The holidays are here, and chances are some of you are decorating your tables with beautiful, ornate antique cut glass serving platters, bowls, pitchers, creamers, candy dishes, vases and more.
Year after year, you may use these fancy pieces with intricate geometric, floral and other designs for special occasions, not giving much thought to how much they may be worth.
If you’re younger, you may want to start your own traditions with more contemporary glassware, but I caution you not to discard Grandma’s antique cut glass.
Last month we sold an antique cut to clear ruby glass decanter set for more than $7,000 at auction. The bidders that day knew how valuable these handmade pieces were, and I’m always surprised at the fact that we don’t see more prices like this at auction for similar items, especially if the glass pieces survived more than 100 years without being damaged.
Historically, people have been manufacturing glass for 3,500 years. From the ancient pharaohs to European aristocrats, owning opaque, transparent, clear or colored decorative handmade glass was a symbol of status. And considering how labor intensive it was to make each piece — the artisans would create elaborate patterns by moving the glass against stone and metal wheels — I can see why these luxury items were so highly regarded.
Here in the United States, the popularity of antique cut glass soared during the American Brilliant Period from 1876 to 1917. Stellar pieces were produced by hand at renowned companies, such as T.G. Hawkes & Co., Libbey Glass, Dorflinger, Tuthill, Meriden, J. Hoare, and many others.
After the 1950s, the demand for antique cut glass declined due to societal changes and less expensive pressed glass. But while auction prices fluctuate today for antique cut glass, I think the cycle will turn upwards, and our decanter set example could be a sign of what’s to come.
So, the next time you set your table for a special occasion, check your glass pieces for signatures on the inside center, rim or base. Research the pattern motifs as some are more valuable than others.
And, make sure you’re not confusing cut glass of today with earlier cut glass as today’s cut glass is still being made, but somehow does not have the same quality and craftsmanship of yesteryear.