When I was a wee lad, my grandma had the most beautiful glass pitcher. It was so delicate and intricately made, with swirls of colors running through the glass. She would use it to serve water or iced tea at family gatherings, and everyone would admire it.
Even now, years after my grandma has passed away, that pitcher is one of my most treasured possessions. It’s not worth a lot of money, but it holds sentimental value.
Glass pitchers are wonderful pieces to collect, whether for their beauty or historical significance. For example, look at this pitcher from 1820. How would it look on your shelf?
But being such common items, they’re usually hard to identify. Often we see antique pitchers owned by our grandparents’ grandparents, but we have no idea where they came from or how old they are.
In this guide, I’ll teach you everything you need to know about collecting and identifying antique glass pitchers.
Identifying an Antique Glass Pitcher
There are a few things you can look at to determine if a glass pitcher is antique. But before starting, let’s talk about what we mean with ‘antique’. An antique is an item that’s at least 100 years old.
Now, back to our glass pitcher. Here’s what you should look at to determine if you’re dealing with an actual antique.
The first thing you want to look for are any markings on the bottom of the piece. These could be a manufacturer’s symbol or the words ‘made in’ followed by the country of origin. If there are no markings, that’s not necessarily an indicator that the piece isn’t antique. Many items from before a certain period simply weren’t marked.
Then, examine the glass carefully. If it’s thin and delicate, it’s likely an antique. Heavier glasses didn’t come into fashion until the 19th century. Older pieces were often made with thicker glass, so they tend to be heavier than newer ones.
Another good indicator of age is the presence of bubbles in the glass. The older the piece, the more likely it is to have bubbles.
You can also look at the shape of the pitcher. Earlier styles tended to be more slender and taller, while later styles were shorter and stouter. The handles also changed over time, from simple loops to more ornate designs.
Of course, you can always take it to an appraiser and have them examine it for you. But if you’re looking to do some research on your own, those are two good places to start.
Testing the Age of the Glass
Even if a piece looks old, there’s no guarantee that it is. The only way to be sure is to have it tested by a professional. There are a few different ways to test the age of glass.
One is called an X-ray fluorescence test. This involves using X-rays on the surface of the glass to excite the atoms and cause them to emit energy. The energy is then analyzed to determine the composition of the glass. This can be used to date the piece with a fair amount of accuracy.
Another option is to use thermoluminescence dating. With this method, the piece is heated until it emits light. The amount of light emitted is proportional to the age of the glass.
Both of these methods require special equipment and training, so they’re best left to the professionals. But if you’re looking to get an accurate date for your piece, those are two options worth considering.
Types of Glass Pitcher
Another useful hint that helps us identify glass pitchers is their style.
There are a few different types of glass pitchers, each with its own unique features. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types.
- Pressed Glass Pitcher
The first type of glass pitcher is the pressed glass pitcher. These were very popular in the 19th century and are one of the most common types of antique glass pitchers. They’re made by pressing molten glass into a mold. This leaves a raised design on the surface of the pitcher, which can be anything from simple geometric shapes to flowers or animals.
- Cut Glass Pitcher
Cut glass pitchers are another common type of antique glass pitcher. They’re made by cutting away pieces of glass from a larger sheet. This leaves a design of interlocking shapes on the surface of the pitcher. Cut glass pitchers were especially popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Etched Glass Pitcher
The last type of glass pitcher we’ll look at is the etched glass pitcher. These are made by using acid to etch a design into the surface of the glass. Etched glass pitchers were very popular in the 19th century.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the most common types of antique glass pitchers, let’s move on to identifying them.
Evaluating Antique Glass Pitchers
When you’re evaluating an antique glass pitcher, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
First, take a look at the condition of the piece. If it’s in good condition, that’s a good sign. But if it’s cracked or chipped, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Remember, age isn’t always an indicator of value. A piece in good condition is more valuable than a piece in poor condition, but a piece with some damage can still be worth a lot of money.
Next, take a look at the design of the pitcher. Is it simple or ornate? What kind of patterns does it have? The more detailed and intricate the design, the more valuable the piece is likely to be.
Finally, consider the age of the piece. Older pieces are usually more valuable than newer ones. But as we mentioned before, age isn’t always an indicator of value. A piece that’s in good condition and has a complex design is going to be worth more than a piece that’s in poor condition and has a simple design, even if the latter is older.
Now that we’ve gone over some of the things to keep in mind when evaluating an antique glass pitcher, let’s move on to some tips for collecting them.
But there will be the occasional piece that sells for thousands of dollars — usually these are pieces owned by famous people. Imagine you could buy the glass pitcher used by Lincoln himself. How much would it cost?
To get started in collecting, my best advice is to find a few dealers you trust and buy from them regularly. Over time, you’ll develop a relationship and they’ll start to give you better deals. You should also keep an eye out for auctions and estate sales. These are great places to find antique glass pitchers at bargain prices.
Buying an Antique Glass Pitcher
Shopping for antique glass pitchers can become a huge time sink. There are 2 main channels to buy them: online and offline. Each channel comes with its up- and downsides
Buying Antique Glass Pitchers Online
The first option is to buy antique glass pitchers online. There are a few advantages to this.
