For many glass collectors, finding a beautiful treasure with antique glass markings is a special treat. After all, part of the fun of collecting antique glass is solving the hidden mysteries embedded into each unique piece of glass that you find. However, even seasoned collectors can get stumped by a marking or two, making it all the more important to familiarize yourself with both the common and uncommon marks you might come across on your adventures.
Common Antique Glass Markings
Although many antique glass pieces are unmarked, there are a great number of pieces that do have glass markings. Identification marks on glass pieces are typically one, or any combination, of the following:
Most often, a glass mark is on the bottom of the piece, but there are some pieces that are marked on the side. Sometimes a mark has faded over time and it may be necessary to use a magnifying glass or a jeweler's loupe in good light.
Additional Antique Glass Markings to Look For
Other markings on antique glass pieces that offer clues to its age are:
- Pontil marks - Especially common with older antique glassware, pontil marks are scarring on the bottom of the glass that comes from the edge of the pontil that's used to blow the piece.
- Mold marks - Mold marks are also common as well and are usually indicative of a manufactured piece of glassware which was cast using a mold. In this regard, pieces created in the same mold will feature the same seam lines or imperfections as each other.
- Any marks within the glass itself, such as bubbling - Things like bubbling can be indicative of the type of way that the glass was made, which can be useful when trying to identify the pieces' age.
Quick Tips for Identifying Antique Glass Using Marks and Other Clues
Although you're probably not an expert on knowing what each and every scratch on a piece of antique glass means, using these guiding principals, you can figure out some of the most common ones yourself:
- Finding unmarked glass is normal - Most pieces of old glass don't have any glass markings. Check for excessive wear and scratches on the bottom. If the piece is gilded, it may show signs of wear.
- Maker's marks are also acid badges - Many times a glass maker's mark was a type of branding called an acid badge.
- There are all sorts of registration marks to look out for - Many pieces of glass from the middle of the 1800s and newer have registration numbers. Earlier pieces may have a diamond mark to show the design was registered.
- Engraved signatures are typically hidden - Often when an artist signed a piece of engraved glass, the signature was formed as part of the design and is usually very small.
- Signatures on cut glass can sometimes indicate age - After 1905, it became common to sign cut glass pieces as companies tried to protect their patterns from being copied.
- Glass stoppers and bottles should have matching numbers - Glassware with a stopper, such as a perfume bottle or a decanter, from the 1800s and 1900s should have matching numbers on the stopper and the bottle. Often the numbers were scratched on the stopper's peg and the bottle's neck.
Books to Help You Identify Antique Glass Marks
If your piece has a glass mark or logo that you are not familiar with, the best place to identify the mark is by using a glass marks identification guide or a glass price and identification guide. Many of the identification guides are for one type of glass, such as carnival glass, depression glass, or early American pressed glass. The following books are only a small sampling of the books available:
- Carnival Glass: The Best of the Best : Identification Guide to Rare and Unusual Pieces by Mike Carwile and Bill Edwards
- Bottle Makers and Their Marks by Julian Harrison Toulouse
- American Slag Glass: Identification and Values by Ruth Ann Grizel
- Warman's Glass: Values and Identification Guide by Ellen T. Schroy
- Collectible Drinking Glasses: Identification & Values by Michael Kelly and Mark E. Chase
- Art Glass: Identification & Price Guide by John A. Shuman
- Peachblow Glass: Collector's Identification & Price Guide by Johanna and Sean Billings
Online Resources Pertaining to Antique Glass Marks
Even if you feel like a pro at this process, it's never a bad idea to expand your knowledge about antique glass markings. The following are a few useful resources you can use to identify antique glass marks with ease:
- Just Glass Online - This website is a vast repository of images, articles, and guides to help both collectors and glass enthusiasts answer the burning questions they want to get to the bottom of. Head on over to their logos and marks section for some more detailed information about what some basic markings mean and what they might look like on your piece.
- Antique Marks - This website is mostly useful for its highly detailed articles on antique china marks, as the authors break down what different marks can indicate about where the china came from and the process in which it was made.
- The Glass Encyclopedia - The Glass Encyclopedia is just what it says on the tin--an encyclopedia about all things glassware. Interestingly, unlike conventional encyclopedias that provide the information themselves, this website acts as a library of sorts of resources for practically every type of glassware that comes to mind. However, it's best used in conjunction with other websites, as a lot of the resources they recommend are books.
- The Glass Menagerie - This website harkens back to the days of Web 1.0 where anyone with a bit of html experience could craft the zaniest website design they could think of. Yet, the main draw for glass collectors to head here (aside from seeing what collectibles they're selling) is that it has a lot of images of antique glassware, making it a great practical resource to see some of these markings in action.
Antique Glass as a Collectible
The category of antique glass takes in a wide variety of different types of glass and glassware made over centuries of time. It includes everything from elegant glass and signed art glass pieces to Ball canning jars and other utilitarian items made of glass.
Each era has a vast array of glass manufacturers making countless pieces of glass in numerous styles and designs. Many glass manufacturers and patterns are well known, such as Rosepoint by Cambridge Glass Company, Adam by the Jeannette Glass Company, or the Silhouette glass stemware of the Libby Glass Company. Others are much more obscure, such as Tiffany favrile glass, Butterfly and Floral, by the Roden Brothers of Montreal or Beaded Shell Pressed Glass by the Dugan Glass Company.
Uncover the Mystery Behind the Markings
Antique glass markings help solve the mystery of the old glass piece's past by providing clues for identification and for determining value and authenticity. You don't even have to have to sprawling collection to see these markings in person. Head on over to the nearest antique store and take a moment to examine a few of the pieces for sale; check their undersides of those antique oil lamps and other glass treasures for different markings and see what information you can gather about the piece in your hands. You never know, you just might unexpectedly uncover the next glass history mystery!