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Vintage Turn-of-the-Century American Brilliant Cut Glass

With Eastern Europe churning out new cut glass, and vintage acid-etched cut glass signatures getting easier to fake, many  collectors are
beginning to get more cautious in their acquisition of antique cut glass.
In turn, prices have fallen in this once extremely expensive
area to collect.
The value of turn-of-the-century cut glass producers such as Dorflinger, Corning, Hoare, Libbey, Clarke, and Hawkes have all
suffered. This is a boon to knowledgeable collectors who can tell the difference between a truly vintage Brilliant cut glass piece from more
recent productions.

The great book "Guide to Fakes and Reproductions" by Mark Chervenka (Antique Trader), outlines
8 Ways of Identifying Old Brilliant Cut Glass from New Cut Glass:

1) Wheel Marks. American Brilliant Cut glass c.1880-1914 is considered some of the finest cut glass ever made.
Originally it was cut with a steel or iron wheel and these cuts were than smoothed at stone wheels, and finely polished with wood and cork.
Eight inch bowls in relatively simple patterns might take a total of 10 to 20 hours of labor. New cut glass, by contrast, is mass produced with high-speed
diamond wheels and leave areas between the cut glass ridges with a pebbled or textured appearance. In most new pieces this area
is never polished out, as it would have ben on the older cut glass. Page 177 of Chervenkas book shows an excellent comparison of new and old wheel marks.

2) Teeth. Although we now admire cut glass for it decorative value, its important to realize that originally these items were meant to be functional as servingware. 
Sharp teeth, in this case, would be very dangerous. So if you are looking at a piece of cut glass that was produced with sharp teeth, it likely was made for the
decorator/collector market, rather than as a functional item. Consequently, a sharp-teethed piece of cut glass is likely much newer than a smooth-teethed piece.

3) Details of Quality. American Brilliant Cut Glass rarely has internal bubbles.  Poorly produced brilliant cut glass was discarded rather than sold.
It's common in new cut glass to find overlaps in patterns where elements of one design intersect, overcut, or run over elements of another design. In many new pieces,
entire segments of the pattern are eliminated because they run off the edge of the blank due to poor planning. Such poor work would not have been tolerated
during the American Brilliant Period.

4) Signs of Normal Wear. Another feature of genuine ABP (American Brilliant Period) glass hard to duplicate in new cut glass is normal wear.
If an item is said to be 100 years old it should logically show some evidence of that age.  They should show wear not only on the base, but the internal bottom as well,
since even stationary pieces had to be cleaned or dusted on occassion. It is important to realize too that normal wear appears as lines of random width,
direction, depth, and length. Wear that is patterned in any way, circular or parallel lines, should ring warning bells.

5) Shapes. Get to know the most commonly reproduced items in cut glass. The two biggest suspects should always be any cut glass that is helmet-shaped and biscuit jars. 
For some reason these two shapes have been reproduced extensivelly.

6) Blanks. Blanks of new cut glass show much more variation in thickness within a single piece than old blanks. Bases will be thicker than side walls, one side of
the item will be thicker than the other, etc. This is especially noticeable in plates, tumblers, and some bowls; the smaller the size, the more noticeable the difference.

7)  Marks. Never base your judgement of age or quality on cut glass marks. Fake and forged acid-etch and diamond etched signatures are wide-spread.
One way to catch forged marks is to use a 10x loupe.  If the piece is truly old, it will have some signs of wear.  Many careless forgers place their new marks
over normal wear.  When acid is applied over an old scratch, the acid tends to flow through the scratch and fills the scratch.  The result is a frosted scratch.

8) Black Light Tests. Virtually all American Brilliant Period cut glass fluoresces green with some yellow under black light.  19th and 20th century cut glass
from other countries may not fluoresce. Until the mid 1990's many cut glass reprodcutions fluoreseced pink, purple, or white or appeared to have no reaction. 
Although, black light is an important test, it should not be your only test.  Be sure to look at the shape, signs of wear, and overall quality before making a judgement of age.


The 8 ways of identifying new and old cut glass on this page comes from the invaluable reproduction
resource book "Guide to Fakes and Reproductions" 4th Edition by Mark Chervenka. It is available for
purchase in our Collectors Reference Bookstore for $24.99.

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