Antique glassware refers to glass items that were made at least 100 years ago. The glassware can range from delicate blown-glass pieces to heavier, cut-glass items, but either way is highly valued and prized. The reason for this lies in its beauty, artistic expression, and contribution, as well as historical significance. Many antique glassware pieces were produced in limited quantities, making them rare and valuable. Additionally, antique glassware can add a touch of sophistication to any home decor, serving as both functional and decorative pieces. The rich history and beauty of antique glassware make it a fascinating and cherished aspect of art and culture. Nowadays, antique glassware is sold for thousands of dollars, while some common pieces can be sold for several hundred dollars as well.
Aside from collectors, people usually have little or no interest in antique glassware, or so it used to be. With the rise of social media, and with the rise of the ‘everything’s trending/popular’ trend wave, people are starting to become interested in everything antique, from figurines, Pyrex bowls, and antique lamps, to antique homeware, especially glassware.
Collecting antique or vintage glassware has become the craze, so we decided to prepare a little guide for all the readers who might be new to the antique party. We’ve done all the heavy lifting for you, so in the following paragraphs, you can read all about valuable glassware, how to identify it, and where to find it. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Antique Glassware – A Brief Overview
What Comprises Antique Glassware?
Antique glassware has been preserved for centuries, and for a good reason. It is an incredibly unique insight into the history of cultures all over the world. The glass objects that were made several decades or even centuries ago, typically before the early 1900s, show how people lived, what they liked, how they treated their household items, etc. Antique glassware includes various items such as glasses, vases, bowls, bottles, and lamps. These pieces of glass are not only beautiful and ornamental but also have historical significance.
Antique glassware is often categorized by its era of production. For example, glassware produced during the Victorian era (1837-1901) is characterized by intricate designs, bright colors, and elaborate patterns. On the other hand, the Art Nouveau period (1890-1910) emphasized asymmetrical shapes, curved lines, and organic designs. Each period had its distinct style, and collectors of antique glassware often specialize in one particular era.
What Makes It Valuable?
As we mentioned in the introduction, people are collecting antique glassware, especially glassware that comes from specific eras. Because of its rarity, age, and incredible craftsmanship, antique glassware can be pretty expensive. Here are some of the factors that determine glassware value;
- High-end craftsmanship – One of the reasons antique glassware is so prized is due to the exceptional craftsmanship that went into producing each piece. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, glass items were made entirely by hand, requiring great skill and expertise. Glassblowers used traditional techniques such as blowing, cutting, and engraving to create intricate designs and patterns in the glassware. Even today, antique glassware is a testament to the skill and precision of the craftsmen who produced these beautiful pieces.
- Uniqueness and rarity – Another reason antique glassware is valued is because of its rarity. Many pieces of antique glassware were produced in limited quantities, making them difficult to find today. As time goes by, the number of surviving antique glassware items only decreases, making them even more valuable to collectors.
- Collectible cultural/historical items – Collectors of antique glassware have a deep appreciation for the history and beauty of these pieces. They often seek out rare and unusual items to add to their collection, and they may spend years searching for the perfect piece. In addition to being ornamental, antique glassware also has historical significance. Many items were used in everyday life and are a testament to the cultural practices of past eras. For example, antique glasses may have been used in taverns or homes, providing insight into how people lived and socialized in the past.
- Artisinal insight into glass-making – Antique glassware is not only valuable to collectors, but it is also a fascinating subject for study. Researchers and historians can learn a lot from antique glassware, including how technology, art, and culture evolved over time. For example, the development of new techniques for cutting and engraving glass played a significant role in the evolution of glassware during the 18th and 19th centuries. Antique glassware provides insight into the artistic, cultural, and technological advancements of past eras.
Type and Value of Antique Glassware
Let’s go over some of the most valuable types of glassware; first, we’ll observe the glassware in regards to its origins, and then in regards to its style/type. This will create a clearer picture of what glassware is truly valuable and make it easier for the untrained eye to identify it correctly;
Origin Related Value
- Italian Murano glass – Murano glass and glassware is produced on the island of Murano, near Venice, Italy. Glass production in Murano started in the 13th century, and in that period, it has had several highly regarded glass manufacturers. The Murano glassware boomed in the 20 century but was popular in Europe beforehand. It was produced using rare glass techniques called filigrana, reticello, and zanfirico, which involved heating, stretching, and twisting the glass into intricate and elaborate designs. As such, glassware made from Murano glass is pretty expensive these days; you can expect to pay around 3,000 USD for a Murano vase.
- Scandinavian glass – Scandinavian glass production can be traced back to the 18th century, when it first bloomed in the region of Småland, Sweden. From there, it spread across the Scandinavian region. It didn’t take long for the local glass manufacturers to gain a wide, global reach as the glassware and the glass designs became sought-after and super popular. Scandinavian glassware is known for being super artistic, and stylish, but also functional. It is characterized by fun, colorful, and unique designs. Nowadays, Scandinavian glassware is highly valuable; you can expect to pay around 2,000 USD for a rare Swedish vase, for example.
