CRYSTAL: SPARKLING ELEGANCE FOR ALL OCCASIONS

By: John Hogan

When we think of crystal we may think of anything that ranges from jewelry to chandeliers, decanters, champagne pails, bowls or vases.

BRILLIANT PERIOD CUT GLASS VASE, C. 1920

BRILLIANT CUT GLASS VASE, C. 1920

BRILLIANT CUT GLASS COMPOTE, C. 1905

BRILLIANT CUT GLASS COMPOTE, C. 1905

CZECHOSLOVAKIAN VINTAGE CUT CRYSTAL DECANTER, C. 1950-60

CZECH. CUT CRYSTAL DECANTER, C. 1950-60

ENGLISH VICTORIAN ANTIQUE CUT CRYSTAL DECANTER, C. 1880

ENGLISH CUT CRYSTAL DECANTER, C. 1880

LIBBEY, BRILLIANT CUT GLASS BERRY BOWL, C. 1900

BRILLIANT CUT GLASS BERRY BOWL, C. 1900

AMERICAN BRILLIANT CUT GLASS CARAFE, C. 1900-05

BRILLIANT CUT GLASS CARAFE, C. 1900-05

Whatever the case, crystal for centuries has adorned the rooms of the rich and famous from royalty to presidents to movie stars. European countries such as Bohemia (Czechoslovakia), England, Ireland, Scotland and France have produced great quality crystal for nearly several centuries. As a matter of fact some of the leading American cut glass factories hired some of these European glass cutters because of their exquisite cutting skills. It is no wonder why some of the American cut glass companies such as Hawkes, Gorham and Libbey - just to name several - soared to the apex of their industry nearing circa 1900. Consequently by 1876-1900 many American companies were acquiring fame and fortune from having hired such European glass cutters when they were immigrating into USA for a so-called better life. By now we have arisen a special kind of crystal to become known as American Brilliant Cut Glass or American Brilliant Period Cut Glass.

One may ask what's the difference between cut crystal and cut glass. Well, the terminologies are basically the same except for the lead content and superiority of cutting and engraving by many of the American glass companies. Of course America by now was armed with some of the best glass cutters of the world. So what better direction to go other than forward to create the best they knew how. The term cut crystal generally is reserved as an European term to describe such glass and contains approximately 24% lead content whereas American cut glass or brilliant cut glass generally has 40% lead content and on occasion higher depending on the factory. Of course the lead content gives the glass more sheen or brilliance and refraction when exposed or held to light. It also gives better detail to the engraving or etching if there is any such execution to a specific piece.

As for a sparkling experience, crystal ranges in an array of colors and shapes. From the crystal chandeliers that light up your hallways to the chandelier hanging over the dining room table to the boudoir table lamp to the banquet lamp, crystal objects other than light fixtures may range from elaborate punch bowls to opulent vases with which to decorate hall entrance tables and occasional tables.  For the lady of distinction, cut crystal and cut glass cologne bottles/decanters, glove boxes, ring jars and other accessories were also created for her vanity or make-up table. As for other uses, bowls, flower baskets, decanters, cheese dishes, champagne buckets, ice pails, pitchers, jugs and vases of all sizes and shapes also graced the buffets and dining room tables of the opulently wealthy.

Today one does not have to be opulently wealthy to acquire beautiful crystal and cut glass. Of course price depends upon what kind of a piece we are actually talking about. If we are talking about early American brilliant period pieces and large rare pieces - of course the prices are going to be ranging in the thousands of dollars. Such pieces are referred to as top of the line "premium" pieces. However antique or near antique pieces are still attainable at modest market prices if one wishes to dress up the dining room table or accessorize a room or accent an area of the house. Acquiring a lavish look is also a matter of taste and knowledge. Get to know some of the more famous names in cut glass, go for interesting shapes, make sure the clarity is fairly decent. Another key to purchasing wisely crystal objects of interest is getting to know what European countries produced in terms of crystal. Some people like a lot of engraving on their objects. Others like more geometric cutting with less floral engraving or carving. Such a choice is a matter of preference. Always go for the best which you like and can afford. Some people are discriminating collectors whereas others just like to punctuate with fine pieces throughout their homes. There are lots of books on the subject of cut glass and crystal of which may be purchased on line from amazon.com.

Before acquiring anything one is always better off if he or she is armed with knowledge which comes from reading and asking questions politely of dealers/vendors in the trade. Visit museums, antique fairs and antique shops. Remember that not everything sold in antique shops is antique but may be sold as an attractive decorative quality piece or as a collectible item. Also remember that quality does not have to be antique in order to have value and vice verso - not everything that is qualified as an antique has great value. Value depends on the piece, quality of workmanship, the attractiveness of the piece and the history of manufacturer and/or designer. With today's trends towards modernism and rage for designer items, the marketplace is changing to accommodate the taste and trends of the younger set of consumers. Consequently this is why many antique shops carry a more variety of items that are more contemporary in flavor and taste.


For opulence on the dining room table, we have an array of Bohemian/Czechoslovakian and American/Canadian brilliant cut bowls, decanters, trays, celery dishes and vases all the way to the large center vase and large punch bowl for the side server or buffet.

As for the library, liquor cabinet or bar, we have a selection of bourbon, whiskey and liqueur decanters which can be opulently displayed on a interesting silverware tray of which we have also a wide selection.

To view Bohemian/Czechoslovakian Cut Crystal, click www.passionforthepastantiques.com/store/products/categories/crystal-1/

To view American Brilliant Cut Glass, click www.passionforthepastantiques.com/store/products/categories/brilliant-period-cut-glass/

To view Canadian Brilliant Cut Glass, click www.passionforthepastantiques.com/store/products/categories/brilliant-period-cut-glass-1/

To view English Cut Crystal, click www.passionforthepastantiques.com/store/products/categories/crystal/

To view Belgium Crystal, click  www.passionforthepastantiques.com/store/products/categories/crystal-2/

To view Silverware Trays in order to accentuate your crystal selection, click www.passionforthepastantiques.com/store/products/categories/trays/

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