Face it. If you use your glass it will get wear. But there are things you can do to minimize wear and keep your vintage glass in good condition. For one thing, start with glass that is in good shape, don’t buy glass that is all scratched if you can help it.
Tip #1. Check whether the glass is dirty vs. worn. This sounds easy, but it’s not. It’s hard to tell wear marks or water spots from glass that is only dirty, and if you shop at estate sales the glass might be cloudy from being stuck in a cupboard for many years. Cloudy dirt comes off but wear and water marks are permanent.
I got this group of glass at a flea market – dirty and icky. The creamer and sugar in the center are a very old Fostoria pattern, Virginia, and the pieces are hard to find. I used a a wet wash cloth packed in a baggy to wipe off some of the gunk to get an idea whether it was dirt or something worse.
Here is the Virginia piece, all sparkly clean. All the pieces in that group were just dirty, not worn, except the Caprice sugar.
If you are at a estate sale, they may allow you to wash pieces, but if not, use the wet wash cloth method to get an idea.
2. Hold glass to the light.
Lots of times you won’t see wear looking down; plates lying on a table might look fine but actually have quite a lot of wear. Pick the piece up and hold to the light. Tilt it a bit and look from different angles. I bought a set of these Cambridge Rose Point plates on Craigslist. Most are in great condition but a few had wear that you don’t notice just seeing them on the table.
Here’s one of the Rose Point plates with wear.
3. Choose patterns with designs in the center.
Patterns like Fostoria Buttercup or Chintz have designs in the center – which is where most plates get scratches from use – and the design will help your eye pass right over small scratches. This Fostoria Chintz plate has a big scratch. Can you see it?
4. Bonus tip! When packing glass to take it home, wrap each piece carefully. At a minimum put paper between each plate if you stack them. I bring my own packing material when shopping and wrap glass myself as otherwise the clerk might bundle a whole bunch of pieces together with no padding at all.
Good luck! Now that you have your pretty glass, we’ll talk next time about how to keep your glass from getting all worn down.