Our last blog post What Is Elegant Glass? Introduction to Beautiful Handcrafted American Crystal introduced elegant glass, that fine quality crystal made partially by hand. You can find elegant glass made in the 1930s, the same era as depression glass, made in sets for dinner or luncheon use, and in colors, just as depression glass.
So, what is the difference between elegant glass and depression glass?
One key difference is the glass quality. Elegant glass makers used higher quality crystal, usually with lead content for added sparkle, while depression glass was not such good quality. Think about the drinking glasses you might see in the dollar store. Pretty as they may be, the quality is not as good as the fine cut crystal you find in higher end department stores.
Another difference is hand craftsmanship. Elegant glass companies employed skilled artisans to finish the glass. Pressed glass usually has mold marks at the seams, and glass usually will leak out a little, making a ridge around the seam edge. Elegant glass artisans fire polished the seams, making the glass piece smooth to the touch and to the eye. The Cambridge Chantilly candle holder above has seams, which you can spot if you look for them, but they are not very noticeable.
Depression glass makers did not treat their seams and you can feel the seams around most depression glass pieces.
This small green sherbet bowl has a protruding seam. You can see this and feel it easily.
One easy way to spot elegant glass plates, bowls or cups, is to check the bottoms. Elegant glass companies ground the bottom rims smooth. Usually this base rim will look frosted, because they ground it smooth then left as is. Realize that some glass companies did not ground every piece, especially if they were facing hard economic challenges. This Duncan Miller basket has a pattern on the base which is not ground.
Other big differences are in the decorating techniques. That’s a topic for the next post.