Tips For Buying Fine Glass

Although I could write a blog entry on almost every one of these bits of information all by themselves, I wanted to give you a quick reference of tips for how to find and identify real antique and vintage glass.

1. I use my fingers to feel around all the edges and surfaces. Sometimes a condition problem can hide from the eyes, but the finger tips can sense its presence.

2. If an item shows a slight lavender hue, then it has been left out in the sunlight, usually on a window shelf, and has changed color. If you like the look of it, then buy it, but if you are looking to resell it, there is little, to no resale value to it.

3. There are different levels of white in glass. Some of them are: Bristol (not especially valuable unless it’s a particularly fine piece), Opaline, Opaque, and Milk Glass. Each can be desirable, but you will need to do your research to discover which will be the most collectable if you are buying for resale.


Wavecrest Monroe “Nakara” Angel Dresser Box In Opaline Glass

4. I always check clear glass made in the 1800’s to see if it’s Flint. I hold the item in such a way that I can give it a gentle finger flik, and then I listen for the sound. Regular glass has a thunk sound, but Flint sings like fine crystal, with a lovely, sweet, high pitched tune.


Boston Sandwich Flint Glass Covered Compote

5. There have been many reproductions of antique designs, which are actually still popular today. Look closely at the mold definition, check for irregular edges (a good sign for age), and best of all, I carry a small flashlight size black light. I will bring an item into a dark space and blacklight it. I’m looking for a subtle green glow around the edges. This is NOT Vaseline glass (more about that in a moment) but it does reveal the presence of certain minerals that were used in the older glass, and not in newer pressings.

6. Antique glass shakers usually have damaged inside rim edges. That’s because people would knock the shaker against a surface to loosen the salt. Unless the damage is severe, most collectors overlook such conditions.


Boston & Sandwich Canary Yellow Vaseline Christmas Glass Shaker. Left: Regular View, Right Beneath A Blacklight. Called “Christmas” Shaker Because Of When It Received Its Patent.

7. True Vaseline Glass is always in some shade of Canary Yellow. If you find a piece in green that will glow beneath a blacklight, that is Uranium Glass, and NOT Vaseline Glass. There is also an Opaque glass, known as Custard Glass, which is NOT Vaseline, but will glow beneath a blacklight, too.


English Custard Glass Vase Glows Green Beneath A Blacklight

8. Not all Canary Yellow Glass is Vaseline Glass. I always use my blacklight to double check. Even after all these years, I can still, sometimes mistake one for the other. That’s when I’m always thankful to have that light with me. It’s worth the effort.


Authentic, Very Rare, Moser Sherbet Set

9. Not all Bohemian Glass is Moser or Loetz. Be aware that there are fakes out there and people have taken period Bohemian Glass and made phony signature marks on it. There’s a certain depth of color, and a feel to the texture, and if you have any doubts, then pass it by. The same with Tiffany Studios, Daum, Nancy, Gallé, Steuben, Durand, etc. If you haven’t done your homework and the price is really low, then wait until you know what you are looking at before you spend your money. Check eBay for some of their guides, such as this one:

10. Speaking of waiting, I will often buy something that I recognize as being valuable but can’t quite place it. I once bought a little “jar” and waited two years until I finally discovered what it was. It ended up being an extremely rare, quite valuable Mt. Washington Spider Web Opaque toothpick holder.

11. Acquire books on the subject. Yes, the Internet is very useful to gathering information, but having my books allows me to do crossover research, and I can discover connections I had no idea existed. Often I will find something in a book about shakers or toothpick holders that will help me identify an antique oil lamp. You can never know too much! My colleagues now carry their IPads, etc., with them when they go to sales. I carry my knowledge inside my brain, along with my Nook. It’s not the price for something that counts to me, but rather the rarity and beauty of an item. Buy what you like, and you will never go wrong.

Some additional research resources:

a. Tiffany Lamps:

b. Fake Loetz and Bohemian Glass:

c. Grouping of Glass Guides on eBay:

d. Reference Books on Amazon about Art Glass:


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