American Brilliant Glass- A Cut Above the Rest

Hawkes Cut Glass BowlLibbey Intaglio Engraved Cut CompoteCut Glass Tuthill Cruet

Have you ever seen the description 'American Brilliant Cut Glass' and wondered what the term 'brilliant' meant?

This term refers to the Brilliant Period in American cut glass which took place from 1880 to 1914, during which time America was considered the world leader in the making of cut glass.

Cut glass actually goes back at least to ancient Rome, as early as the first century. Cut glass was made in England starting in 1850, and was prominently featured at the famous Crystal Palace Exhibition in London in 1851. Belgium and Bohemia also displayed at this exhibition, the cut glass of these two countries being more intricately cut than that shown by conservative England and America. Many of the glass cutters employed by American factories about this time originally came from Europe. Because of this, American cut glass of the period resembled the cut wares from abroad.

About 1882, the T. G. Hawkes Glass Company of Corning, New York, introduced the Russian pattern, and from this point on American cut glassware became richer and richer, both in design and in the quality of the glass and workmanship.

In 1886, the first cut design to use a curved line was introduced in America. This greatly influenced American designs from then on. Up to that time all cuttings had been in straight lines.

Thus was ushered in the Brilliant Period, distinguished by curving lines and deeper, more elaborate cutting.  The glass makers competed in introducing and patenting new geometric designs.

The methods of cutting glass also changed with the introduction of electricity, which led to improved speeds and increased power in the cutting tools. Nevertheless, the hand labor required was enormous, taking a team of workers to make each piece. The requirement for intensive labor was one of the reasons for the demise of the Brilliant Period around 1914 as labor costs escalated.

There were numbers of companies making cut glass in America during the Brilliant Period. Some of the finest were: Corning Glass Works, Libbey Glass Company, Dorflinger and Sons, T.H. Hawkes Company, J.D. Bergen Glass Company, and Hoare Glass Company -Dorothy Dinwiddie
Libbey Cut Glass BowlLibbey Cut Glass Banana Boat

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