What is American Brilliant Cut Glass

At the end of the 19th Century, in the heart of the Victorian Era was born an incredible accomplishment earning its place amongst the great art forms of the world, American Brilliant Rich Cut Glass.

The Philadelphia Centennial Exposition (1876) marked the beginning of a new era in glass, when American manufacturers displayed their magnificently cut patterns, heavier clearer brighter and stronger because of its lead content.

The cuts so deep and clean that people remarked that they could almost cut a finger on one of the elaborate and finely patterned designs. Next to its European counterparts American Brilliant Cut Glass shown brighter with fewer impurities then those made from Irish glass that had a distinct yellowish cast and Bohemian which was grayish in color. During the period from 1876 to 1916 this glass was given a name, AMERICAN BRILLIANT CUT GLASS.

This period was divided into three periods Early, Brilliant and Flower.

The Early Period 1830-1876. Most cutters had emigrated from Europe and imitated shallow cuts, as in flat flutes or a row of thumbprints. Etching and Engravings rather than cutting characterized much of this early glass.

The Brilliant Period 1876-1906. American Cut Glass monopolized the national and international market because of the unusual clarity of the lead glass and the originality of the designs. In the period the craftsman cut most of the surface of the glass to produce a prismatic sparkle, thereby suggesting the name "Brilliant". At the height of the Brilliant Period the master craftsman may combine geometric figures in an ornate, highly individualized pattern with exquisite cuttings completely covering the surface of the glass.

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(1) Punch bowl set in J. D. Bergen's "India" pattern with 6 matching footed punch cups and signed J. D. Bergen ladle. (2) Pitkin and Brooks Beverly Flower center rare to find one in this pristine condition. Such patterns appeared on complete table settings and decorative pieces for all areas of the home, some pieces were cut on colored blanks or color to clear blanks. Rich Cut Glass as it was called graced the homes of Presidents and Kings the world over. (3) Rare Signed Libbey Plate.

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(1) Signed Hunts Royal Pattern Bowl. (2) Val St Lambert Decanter 1895. (3) Rare J Hoar signed Compote 1885.

To this we add the signature of some of the Master Houses, TG Hawkes, J Hoar, Libbey amongst a few.


Signed Hawkes Flower Holder 1897. The American Signatures are documented, acid etched and can not be duplicated today.

Because of the rising cost of production by 1906, the waning interest of the public in ornately cut glass the third period emerged.

The Flower 1906-1916. The Brilliant and Flower periods overlapped to a great extent, while one company continued the overall cutting of geometric designs other moved on to engraving, still others cut transitional pieces with both geometric figures and engraving. During this period the copper wheel cutting of engraved glass was introduced, and craftsmen turned to all forms of nature for his or her designs, the flower, birds, plants and insects. The Flower so dominated the design hence people refer to this era as the Flower Period.

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(1) Magnificent Tithill Grapes on a Vine wheel engraved and signed. (2) Gold Puff Box with original ermine puff 1890. (3) Signed Hawkes Honey Pot with Sterling Silver Top.

During the period 1876 to 1916 an enormous number of pieces were made, becoming a great favorite in upper class homes all over the country.

It reached its peak during an era of genteel affluence. It looked great on dinner tables throughout the land, catching reflections from the candles, gas lamps and new electric lights. It was popular giftware during the period, and there were few homes that didn't have at least a piece or two in the china cabinet. Prices are never cheap, but they vary depending on precisely the method of manufacture used. Obviously, hand blown, hand cut and hand polished glass is the most desirable.

Your reward in understanding the intricacies of this kind of glass makes it worth the effort.

American Brilliant Cut Glass is surely the king of American glass with the most sparkle, the deepest cuts, the clearest sheen of any ever made.

For additional information on the more than 600 pieces to be sold please contact:

American Glass Treasures, Inc.
Glenda S Klein, President
Member of American Cut Glass Association