GEORGIAN DRINKING GLASSES
Georgian glassware was remarkable for its beauty,
variety and technical sophistication. It continues to
give pleasure in many modern homes.
Georgian drinking glasses are fine expressions of 18th-century English
technical and artistic achievement. Their weight and thickness, and the peculiar gleam of the glass itself are innate characteristics of these
But it is also their wide variety of shapes - suitable for supping the various beverages and distillations of the period -
together with their delicate engraving and fascinating decorated stems, which makes them prized as objects of great beauty.
Despite the fragility of glassware, Georgian drinking glasses have survived in great enough
numbers to be avidly collected today.
Although some are rare and therefore expensive, many beautiful and interesting examples can still be acquired for reasonable sums.
DEVELOPMENT OF GLASS
From the late I 8th century, England began to rival Italy as
an important centre of glass-making. In 1674, George Ravenscroft, an English glass-maker, had patented a new kind
This was known as lead glass, and contained both lead and silica. Compared to
soda glass, it was marvellously clear.
It was also less brittle, enabling it to survive engraving without easily fracturing.
Other forms of decoration included gilding and enamelling.
Until 1825, early drinking glasses
were exclusively hand-blown. They were made in three separate parts - the bowl, the stem and the foot.
First the bowl
was attached to the stem, and then the foot was added.
The old practice of enclosing a bubble of air in the stem evolved into the more
complex air-twist stem. This was achieved by rapping a bubble of air in the molten glass for he stem and twisting it, resulting in delicate
Later, similar effects were produced with rods of opaque white and
coloured glass. The stems of glasses decorated n this way are termed 'opaque twist' and colour twist'
Alcoholic drinks of the Georgian period included strong ale, cider, wine, cordials and
ratafia (a kernel-flavoured liqueur), most of
which involved special glasses.
Strong, potent ale was sipped in modest quantities from glasses with slim, elongated bowls. Fittingly, the bowl was sometimes engraved with a motif of hops and barley.
Later in the 18th century, the hops and barley motif also decorated tumblers, large goblets known as rummers, and other glasses for ale or beer.
Glasses with slender, elongated bowls were also suitable for cider or champagne.
Georgian glasses form a rich and fascinating field for the collector. They are immediately attractive to the beginner and endlessly intriguing to the expert and connoisseur.
GLASS COLLECTOR'S NOTES
Although there are few bargains to be had in this field, you can be fairly sure that a Georgian glass
will keep its value as well as its beauty.
Glasses with air-twist or opaque-twist stems are perennially popular, as is good wheel-engraving. Such features add substantial value to a Georgian glass, but they're not all beyond reach: plain rummers can be bought for as little as £50.
Dating antique glass is a skilled exercise, although the swift succession of fashions and
particular decorative techniques provide useful clues.
The heavy balusters of the early 18th century became lighter and finer as the years
progressed. The foot, at first an elaborate domed and folded shape, took on a simpler conical form.
The delicate air-twist stemmed glasses date from the 1740s onwards, while opaque-twist stems were developed in the 1760s.
A short lived fashion of the 1770s gave rise to coloured stems of red, blue, yellow and green. They are some of the rarest and most valuable pieces of Georgian glass, if you're lucky enough to find one.
From 1760, the use of cutting for decoration increased. A faceted stem will probably date from 1770 on. They became shorter as the years passed.
FAKES AND FORGERIES
It is generally safe to assume that the cheaper Georgian drinking glasses on sale today are genuine. Many of the finer types have been faked, however.
A genuinely antique glass will show slight unevenness and asymmetry that results from hand-blowing. It will also have signs of wear to the base,
although this is not too difficult to fake.
Colour-twists and engraved glasses which commemorate a significant event are particularly valuable. Watch out if you find one going for a few hundred pounds - it's probably a fake, perhaps one of the many forged in the 1920s and 30s.
And be careful not to mistake a small wine glass for one of the more valuable cordial glasses.
It is best to avoid buying damaged pieces. Cracks will inevitably cause weakness and chips are not easy to repair successfully, although those to the rim or foot can quite easily be ground off. A rim or foot that has been ground is angular rather than rounded.