Pressed glass is molded glass since it had been made by pressing molten glass into a mold either by hand or by machine. Samples of machine-pressed glass would come with most Depression glass patterns alongside other sorts of glassware, and lots of times mold lines are quite visibly present on these lower quality yet perfectly collectable pieces. This is often the sort of glassware that might typically qualify as pressed glass.
We, among other companies that make exceptional quality “elegant” glassware, employed the method of manual pressing to supply elegant glassware entirely by hand. Our process is as follows;
Every object holds clues as to how it was made, with some being more obvious than others. Since you are reading this issue, the chances are good that you have run your fingers along a telltale ridge in a piece of glassware, or could find one amongst your collection right now. Molded glass emerged onto the scene as a cheaper alternative to big, pricey cut glass or crystal, and now holds a place in our hearts in its own right. But what about the tools that made all of this possible? Let’s take a closer look at glass molds and whether or not there is a market for these tools of the trade.
Blown Molded Glass
First, let’s clear a few things up. “Pressed” glass is essentially also “molded” glass, but the terms are not always talking about the same thing. The mold is the common factor through the years, and Byzantine, Roman, and Islamic artisans were all inserting hot glass into molds to create decorative pieces. American glass enthusiasts, however, first start getting excited about “blown molded” glass in the early 19th century, as this ancient technique gained traction following the War of 1812 as a cheaper substitute for the fancy cut glass coming out of Waterford, Ireland. Instead of an artisan chiselling away at individual pieces, a glassblower would blow glass directly into a mold to create the desired pattern. These pieces will bear both the marks of a mold and a pontil.
The molds themselves were typically cast in bronze or iron and were made all across the United States and Europe by professional mold manufacturers. The most common style had three parts that hinged open and would have revealed designs on all sides. The artisan would blow glass into the mold until glass fitted into all of the mold’s interior grooves and then would open the mold with a hand or foot pedal. From there, more blowing and shaping would finish the piece until it was cracked off from the first rod, creating the signature pontil of blown glass. Molds impressed a pattern, but it was up to the glassblower to shape it. A straight ribbed mold could be used to create a swirled handle, for example, if the glassblower twisted the glass until the striations spiraled. Symmetrical or round items like candlesticks were created in two pieces and fused and handles, the rims of pitchers, delicate necks, and other flourishes would be crafted by hand. Despite the work that went into finishing blown molded pieces, mold users had a leg up and their pieces were much more affordable than their cut glass contemporaries. The New England Glass Company and the glass companies of Sandwich, Massachusetts were top producers of blown molded glass, but few, if any, examples of molds from these areas remain intact. Excavations at Sandwich produced only fragments, making molds from the 1820-1840s interesting, but not viable collecting items.
Using raw chemical material the glass materials and molding tools make of iron the first step in creating pressed glass is quite complex.
Still clamped on the rod. A worker spins the ball with a stick of wood. He applied pressure to the upper part to flatten and flared out. He then draws the peace between two pipes to bend the sides upward. The press class, Barry Ball, has now become a candy basket. But Basket’s need handles, so it’s back to the furnace to together more glass. He clicks a little less this time. He moves the molten glass around on a metal table to roll it longer.
He inserts it in a mold that gives the glass a rib patterned. He hits the glass in the furnace one more time. Soft and sticky. The glass handle adheres to the Basket. He pulls the handle longer as he twirls the Basket and then attaches the other end of the handle to it. The handle is a bit saggy.
So before it cools, he improves the shape using an iron roller as he works the glass. He pulls the handle off and makes it more well-rounded.
Unclamp from the gathering rod. Now he smoothes the outer surface of the handle and tweaks its shape until satisfied.
Using a torch, he melts the glass a bit where the handle meets the Basket to improve the adhesion.
And now it’s over to the oven. Here, the pressed glass is heated and then cooled to room temperature over three and a half hours. This gradual heating and cooling are critical. It releases stress in the pressed glass to make it less likely to shatter.
For generations, Mould’s have been used to mass-produce press glass pieces. They can look like expensive crystal. With all that practice, they have this down to a fine art. Some works are reproductions of vintage pieces. Others are new patterns. The appeal is timeless.
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