Crackle glass (also known as “craquelle”, “overshot” and “ice glass”) is a popular type of glassware which boasts a crackled surface. The process underpinning the manufacture of Crackle glass is believed to have been invented in Venice during the 16th century. In order to form the fine, crackled effect, Venetian glassmakers submerged hot glass in cold water, and then reheated the glass in order to smooth the surface and seal the newly visible surface cracks.
The technique is thought to have been deployed in order to conceal imperfections.
Crackling affects neither colour nor form. The term “Crackle glass” therefore denotes a process rather than a particular style.
Crack glass became very popular in the US from about 1930 until the late 1970s. West Virginia saw many manufactories open their doors, while Ohio and Pennsylvania were also centres of production.
West Virginia is well known for its production of “off hand glass”. This is a term used to refer to glass that is mouth blown.
Many, many firms produced Crackle glass in the US. Bischoff, Blenko, Kanawha, Pilgrim, and Rainbow were five well-known companies all located in West Virginia. Blenko is the only company that still produces crackle glass today. Pilgrim Glass Company closed in March of 2002.
A vast number of forms were produced using the crackling process: decanters, glasses, pitchers, jugs, perfume bottles, cups, rose bowls, bottle stoppers, cruets, ashtrays and ice-cream sets. Table ware, dressing table ware and desert ware was also produced.
For a short period of time, Blenko Glass had their name sandblasted on the bottom of the glass with the image of a hand underneath it. Any items containing this mark are highly sought after by collectors.
Many items produced at Pilgrim Glass contain a mark on the bottom resembling a strawberry. Tapping a file against the glass while it was hot made this imprint. Unfortunately this mark was not made on all Pilgrim pieces thus making them harder to identify.
Crackle glass perfume bottles are among the more seldom seen, and highly sought after items that were made using the Crackle glass technique.
Items made in the shape of fruit and fish are also highly sought after because they are rare.
Colour plays an important role in determining value: colours which were more costly to manufacture, such as amberina, cobalt, cranberry, ruby red and tangerine, were less widely purchased and therefore appear on the market less frequently today. Other colours, such as smoke, had a very short production lifer and are also highly sought after. Amethyst is perhaps the most popular colour in terms of collectible Crackle glass.
Original Crackle glass items boasting their original stoppers – which were often damaged – are a rare find. A piece that contains the original stopper in good condition is considered vastly more collectible than an item lacking its original stopper.
Look for labels: the majority of Crackle glass labels were removed. A label removes guesswork, enabling collectors to immediately identify an item of glassware. Original labels have a positive impact upon value – watch out for fakes!
A large grouping of rose Crackle glass sold for $25 at Keystone Auction LLC in October 2010.
A Victorian Crackle glass lily-form epergne sold for $350 at DuMouchelles in July 2007.
A Crackle glass leaf-shaped cranberry-coloured serving bowl and 10 matching leaf-shaped dishes sold for $500 at AA Auction in September 2008.
9 Victorian perfume bottles (two Crackle glass examples among them) sold for $175 at DuMouchelles in May 2011.
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