Guide to Collecting Glassware, Part 2

Written by Rosemary Trietsch


            When, in the course of human in events, it becomes necessary for one glass collector to dissolve the cloud of uncertainty that surrounds some aspect of his collection, to dispel the myths and assumptions in favor of the truth, and to search for answers that have until now escaped him, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that he ask someone else, “What the heck is this?”  We hold this truth to be self-evident: that all collectors are initially confused by the following terms when they research their treasures.

            Whether you’re new to glass collecting or have already amassed hundreds of pieces, we hope this glossary of glass terms will help you to understand more about the glass you collect.            

 Acid Etching- process of cutting a design into glass using acid as the cutting agent. The pattern to be etched is transferred from an etching plate to the surface of the glass with an acid resist made of beeswax. The vessel is then exposed to hydrofluoric acid or acid fumes, which etch the unprotected surface areas, thus leaving a frosted design when the protective layer is removed. Some companies used a metal etching plate rather than a resist to protect the areas that were to remain unaffected.  

Amberina Goblet

Acid finish - A matte finish on glassware that is achieved by exposing the entire surface of a piece to acid fumes during the finishing process.  More rarely, the finish is obtained by the use of a mechanical grinding wheel. (See Satin)

Amberinaglass that shades from red at the top to amber as you approach the base. Cooling and reheating the top portion of the glass created the shadings in the finished product.

Annealing – the gradual cooling of hot glass to prevent stress fractures and breakage. The glass moves on a conveyer belt through a hot chamber (or annealing oven) followed by a long tunnel in which cooling-off occurs. The annealing process takes anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 weeks depending on the type of article.

Applied - a separate piece of molten glass attached by hand to a glass vessel – typically, a handle.  Most often used with free-blown or mold-blown pieces but also used with early pressed glass.

Appliquéd Glass - A type of decorative glass that features hand-applied three-dimensional glass trim, often in the form of fruit or flowering vines.  This trim is applied in the semi-molten state while the main object is still extremely hot so that the appliqué becomes an integral part of the piece.

Aventurine – a decorative process where small, sparkling particles of metal are suspended between a clear outer layer and colored inner casing of glass to form a pattern.

AOP – abbreviation for “All Over Pattern”. Used to differentiate between pieces of Depression glass where variations exist in the same pieces. Common examples are tumblers and plates with AOP rather than a single band of decoration at the rim.

Batch – The mixture of chemicals that’s melted to make glass. Silica, potash and soda ash are the primary ingredients of glass.

Butter Pat (or chip) - A very small dish, often round or square, used on Victorian tables to hold an individual pat of butter. Only a few types were produced in glassware, most notably in cut glass.

Cameo Glass - is composed of two or more layers of glass, most often of contrasting colors, which are then carved through the surface with decorative designs.  This ancient Roman technique was revived by the English in the late 19th century and English examples usually feature a white outer surface cut through to expose a single color background.  English cameo often featured classical and botanical designs whereas the slightly later French cameo often features more abstract naturalistic and landscape designs in more than two colors.  Cameo carving can be done either by hand or with the use of acid, the hand-carved examples bringing higher prices.

Cane - glass rod used in striped glass and twisted filigree. Canes are also sliced so that sections of polychrome patterns can be used in mosaic or murrhine glass.  


Cameo Glass

Cased Glass – The use of two layers of contrasting glass that are fused together to create one piece.  The inner layer may be blown into the outer layer while the formed glass is still hot, or the piece in one color may be dipped into the molten glass of another color while it is hot.  Cameo glass (see above) is a form of cased glass.

Cast Figure Mold – a type of glass mold that is cast directly from a sculpted model, resulting in the transfer of very fine details to the mold without the need for additional milling. Reuben Haley is credited with the perfection of this technique and used it to produce his Martele (‘hand wrought’) line of glassware.

Chip Mold – a type of glass mold where the pattern is cut or ‘chipped’ into the surface of the iron mold with hammer and chisel.

Chop Plate – a large, flat serving plate; also called a salver by some companies.

Cobalt – a very dark blue glass whose color is achieved by adding cobalt to the batch.

Comport/Compote – a small, opened candy dish that is stemmed.

Console Set - A three-piece tableware set generally composed of a pair of candlesticks and a center bowl.  These sets in pressed and mold-blown glassware were especially popular in the 1920s and 1930s.

Cracker Jar – (biscuit jar) decorative Victorian counterparts of the modern cookie jar.  Produced in china as well as glass, they are often rounded barrel-shaped pieces fitted with silver plate rim, cover and bail handle.

Crackle/Craquelle – sometimes called “Iced Glass”. Hot glass is plunged into cold water and then mold blown or free blown to the desired shape, resulting in very fine web-like cracks on the outer surface of the article, while the interior is smooth.

Cranberry – a transparent reddish pink colored glass originally produced from the 1820’s through 1880’s. The color was achieved by adding small amounts of gold oxide to the batch.

