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Popular Pressed Glass Patterns

In the late 1830s, times were bad and since lacy ware required expensive molds, it was gradually replaced by simpler patterns. The advent of fire-poiishing, which almost entirely eliminated mold marks, may have again encouraged glassmen to attempt imitations of cuT glass patterns. The new designs such as Ashburton, Thumbprint, Diamond-thumbprint and Excelsior were clearly in the cut glass fashion, but they have a charm of their own. About this time, table sets of goblets, plates, pitchers, sugar bowls, compotes, and odd pieces were made so that today's collector can find use for her treasures, if she chooses a pressed glass pattern made in these pieces.

It is difficult to determine in which factories specific patterns were made. In some cases, however, a design has been identified with a definite factory, but that does not guarantee it was not made in other glasshouses too. The place where a pattern originated is seldom known. Most of the popular patterns were copied openly or surreptitiously. Some factories made a slight variation in the basic design, others changed only the name, which is confusing to modern collectors and researchers.

Many of the early patterns, such as Ashburton, Bellflower, and Diamond-thumbprint, were popular after the Civil War, but new ones were continually brought out. As the nineteenth century progressed, the elaborateness and ornateness of shapes and designs increased. Eventually the tremendous output of pressed tableware required hundreds of patterns. Thus today's collector, with either little or much to spend, can find a pattern suited to her collecting urge.

From 1840 on the number of glass factories increased and production increased even more. With the invention of the cheap soda-lime formula after the Civil War, the quality of the glass declined and patterns took on a greater similarity. The press had been desirable at first because it produced cheaper glass, but it was continually improved to make still cheaper and larger quantities. Under such circumstances something invariably suffers-shape or design, quality of material, or workmanship-and always there occurs that loss of individuality which goes with handicrafts. To stimulate sales, manufacturers offered new designs more and more frequently, and these became less and less good. While a machine could press out hundreds of pieces to a glassblower's dozens, it could never equal the perfection of the latter's work. There was plenty of glass for the people, but before the end of the nineteenth century quality had lost to quantity.

Pressed glass offers the largest field for the collector. It has been made continuously since about 1820, which gives collectors a wide range of choice as to types (such as table sets of patterned ware, lacy ware, or decorative pieces), colors, quality, and design. There is great difference in price and availability, partly due to the scarcity of the pattern, partly to its current popularity. Don't choose a pattern at random. Consult the books that specialize on pressed wares. Perhaps it would be wise to start on an inexpensive pattern and sell it later if you wish to change.

The prices of the older patterns, such as Ashburton, Diarnond-thumbprint and Bellflower, vary from four dollars to as much as one hundred and fifty dollars per piece. The post-Civil War pressed ware is less expensive. For example, the popular Red Block and Ruby Thumbprint range in price from four to twentyfive dollars. The patterns that were made in several colors, such as Daisy and Button, are priced according to the color. The clear article is the cheapest while the blue is the most expensive. Yellow pieces are a little higher than amber ones. The pressed ware made around 1900 is very plentiful and often comes as low as fifty cents or a dollar per article.

Pressed glass is fun to collect even if it is not always designed well or produced perfectly. Most patterns are fairly plentiful, and enough can be found to make a pretty setting for parties in either clear or brightly colored ware. Because of its availability and price, this glass is excellent for gifts. The thoughtful friend or member of the family can usually find a suitable or long desired article. Collectors are always glad to have new pieces on a birthday, at Christmas time, or even when convalescing in a hospital!

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