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Blown Three-Mold Glass
The second American type was a definite attempt to imitate cut glass by a cheaper method. Sometime after the nineteenth century began, glass was blown into molds which had cut glass patterns incised on them. Because the majority of the molds were made in three parts, the glass came to be called Blown Three-mold ware.
Since it was difficult in the early 1800's to compete with well-established Anglo-Irish glasshouses, American manufacturers by accident or plan developed this commercial line which proved popular for more than twenty-five years. The variety of items made in Blown Three-mold indicates that it was in constant demand. Since glassmen wished their new product to compete with Anglo-Irish ware, they chose similar patterns. Some designs were actually the same as those'used simultaneously by the manufacturers of cut glass abroad. Sunbursts popular in cut glass became one of the motifs frequently used in this blown ware. Parallel and intersecting lines adaptable to glass cutting, were used vertically, diagonally, horizontally, and in spirals, with or without the popular sunbursts, daisies, loops, dots, and diamonds. Various combinations of these lines form what is called the Geometric patterns, which were produced more extensively than the simpler Arch and the more elaborate Baroque designs.
The Arch patterns are composed of Roman or Gothic arches and may have been used in the early part of the eighteenth century in full-size molds. Baroque patterns, which probably came last, are more elaborate and in higher relief. With stars, shells, hearts, palm leaves, and ribbings, the Baroque designs approach more closely the popular pressed glass rather than the cut glass patterns. Designs on the bases are often half covered by the pontil marks, scars left by pontil rods. Stoppers vary in design and construction. Some were blown in full-size molds, others pressed or pattern-molded. Altogether there are some one hundred and fifty patterns or variations of patterns.
Blown Three-mold was produced in many factories from New England to Ohio. A variety of articles was made in clear and colored glass and some in bottle glass. A few lamp fonts in these patterns were attached to pressed glass bases. Blown Three-mold ware can rarely be attributed to any one factory because of its widespread use. It is also probable that moldmakers sold duplicate patterns to different companies.
The molds were usually made in three parts, although two and four part molds were also used. In the Irish glasshouses, where some of this glass was made, two part molds were used. Unlike cut glass, the patterns of Blown Three-mold glass are not sharp. The lines are soft and rounded, often disappearing or running into one another.) After the article was molded, it was reheated for finishing and this further diffused the pattern. Mold marks around the tops of articles frequently disappeared altogether. Unlike pressed glass, the pattern on the inside is the reverse of the outside, that is, if the pattern is concave inside, the opposite area outside is convex. An exception occurred when a large gather of glass was used.
The use of the term "three-mold" has been rather unfortunate from the collector's viewpoint. Too often during the last few decades, and even today, collectors and dealers seeing three mold marks on a piece of pressed ware assume that the article belongs to this early nineteenth-century American blown tableware. Mold marks, in themselves, prove just one thing: the article came in contact with a mold sometime during its fabrication. Since even the Romans used molds, there must be other factors in order to attribute the piece to a period or place. Mold marks contribute to the story of an article of glass, but they alone are fication.
For the wishes to Three-mold ware is recommended for several reasons. With a little study the beginner can learn to identify this type of glass. There is an unusually large number of items in the various patterns. There are bottles (decanters, cruets, toilet bottles and castors, tumblers (in varous sizes), pitchers, dishes, bowls (covered or uncovered), saltcellars, celery vases, and other items made in smaller quantities (inkwells, hats, offhand pieces). Shapes and designs are pleasing, and the collector who finds an amethyst, blue, yellow, or green piece should feel fortunate, as most Blown Three-mold was made in clear glass.
Since Blown Three-mold was manufactured in the East and Midwest, it is available to most collectors. Although it is not plentiful or inexpensive, diligent searching will reward the interested person.