at a good price that would make it affordable for me to keep. Punch bowls with stands in perfect condition still sell for thousands today. Some with miner chips still command hundreds of dollars. Large cut glass lamps, with prisms,  from this period , can also go for thousands. Smaller, not so great ones sell for hundreds. I have had a few of not so great ones, always sold them and have always been looking for that great one. Found one once in New York, but the price tag of $10,000.00, made me leave it . Like my mother always told me, "Go first Class, or stay home."
   Cut glass chips and breaks very easily and must be handled with care,  a sudden change from hot to cold, can make it crack. Pressed or pattern glass is much more affordable, and doesn't require the gentle care that cut glass does. It has much of the same effect when used on a table, and prices are far less.
    Like a lot of other antique items, cut glass has gone done in price. Very few of the younger generation know what it is, nor do they care, They have grown up in the plastic world and seem to not mind it . I still find that the big, rare, signed and unique pieces still command a pretty good price. Average pieces like, vases, water pitchers, bowls and  a common bottle, can be found at very low prices. I have a few pieces that I have found here and there ,at those low prices. I like to use them when I serve or entertain. To me this is the most elegant glass one can use. The sparkle or Brilliance is equaled by no other. When the light hits a piece, it cast prisms about the room.
   I hope you can come by some day and visit me and Sissy ,at My Old Historic House. I will leave the lights on and Sissy Dog ,will always meet you with a jump and a kiss. And I will serve us up something good ,from a Brilliant piece of American cut glass.Keep on shinning!


This cut glass piece has a sterling top.


Ashley said...

They're beautiful! I have a few pieces that look similar to yours, although I always believed them to be pressed glass. I'll have to take a closer look. Can you give any hints on what to look for? Or is the mere fact that I'm not sure what they are evidence that it's pressed not cut?

Stacy Leigh said...

Beautiful Richard! Your pictures are so brilliant! Great job!

Beverly said...

I love it, too, Richard. I especially enjoy mine after it has just been washed. The sun shining on it through the window is a sparkling display.

Thank you for sharing your beautiful pieces.

Heirlooms by Ashton House said...

Brilliant is definitely an apt description for this glass!! What an amazing collection. Again, a very informative post. I love how I always learn something new when I visit your blog!

Marcia said...

The vase with the frosty-looking rose is my favorite. Thank you for another educational blog post!

Akissfromthepast said...

i collect these items too, if i saw one in good condition i probably buy it... i would posted something, but my camera is still broken and i haven't had time to bought a new one yet :) i have plenty of pics still yet, but not at my cutted class... :D :D
have a nice day!

Susan said...

Hello Richard! Oh! Stop my beating heart. Your cut glass pieces are to be cherished. Loved the photos! Great post. Love your blog. Sincerely, Susan

Curtains in My Tree said...

My mother got me to loving cut glass and taught me the difference usually by the weight of it . I mean pick up a piece of pressed glass and cut glass and you can tell the difference or I can .

Your pieces are over the top gorgeous. I only kept one piece of my mothers's a brother has the larger piece a large fruit bowl the rest sold at the estate sale . Now I want everything that was in the sale )

I want to see those pieces my next trip up the river to Clarksville Missouri

dr vacuum said...

I love this post about american brilliant! I found your blog through another blog (antique style blog) and I ran into what you wrote on cut glass! I myself am a long time collector of cut glass, having acquired my first piece at the age of 10 (well my parents got it for my birthday, but what 10 year old asks for a piece of antique glass?).

One thing I don't think you mentioned was the fact that the glass contains up to 40% lead oxide, which is the reason why it appears so brilliant over the standard waterford and another reason why it weighs so much. Manufacturing of american brilliant was ended at the beginning of WWI as the lead oxide was needed to make other things.

For more resources on cut glass, I recommended reading information from, the American Cut Glass Association's website. Also, I see your next post is about the St. Louis World's Fair. St. Louis (well, St. Charles) is the home of Woody's auction, a wonderful auctioneer who specializes in cut glass, among other things. You can bid online too if you are unable to make it. You can often pick up things for a song (and $10k if you wish). I highly recommend going, there's one in November.