First, it’s convenient. You can do it from the comfort of your own home. Second, you have a wider selection to choose from. You’re not limited to the pieces that are available locally. And third, you can usually get a better deal. Because there are so many sellers competing for your business, you can often find a piece for less than you would if you were to buy it offline.
On the downside, buying online can be risky. It’s hard to know if you’re getting what you’re paying for. There are a lot of fake antique glass pitchers out there, and it can be hard to tell the difference. It’s also difficult to get a sense of scale and proportion from a photo. A pitcher that looks small in a photo might actually be too large for your collection. And finally, you have to pay for shipping, and in the case of antique glass pitchers, you have to pray for it to reach your house intact.
The best places to buy antique glass pitchers online are:
- eBay: when you’re looking for any antique piece, eBay should be the first place you visit. The platform hosts many reputable sellers and has a buyer protection program..
- Ruby Lane: This is another great option for finding antique glass pitchers. The site has a wide selection of high-quality pieces and it is reliable.
- Etsy: Etsy: If you’re looking for a more unique piece, Etsy is a great place to start your search. The site is full of independent sellers offering one-of-a-kind items.
- Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace: Two excellent places to find antique glass pitchers at a lower price point. Both sites have a wide selection of items and sellers to choose from.
Editor’s note: If all you care about is looks, then Amazon is a great place to shop for a glass pitcher that looks antique. It’s not going to be an original vintage piece, but it’ll look like one.
Buying Antique Glass Pitchers Offline
The second option is to buy antique glass pitchers offline. The advantage of this is that you can see the piece in person before you buy it. This is important because it’s hard to tell from a photo if a piece is in good condition or not. It’s also difficult to get a sense of scale and proportion from a photo. A pitcher that looks small in a photo might actually be too large for your collection.
Another advantage of buying offline is that you can usually negotiate the price. This is especially true if you’re buying from an auction or an estate sale.
The downside of buying offline is that you’re limited to the pieces that are available locally. You might have to travel far and wide to find the piece you’re looking for. And even then, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find what you’re looking for.
The best places to buy antique glass pitchers offline are:
- Auctions: Auctions are a great place to find antique glass pitchers at bargain prices. There are many reputable auction houses all over the U.S., so you’re sure to find one near you.
- Estate Sales: Estate sales are another great option for finding antique glass pitchers. You can usually find a wide selection of pieces at estate sales, and the prices are often negotiable.
- Antique Stores: Antique stores are a great place to find antique glass pitchers, but they can be a bit pricey. However, if you find a piece you love, it’s worth the investment.
Picking the Right Pitcher for You
Now that you know where to buy antique glass pitchers, it’s time to pick the right one for your collection. There are a few things you should keep in mind when making your decision.
First, consider the size of the pitcher. Antique glass pitchers come in all shapes and sizes, so you’ll need to make sure you pick one that fits your space.
Second, think about the style of the pitcher. Do you want a traditional looking piece, or something more modern?
Third, consider the price. Antique glass pitchers can be quite pricey, so you’ll need to set a budget before you start your search.
Fourth, think about the condition of the pitcher. Antique glass pitchers are often delicate, so you’ll need to make sure you pick one that is in good condition.
Fifth, consider the shipping if you’re buying online. Shipping can be expensive, so you’ll need to make sure you pick a piece that is available locally. Also, antique glass pitchers are quite frail and might break during transport.
Finally, think about the return policy. Antique glass pitchers are often delicate, so you’ll need to make sure you pick a piece that has a good return policy.
With these things in mind, you’re sure to find the perfect antique glass pitcher for your collection.
Tips for Collecting Antique Glass Pitchers
If you’re interested in collecting antique glass pitchers, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
First, make sure you do your research. There’s a lot of information out there, and it can be overwhelming. But it’s important to have a general understanding of the subject before you start collecting. That way, you’ll know what to look for and how to identify different types of pitchers.
Second, start small. There’s no need to go out and buy a whole set of antique glass pitchers all at once. Start with one or two, and then gradually add to your collection over time.
Third, be patient. It can take awhile to find the right piece, so don’t be discouraged if it takes some time.
And fourth, have fun! Collecting should be enjoyable, so don’t take it too seriously.
Now that we’ve gone over some tips for collecting antique glass pitchers, let’s move on to some care and cleaning tips.
How do I care for an Antique Glass Pitcher?
If you’re lucky enough to own an antique glass pitcher, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when it comes to care and cleaning.
First, avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners. These can damage the surface of the glass. Instead, stick to gentle soap and water.
Second, be careful when handling the pitcher. The last thing you want is to drop it and break it. So handle it with care and use both hands when you pick it up.
Third, dust the pitcher regularly. This will help to keep it clean and prevent dirt and grime from building up.
And fourth, store the pitcher in a cool, dry place. This will help to prevent damage from heat or moisture.
Where Can I Learn More About Antique Glass Pitchers?
There are various communities where you can learn more about antique glass pitchers. Try doing a search online, or join an online forum where collectors share information and advice. You can also check out books from your local library, or visit a museum that has a collection of antique glass pitchers.
Here are some excellent resources:
- Antiquers forums: This forum is full of knowledgeable collectors who are happy to share their advice and expertise.
- Antiquebottle-glass forums: Another great forum where you can ask knowledgeable collectors for advice.
- The American Glass Museum: This museum has an extensive collection of antique glass, and they offer educational programs that can help you learn more about the history and care of these pieces.