American Brilliant cut glass came out of the shadows of European cut glass in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There, representatives from eight American glass manufacturers showed off their leaded-crystal goblets, tumblers, decanters, and serving plates, each of which had been deeply cut by hand on a succession of metal, stone, and wooden wheels. The Brilliant Period, as the heyday of the form is known, lasted from the nation’s centennial until the first decade of the 20th century, when changing tastes and less-expensive pressed glass, which replicated the look of cut glass, pushed the real thing to the sidelines. In fact, by 1910 many of the floral, fruit, and geometric patterns in cut glass were pressed first and then cut, making them less costly to produce and less desirable to contemporary collectors.
During the Brilliant Period, roughly 1,000 cutting shops were founded to meet the demand. These shops would turn thick, unadorned blanks into multifaceted confections, whose cut and engraved surfaces splashed light around a room. Companies such Dorflinger, Hawkes, Libbey, J. Hoare and Co., T. G. Hawkes, Tuthill, Egginton, and Mt. Washington were highly regarded for the quality of their work, as well as their artistry. Hawkes would go on to found Steuben with Frederick Carder, while Libbey made Brilliant glassware for the White House.
Some of the most sought-after patterns cut during the American period of cut glass are Wedgemere, Aztec, and Ellsmere by Libbey; Aberdeen by Jewel; Queens, Chrysanthemum, and Nautilus by Hawkes; Assyrian by Sinclaire; Poppy by Tuthill; Wheat by Hoare; and Russian and Comet by a number of companies. Shapes can also be considered rare, such as tea and coffee pots, table lamps, oil lamps, triple-ring lapidary neck decanters, cake plates, punch bowls, and whiskey bottles. Finally, while many pieces are clear, look for colors, including ruby, green, rainbow, blue, and turquoise, if you can even find them.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
American Cut Glass Association
Pattern Glass School
Clubs & Associations
- American Cut Glass Association
- Early American Pattern Glass Society
- National Cambridge Collectors, Inc.