Thank you so much for sharing and informing more people about the little world of American brilliant cut glass!

Shelia said...

HI Richard! I've missed you! Oh, my goodness look at all of your gorgeous cut glass! So beautiful! I have a few pieces too! I know I've said it before but I really do learn a lot when I come by for a visit!
One thing though, I would hate to do all the dusting at your old historic house! :)
Thanks for popping in to see my trip.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Ann@A Sentimental Life said...

I have several pieces myself..but adore the piece with the sterling on top!

Pamela Gordon said...

Thanks for the very interesting post Richard. I see a couple of pieces there similar to ones I have. Cut glass is very pretty all cleaned up and shining in candlelight. I never use mine. Maybe I should! Pamela

Babs said...

I thought love of Brilliant cut glass had gone by the wayside. Obviously, it's alive and well at your old historic house. Your pieces are beautiful, but tell do you clean it? By hand or in the dish washer? Thanks for all the great information.

Glenda/MidSouth said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful collection! Enjoyed the history lesson - had no clue cut glass dated that far back.

Richard Cottrell said...

Ms. Babs, Never put cut glass in a dish washer. The hot and cold of the changing water will make it break. I was them by hand and I use very luke warm water and a dish scrub brush. I usually put a towel in the sink in case I drop or nick a piece. Very carefully they need to be handled and yes, it is a pain in the butt.Thanks, Richard

Richard Cottrell said...

Dear dr vaccum.I tried to find a way to send you an email or leave a comment and I had no such luck. Thanks you for stopping by my blog and especially thanks for the little extra lesson you gave all us. Keep on loven', American brilliant Cut Glass. Richard

Sissysmom said...

Thanks again for another informative and dare I say "brilliant" post!! I wore my sunglasses to read it! LOL!! Now I am just being silly!

I only have one real piece of cut glass that was my Great Grandmothers, everything else I have from family is just pressed glass.

Hope all is well with you and Sissy Dog. Give her a pat on the head from me.


Richard Cottrell said...

Dearest Michele, Thanks for being there for me as always. I love hearing from you and am always excited when I see your comment. Sissy Dog is asleep under my desk. I will pat her for you latter. Thanks again for being you.

xinex said...

Your cut glass collection is just exquisite, Richard. They are gorgeous!..Christine

Pearl said...

Beautiful all of it!

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Good evening, Richard. I always enjoy visiting you and learning so much about your collections. I have a couple of cut glass pieces that belonged to my grandmother. I cherish them not only because they are a family heirloom but also because they are beautiful pieces.

Pattie @ Olla-Podrida said...

Wow, such sparkling beauties! I have a few similar pieces, but mine, alas, are pressed glass. You have a stunning collection here.

Lizabeth said...

Wow! That was so informative! I'm sad to hear Waterford is quitting. I understood from a sales person at Macy's that only the Marquis collection by Waterford was being made overseas and therefore offered at a lot lower price. The rest of their pieces were still made in Ireland.
My mother has a lovely punch bowl that is very time after a party it got a slight crack in it because of a temperature change as you desribed. It's still intact but I always worried about ever using it again. Makes me wonder if it's actually the old fashioned hand cut type.
Thanks for sharing all this information and for visiting my blog!

Anna at the Doll House said...

Thank you so much for this Richard. I only have a few pieces of European cut-glass and was completely unaware of the innovations made by American glass-cutters. Hopefully, I might now be able to spot the difference.


Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

I love this gorgeous post Richard! Thanks so much!! said...

Beautiful collection.I have one vase and it is nice, but I would rather enjoy someone elses collection than care for it myself. You are right though, the punch bowls are beyond beautiful.

Rosemary@villabarnes said...

You have some beautiful pieces, Richard. I've bought and sold many pieces over the years. I love the look of cut glass. Another reason they fell in price, is, remember some years ago when there was a glut of repros. So sad. Nice to see the genuine article. I love the ones with the silver. Thanks again for sharing another stunning collection.

