Maryland Diagnostic Artifacts

Table Glass



Glass Composition

Vessel Decoration

Vessel Forms

Quick Reference Table on
Glass Composition

Illustration of Hot Glass
Techniques of Blown Molded
and Pressed Molding

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How to Cite this Website

Table Glass

This website will provide basic identification and dating information on table glass recovered on archaeological sites dating from the 17th through the early 20th centuries, using artifacts contained within the collections of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.  The website is structured into three basic sections shown below:  Glass Composition, Vessel Decoration and Vessel Form.  The reader is encouraged to consult the following sources for more detailed information on table glass identification, as well as other sources listed in the References section:

L. M. Bickerton
1986  Eighteenth Century English Drinking Glasses; An Illustrated Guide.  Antique Collector’s Club, Woodbridge Suffolk, 1986.

Olive Jones 
2000  A Guide to Dating Glass Tableware, 1800 to 1940.  Studies in Material Culture Research.  Edited by Karlis Karklins.  Society for Historical Archaeology, 2000.

Olive Jones, Catherine Sullivan, George L. Miller, E. Ann Smith, Jane E. Harris and Kevin Lunn. 
1985  The Parks Canada Glass Glossary.  National Historic Parks and Sites, Ottawa.

Glass Composition
The glass that archaeologists can expect to find on colonial and post-colonial archaeological sites is composed of three primary components:  silica (normally in the form of sand), soda or potash as a flux, and either lime or lead as a stabilizer (Jones et al. 1985:10).  This section is divided into colorless and colored glass and provides basic information on determining the composition of your fragments.  While a visual examination of glass can be used with a limited degree of accuracy, the only way to really determine the composition of glass is through chemical analysis.

Click here to view a Glass Composition Quick Reference Table

Vessel Decoration
There are four primary types of decoration used on table glass:  hot glass methods, which involve a decorative element molded or created in molten glass, abrasive methods that include removal of glass through manual means, such as cutting or engraving, chemical methods like acid etching and then adhesive methods, which involve adding a decorative element to the surface of the glass through painting or spraying.

Vessel Form
While there are numerous vessel forms that can be considered table glass, this website deals with vessel forms most commonly found on archaeological sites.  These forms include stemmed glasses, tumblers, cups and mugs, decanters, cruets and castors.  Less commonly found vessel forms, like rummers, firing glasses, salts, dessert glasses, bowls, spooners, compotes, tazzas and wine glass rinsers are included in with Other Vessel Forms.

Continue to Glass Composition

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Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab Updated: 11/30/10

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