Crimping - A method of decorating the rims of bowls and vases.  While the glass was still hot, the glassworker would manipulate the shape with a special tool, often forming a ruffled or ribbon-like design around the edge.

Custard – a variation of milk glass ranging in color from a rich, creamy yellow to a bone white. The glass is opaque and possesses a fiery opalescence. As Uranium salts were use in its manufacture, old custard glass will glow under black light and set Geiger counter needles in motion.

Domino Tray – a round tray with a center ring to hold a creamer and the remaining space serves to hold sugar cubes.  Named for the “Domino Sugar Company”, these trays were produced by Depression glass manufacturers from the late 1920’s through the 1930’s.

Enameled Decoration - A form of decoration used on many types of Victorian Art glass.  White or colored enamel paints were generally hand-painted on a finished piece of glass, which was then refired to bake-on the enamel decoration.

Epergne - French term used to describe a special decorative vessel popular during the 19th century.  It generally consists of one or more tall, slender trumpet-form vases that fit into the center of a wide, shallow bowl base.  The bowl may be flat, footed, or raised on a pedestal foot. 

Etched Mold – a type of glass mold where the pattern is etched rather than cut into the surface of the mold using acid. This type of mold produces very fine detail in the pressed pattern on the glass. 

Etching - design cut into glass; the two main types are acid etching and needle etching. (See entries)

Fired On – color applied to the surface of an article then baked to fuse the color to the glass permanently. This technique may be used to color an entire piece or to highlight the details.

Fire-Polishing - A process used to finish mold-blown and pressed glass where a piece is reheated just enough to smooth out the mold seams without distorting the overall pattern.

Flashed On - The use of a transparent colored stain to highlight an item of crystal glass. After the stain – usually ruby or amber in color – is applied, the item is reheated to fuse the stain to the surface of the glass. Flashing tends to wear off as opposed to fired on color, which does not wear off with use.  

Custard Glass

Frog – heavy glass disc with holes for flower stems. Frogs were made to fit into the neck of a vase or across the opening of a bowl to support the stems in an arrangement of flowers. Some frogs (called Figural Frogs) have a statue in the center surrounded by holes.

Gather – a ball of molten glass that the glassblower ‘gathers’ on the end of a blowpipe or punty rod.

Grill plate – a plate with raised ridges that divide the surface into 3 sections to keep food separated. They were made popular in Grills and Diners during the 1920’s – 30’s, thus the name.

Handkerchief Vase - A form of vase most often seen in 20th century Venetian glass where the sides of the piece are pulled straight up and randomly pleated to resemble a large handkerchief.

Hot Metal Man – person who formulates and supervises the mixing of batches in a glass factory. Also called the ‘Batch man’ or ‘Color Man’, he was the person responsible for creating the formulas for the different colored glass each company produced. As these recipes were highly guarded secrets, a good hot metal man was the key to the success of the glass company.

Iridescence – a shiny, rainbow-like finish on the surface of a piece of glass. The effect was achieved by spraying metallic salts on the still hot glass and refiring the piece. Different effects were achieved by varying the color of the underlying glass and the combination of metallic elements.

Ice Lip – a guard or folded molded around the lip of a pitcher to prevent ice from falling into the glass while pouring from the pitcher.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Vase - A form of vase with the rim manipulated to resemble the wildflower of the same name.  Generally, the back edge is curled up while the front edge is curled downward. 

Knop - Another term for a ‘knob’ usually referring to a finial on a lid or a bulbous section on the stem of a goblet or wineglass.

Lampwork - Referring to forming delicate objects out of thin rods or canes while working at the lamp (small torch) or a small flame.

Latticino – An Italian term for the art of embedding spiral threads of white or colored glass in clear crystal. The technique dates back to glassmaking in the Roman Empire and is the most distinctive technique used in Murano glass today.

Lattimo - The opaque white glass, or milk glass (latte-milk), that resembles porcelain when used to case or form a vessel. It is also used in various filigree techniques.

Milk Glass – white glass, named for the color of milk. Early milk glass shows opalescence when held to the light.

Millefiori - An Italian term meaning “Thousand Flowers”, this glass was also called “Tessera” or tile work. Glass rods are cut into discs, placed into a mold in a particular pattern and then refired until fused. The technique is found on plates, vases, and bowls and in the interior of paperweights.

Mold/Mould – encasement into which hot glass is poured or blown to form an object. A pattern is made in wood or plaster that is sent to the metal foundry where a rough iron cast is made. The mold is then milled, shaped and finally the design is cut or etched into the surface. (See Chip Mold, Etched Mold, and Cast Figure Mold)

Mold-Blown - A method of glass production where a gather of molten glass is blown into a patterned mold to produce an object such as a bottle or vase.

Mold-Pressed (or Press Molded) – a method of glass production where molten glass is poured into a mold and a plunger is brought down which presses glass into all parts of the mold.

Nappy – another word for a bowl.