Brigitte said...

Hi Richard,
Your blog is so wonderful and it is also exiting to hear that members among us are also collectors and show love for these elegant pieces.Love of mine are intricate star patterns.
The first posteraskedabout the difference which has been answered already.
I would like to add what I've learned about the difference between cut and pressed are not only the weight,clarity of the crystal ( which tells you the lead content ) but also if you run your finger along the cut marks they are sharper whereas pressed glass is more rounded.
Have fun collecting :-)

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous post about gorgeous glass! In the past two years, I've finally started collecting cut glass in a modest way. Usually small pieces at estate sales, if they're not too chipped. Most of my collection, though, is pressed glass--pretty, but not as spectacular as the Brilliant.

I hadn't heard that Waterford is closing. That's such a shame, and although I've been putting off finishing my set of champagne glasses, I'd better get 'em before the price shoots up.

Thanks for all the information, and yes yes yes--everyone, be CAREFUL with old glass. I left a lovely spooner on my granite kitchen counter directly over the dishwasher. I was intending to handwash it later, but just the heat and steam from the dishwasher came up through the stone counter and cracked that spooner. I hadn't even owned it two days, and I was so sad about it.

The plastic generation will never know what it's missing. Beauty is worth the extra work.


Anonymous said...

P.S. I feel some major envy for that pitcher with the sterling top!

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Richard,
Loved your article on the glass...I have a few pieces but not many. I agree, I only wash it by hand. I am more of a fan of the "glass" that chandeliers...hahahaa! Thanks for such informative posts....really love them

MUST see you soon. Maybe in November...that is my month of cooking and visits I have decided. I wrote you back on my post - go visit.

Miss you and Prissy - kisses to her and you

Pam of Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Richard,

What an interesting post, and what a beautiful collection! I know nothing about cut glass. How do you tell the difference between cut glass and crystal? Or are they the same thing? I'm afraid pressed glass is all I can afford.


Divine Theatre said...

How do you keep them so glaming? Beautiful!
Love to Sissy...


lvroftiques said...

Richard your collection is stellar as always! So many gorgeous pieces. I think if I ever actually visited your house I might just faint from all the beauty overload *winks* I really enjoyed the lesson and I'd really like to collect cut glass but yes it's very pricey and rare in my neck of the country.Hugs and kisses to you and that sweet Sissy girl. Vanna

Love Of Quilts said...

I have a love for cut glass..I have a few pieces that I think are have a lovely collection. Trish

Happy To Be/ Gl♥ria said...

Just BEAUTIFUL my dear friend..I always love coming by here for all your great drooling eye candy..Love ya Richard and have really missed ya..Hope to be back soon as I feel able to blog again..Hugs and fur love to Sissy..Hugs Gloria

Alison @ The Polohouse said...


This was great and so timely for me!

Was helping a client this week.... trying to lighten the clutter accumulation in her home. I tried to explain to her the difference between pressed glass and cut glass. I wish I had read this most informative essay beforehand!

I was born and raised in the SW corner of PA and that is the heartland of so many glass and pottery companies in the US, even today. So I grew up with the knowledge of the history of these American pieces since I was a child.

I don't love Waterford either, and for the same reason as you mentioned, they sold out.

I attended an antiques seminar on the ever changing antique industry and what is hot and what is not, and they said Waterford was going under bc they never updated their products.
They used the same exact shapes and styles - maybe cut them differently, but that was not enough to keep up with the demands of modern times. Too bad really.

As always, a really great post.


The Vintage Chateau said...

Thanks for all of your information on American Brilliant cut glass. I've bought and sold a few pieces over the years but never really spent too much time on research.You've got a beautiful collection!

Anyes K. Busby - Studio Vignette Fine Art said...

Hi Richard,
Perfect title for this post. The craft associated with these pieces - amazing.

Howtolossweight said...

Beautiful Richard! Your pictures are so brilliant! Great job!

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