- British glass – after the Venetian glassmakers came to Britain in the 16th century, the British started making glass themselves. In the 17th century, the British also came up with a coal-burning furnace, which made glass-making even easier. Nowadays, British glass is highly valued, especially if it was made in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The best-known British glassware includes Hans Geismar glass, Heron, Jobling, Langham, Chance, and many others. If you were to purchase antique British glassware nowadays, you would pay around 3,500 USD for a Victorian, 19th-century wine glass.
These would be the most valuable antique glassware examples where the value is determined by the age and the country of origin of the glass. However, this is not a definitive list. Other European countries, like Malta and the former Chechoslovakia, were famous for their glassmaking. Italian Empoli glass is also highly valued and sought-after as collector pieces.
Czech glassware in particular was and still is sought-after; it is often referred to as Bohemian Glass since Bohemia is a region in Czechia (and it used to be the name of the country, prior to the name Czechoslovakia). We would also mention German and Austrian antique glassware as highly sought after over the past years, as well as the American glassmaking that was highly popular in the Victorian era.
Value Determined By Style
Another factor that is essential in determining the value of antique glassware is the style in which it was made. Let’s go over some of the main, most valuable glassware styles and designs;
- Art Deco glass – the movement or the style of Art Deco occurred first in the 1920s and lasted for about three decades. The movement commenced in Paris and spread across Europe in almost every artistic or stylistic expression. In the 1930s, Art Deco became popular in the States as well, making it a global movement and phenomenon. Art Deco, when it comes to glassware, was highly influential, especially among the Frech and British glass manufacturers. Nowadays, if you’re looking to purchase Art Deco-style glassware, you would pay up to 5,000 USD (in this case for an Art Deco glass fish bowl made in the States).
- Art Nouveau glass – before Art Deco, there was Art Nouveau; an artistic movement defining the late 19th, and early 20th centuries. The movement was inspired by the organic forms in nature and strived to translate such forms into art, as well as glassmaking. Some of the most sought-after antique glassware originates from this very art period. The movement was major in Europe, so glassmaking in Germany, France, and the UK was heavily inspired by it. Nowadays, antique Art Nouveau glassware is highly valued, so much so that some pieces are sold for around 14,000 USD (mint condition Flur de Coloquinte Satin Cameo glass vase).
- Depression-Era glass – similar to Art Deco, Depression-era glassware was made in the States, in the 1930s. It was extremely popular, mostly because of the beautiful floral patterns and intricate linework. Pyrex was one of the most popular Depression-era glassware brands, which is popular to this day as well. Depression glass is known for being translucent, colored in yellow, pink, green, and blue colors, and usually made with uranium, which makes it glow under UV light. With Depression glass, the focus was on functionality and applicability in the kitchen, rather than just artistic expression. Nowadays, depression glass is sold for several hundred dollars on average.
Of course, this is not a definitive list of all glassware styles. Glassware was also made in traditional Japanese and Chinese art styles, which makes it highly valuable nowadays. Uranium glass is also highly sought-after, opalescent and neodymium glass.
We’ve decided to cover the main representatives of highly valuable glassware, but when actually embarking on this antique glassware journey, it is essential to know a little bit about all these different styles and types of glassware. Such information can help one determine the origin, age, and of course, the value of an item, making it hard to get scammed.
Where to Purchase Antique Glassware?
If you’re not a fan of purchasing antique items at local antique stores or flea markets, we recommend you check out the following online antique marketplaces for antique glassware;
- Etsy – Etsy is of the best one vintage marketplaces out there, especially if you’re seeking to buy antique glassware. The price range shows that there is something for everyone, but even the most demanding collectors will be able to find what they’re looking for. You can find rare, highly valuable antique glassware on Etsy, and you would be safe to purchase these items without potentially being scammed.
- Mavin.io – this is an online marketplace that draws items you’re looking for from other antique/vintage websites and online flea shops. Then, it creates a compelling list you can easily go through and compare prices of the listed items. It is also pretty useful because you can also take a look at the sold items and note the differences in past prices, versus the current ones.
- Ruby Lane – this is an excellent online marketplace for everything antique, including vintage and rare antique glassware of different types, styles, and countries of origin. From individual pieces to full sets, there is something for everyone. The prices for genuine, old, antique glassware are definitely on the higher end, but with different offers, discount codes, and sales, you can get unique pieces for a pretty good price.
- Replacements, Ltd. – if you’re looking for collectors’ pieces and limited editions of Depression glassware, this is the place you should check out. Here, you can find all sorts of limited editions, scarce patterns, and rare glass color items. The focus of this website is on Depression-era glassware, but you’ll be able to find other types and styles of glassware. We do have to point out that the price tags are on the higher end, but considering the mint condition and limited edition of the items sold on the website, we say they’re justified.
Learning about antique glassware is definitely more interesting than the majority of people seem to think. Such glassware isn’t ‘just a glass, just a bowl, or just a vase’. These items have incredible historical and cultural significance, and they teach us about the ways of the past. So much thought and hard work were put into making these items, so learning a little bit about them is the least one can do. Now, if you’re looking to start collecting antique glassware, learning about it is just one part of the process. We hope we’ve inspired you to continue this journey and hopefully purchase a rare, antique glass piece. Good luck and make sure to always have fun!