Needle Etching  - is a 20th century technique where a hand-held or mechanized needle is used to draw a fine-lined design on a piece.  Ornate repetitive designs were possible with the mechanized needle.

Novelty - A pressed glass object generally made in the form of some larger item like a hatchet, boat or animal.  They were extremely popular in the late 19th century with many produced as match holders, toothpick holders and small dresser boxes.

Opal - Pronounced ‘o-pal’, this was the term used in the 19th century to describe the solid white glass today known as milk glass.

Opalescent – semi translucent, milky white glass that shows orange (or fire) when held to a strong light. Opalescent glass is often found around the edge of a piece, flowing into another color glass.

Ormolu – decorative metal adornments added to a glass item.

Overshot – type of glass produced by rolling the gather over a steel plate covered with minute glass particles. The gather was reheated to melt the sharp edges of the fragments and then blown to the finished size. The resulting item had contrasting color specks and a slightly rough surface texture. In rarer examples, the gather was first blown to shape and then rolled in the fragments without being refired. The surface on such pieces is quite uneven and sharp to the touch.  


Milk Glass

Piedouche - French term referring to a paperweight that is raised on a low, pedestal foot.

Pontil Mark - The scar left on the base of a glass article by the pontil or punty rod.  The hot glass object was attached at the base to the pontil rod so the glass blower could more easily handle it during the final shaping and finishing.  When snapped off the pontil, a round scar remained which, on finer quality pieces, was polished smooth.

Punty Rod /Pontil Rod – metal rod that the glassmaker attaches to the bottom of an article to facilitate handling of the hot glass.

Rigaree - Applied ribbon-like crimped decoration which highlights some types of Victorian Art glass.  It is a form of Appliqued decoration.

Rose Bowl – small, curved-in edged bowl, having a small center opening and usually tri-footed. Widely popular in the late 19th century, rose bowls were designed to hold small rose blossoms or rose petal potpourri.

Ruby Glass – Glass industry term for dark red, transparent glass.

Salver – a large, non-handled serving plate, usually 11 to 13 inches in diameter. (See Chop Plate)

Satin – finishing technique where the surface of an item is exposed to hydrofluoric acid to produce a smooth, velvet-like texture. (See Acid Finish)

Scalloping - A decorative treatment used on the rims of plates, bowls, vases, and similar objects.  It was generally produced during the molding of the object (unlike crimping which is done by hand after the piece is molded) and gave the rim a wavy or ruffled form.

Serrated - A form of notching on the rims of glass objects which resembles the edge of a saw blade.  Sometimes referred to as a ‘sawtooth edge’, it is usually found on cut glass pieces.

Shop – Glass industry term for a crew of people that worked together to produce hand made glass items.

Silver Deposit/Silver Overlay – The deposit of thick metallic silver on glass by means of electrolysis. The design was painted on the glass with a wash of borax, oxide of lead, sand, nitrate of potash, white arsenic and phosphate of lime mixed in turpentine. The piece was fired to set the pattern, submerged in an electroplating bath to deposit the silver, and then buffed and polished.

Sickness - A term referring to cloudy staining found in glass items, especially bottles, decanters and vases.  Sickness occurs when a liquid is allowed to stand in a piece for a long period of time causing a chemical deterioration of the interior surface. Some sickness can be ‘cured’ by thorough cleaning, though in worse cases, only re-polishing the surface will restore the luster. 

Spall - A shallow rounded flake on a glass object, generally near the rim of a piece.

Spatter – a spotted or multi-colored glass usually having a white inner casing and a clear outer casing. Like Overshot glass, Spatter is produced by rolling the gather in minute glass particles; but Spatter is then cased to produce a smooth surface where Overshot glass is uneven or rough to the touch.

Stemware - A general term for any form of drinking vessel raised on a slender pedestal or stemmed base.

Teardrop - A deliberately placed inclusion in a piece of glass, formed by a bubble of air.  They are often used to highlight the stopper of a decanter or in the stems of goblets, and other stemware.

Tumble-Up- a glass bottle with a long neck that has a small tumbler seated upside-down over the top. The tumbler served as the stopper for the bottle as well as a drinking glass/ Tumble-up sets were usually placed on a nightstand by the bed.

Turn – Glass industry term for the shift worked by a shop (glass crew) A turn was measured by a quota of glass it was expected to produce, not by a set amount of time. (I.e. 300 pieces rather than 8 hours per turn.)

Vesica - A Cut glass term referring to a cut design in the form of a pointed oval.

Water Set - A tableware set consisting of a large pitcher and six or more matching tumblers or goblets. Sometimes a matching tray was included with the set.

Whimsey – A non-production glass item often made by the glassworker as a special gift for a loved one. The worker would take a standard production item and rework it to suit his fancy – or whim – making a one of a kind piece. Whimsies are also called ‘Lunchpail Pieces’ as the workers made them during their lunch or free time and were permitted to bring home items that fit in their lunch pail. As these items are unique, they bring high prices when found.