A general rule of thumb to go by when evaluating whether or not something is an antique is its age. To be an antique, an item usually has to be at least 100 years old. Vintage or retro pieces can have value as collectibles without actually being antique—like Depression Era Glass.
Antique glassware extends beyond juice glasses and highballs. Glassware includes plates, bowls, candy dishes, ashtrays, vases, and anything crafted of glass.
Because glass is delicate, a complete, mint-condition set of antique glassware or other rare glass piece can hold high value. Certain periods of glass can hold historical significance, which also have unique collector groups (even when you shouldn’t actually eat or drink off them, like Uranium glass).
Craftsmanship 100 Years Ago
Nowadays, making glassware is a relatively simple process that can be done in large quantities at a low rate. However, a century and more ago glassware took a great deal of craftsmanship and chemistry. The shapes, styles, colors, and patterns all reflect the incredible artisanship involved in glassware production.
Most Valuable Antique Glassware
The pinnacle of glassware craftsmanship is widely considered to be the late 1800’s through the mid-2000s, meaning both antique glassware and vintage glassware are highly collectible. Some may have even graced your parents’ or grandparents’ cupboards.
4 Popularly Collected Glassware Types
The turn of the century was a time of innovation and future-looking optimism. That didn’t stop at the glassblower. Art glass, perhaps peaking in the Art Deco glass pieces, is marked by the sophisticated and adventurous experiments in color, design, and handmade elements. Pieces are often made for decorative purposes exclusively, rather than their function. They include art pieces, paperweights, decorative bowls, vases, and limitless centerpieces and mantlepieces.
Cut glass is a style of glassware that is entirely made by hand with the use of rotating cutting wheels. Cut glass harkens back to work dating from Ancient Egypt around 1,500 B.C.E. Between 1876 and 1917, the company American Brilliant became an iconic glass producer. Their work with cut glass defined an American style and mastery in the “cut glass” world—and is arguably the best example of all cut glass.
Unlike cut glass, carnival glass is pressed or molded with a pattern. It is distinguished by an iridescent surface. Unlike the higher-end products, like Tiffany, carnival glass was only superficially iridescent. It was designed to have the characteristics without the cost.
In the 1920s, carnival glass hit the peak of its production. It was manufactured for both functional and purely decorative ends. Rather than use a dip or stain, the sheen is created by coating hot glass in metallic salts and then firing them again. The final blast of heat makes the salt smooth into its shiny final look.
The patterns, colors, and shapes of carnival glass are all over the board. The value of pieces depends on the maker, rarity, and condition of the object.
Milk glass was first created in Venice during the 16th century. It is called milk glass for its distinguishing opaque, milky color throughout—not dipped or stained. While white is most common, per its name, milk glass can also come in blue, pink, yellow, black, and brown. In order to make the glass opaque, “opacifiers” are added to the mixture before melting. Common opacifiers include bone ash (like in ceramic bone china), arsenic, and tin dioxide.
Over the years, milk glass has been used for everything from high-end prized lamps to highly-manufactured common tableware. It’s opacity makes it a great background for paint or other overlays in architectural or decorative elements.
Because its use has been so widespread, the value of milk glass depends on the history and condition of the piece itself.