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Antiques & Collecting: Victorian Art Glass

PUBLISHED: 15:52 06 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:06 20 February 2013

A cranberry water jug, 19th century, £180-£220

A cranberry water jug, 19th century, £180-£220

Victorian decorative glass is frequently called 'art glass' and covers a whole range of categories, colours and decorative pieces. The best known type of English art glass is sometimes referred to as coloured Bristol (not to be confused with the l...

Undoubtedly, a lot of coloured glass was produced in Bristol, but it was also made at many other centres, such as Stourbridge and Newcastle. It dates from about 1850 and is found in various colours: milk-white, cream, apple green, sky-blue, pink/white and green/white. The rarest varieties are pure apple-green and pink/white and items range from useful wares, such as scent bottles and vases, to purely decorative pieces, for example table centrepieces, lustres and glass hats, bells and other novelties.

The best known and earliest type of popular 19th century coloured glass was ruby or cranberry. Ruby glass was imported from Bohemia in the 1820s, while cranberry is a lighter, almost cherry red and was widely made in English glass houses from c.1850.

After the 1820s many new types of fancy glass originally produced in America appeared in this country. These included:

Opaline - a general name for milk-white glass, which shows a fiery glow when held up to the light. It also occurs in pale blue and pink.

Amberine - a shaded two-coloured translucent glass, deep red at the top, shading to amber at the base, which sometimes contains air bubbles.

Burmese or Queen's Burmese - a smooth unpolished, semi-opaque glass, shading from dusky salmon pink to lemon yellow. It was officially called Queen's Burmese after Queen Victoria ordered a tea set and vases.

Vaseline - beautiful clear glass, chartreuse green in colour, often with golden undertones. Often used for rather large ornamental pieces such as candlesticks and decanters, as well as many smaller objects like boxes and tumblers.

Satin Glass - an opaque coloured glass with a dull satiny surface and usually a white lining. Produced mainly by Thomas Webb of Stourbridge, both the lining and the outer cases are often of very thick glass, beautifully shaded in many colours.

Slag Glass - an opaque pressed glass with streaks of colour, due to the addition of slag taken from the surface of molten steel and left in heaps outside the steel works.

Mary Gregory - a dark blue, ruby or green glass, decorated in white enamelled brush work, with pictures of children playing or gathering flowers. First made in Bohemia it became popular with Americans, who gave it its name, after an artist who specialised in this type of painting, although later research raises doubts as to her actual existence!

Victorian 'art glass' has risen in price considerably, a cranberry centrepiece can be worth a lot of money and small slag spill vases are not cheap. Coloured glass is still being made though so it is advisable only to buy
Victorian 'art glass' from a reputable dealer or auction house;


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