15/05/2022 General News
Old Irish glass is revered for its high quality of craftsmanship and unique character, and is highly sought after by collectors because of this. While Irish glass is sometimes said to have been made as early as the 14th century, it is often thought that this was in fact imported glass which was crafted or used by Irish glaziers. However, by the mid-late 16th century the manufacture of Irish glass had begun and would steadily continue from there on.
The highest quality glassware from Ireland was produced from about 1785 onwards to 1820. During this period, Irish glassmakers were surpassing their fellow glass smiths in the UK and on the continent. Their product was supreme because it was handmade or hand cut. There was no mass production, which tends to automatically decrease value. Glass produced in Ireland during this time was flat cut, not like a lot of heavy Waterford crystal we might still see today. They cut into it only very lightly, and this produces the lovely prismatic effect we often see.
It can be very difficult to identify old Irish glass, the majority was not marked before the 20th century. It can be identified by its unique colour, a greyish-blue-black tinge which is present due to its high lead content and by its irregular shapes, often the ring of a glass will appear uneven or wavy and this is a sign that it has been handmade rather than produced by a machine.
Appearing as lot 510 in our May 2022 auction is a beautiful example of an old Irish glass decanter and stopper. Dating from the early 1800s, it is of mallet form with three rounded neck rings on the shoulder, the body is engraved with a unique decoration of Irish shamrocks, roses and thistles and a harp which indicates that this is an Act of Union decanter, made to mark the 1801 Act of Union legislative agreement uniting Ireland and Great Britain under the name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It is inscribed “In the land we live in” and is similar to an example found in the National Museum of Ireland as seen in an illustration from ‘Irish Glass’ by Phelps Warren. This rare and special Irish made decanter is offered as a lot together with a matched pair of Georgian Irish glass goblets and other Irish glassware.