Thursday, May 19, 2011

American Brilliant Period Cut Glass

Cut glass is art glass with a design made by cutting or grinding the surface, and brilliant cut glass are objects with elaborate deeply cut patterns that usually cover the entire surface and are highly polished.

The Brilliant Period in glass (1876 - 1910) began with the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, PA where, thanks to new rail transportation, record numbers of people attended and were captivated by the elegant cut glass tableware, lamps, perfume bottles and other fine products on display. While previously Europe’s fine glass was in vogue, a boom was sparked in the US for glass furnaces to sprout throughout the Northeast.

Patterns quite unlike earlier European designs were developed, and patterns were given intriguing names, such as Hobstar, Pinwheel, Button Bull’s-Eye, Strawberry Diamond Vesica, Crosshatch, etc. (source: American Cut Glass Association)

An example of a sought-after shape in American Brilliant cut glass is this footed, three-handled loving cup made by The Libbey Glass Co., generally considered today to have made the best cut and faceted glass during the brilliant period. (Image courtesy of The House of Brilliant Glass,

Eventually, high labor costs made these items cost prohibited for most people, and the vogue of setting entire tables with glass began to decline.

DID YOU KNOW THAT during the Brilliant Period nearly 1,000 glass cutting shops were established in the US but by 1908 less than 100 remained?