Hunter: The Cut Glass Bowl

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(Host) According to commentator Edith Hunter, the short days and early
darkness of mid-winter provide a perfect setting for the rediscovery and
re-use of an old-fashioned type of tableware – that fairly sparkles
with light.

(Hunter) Recently, in preparation for a big family
dinner, daughter Elizabeth went to the china closet in the dining room
to get out dishes for the celery and olives.

I was sitting in
the kitchen, in an advisory capacity, when she returned with two long
cut glass dishes. I told her that we would also need a really large bowl
for the cranberry sauce since I had cooked up two packages of the fresh

She soon came back with a large cut glass bowl, one we
had never used. She washed it, and as she dried it I was struck by how
it really sparkled in the sun that was pouring in through the kitchen

The celery and olive dishes had been gifts to me from
my mother. They had been given to her as wedding presents in 1914. In
addition to similar celery dishes, there were a variety of small square
dishes, dessert bowls, drinking glasses, a vinegar cruet, and the very
large bowl that we would use for the cranberries. I imagine that these
had belonged to my husband’s Peirce grandparents who were married in

I had never thought much about cut glass. I didn’t know
exactly what it was. So when Charlie arrived with his contribution of
mixed nuts for the feast, I asked him if he would sit down with my lap
top computer and Google "cut glass."

What he came up with was
pretty interesting. We learned that "The American Brilliant Cut Glass
Period (and this bowl was certainly brilliant) began around 1850 and
lasted into the early 1900s." We learned that immigrants from England,
Ireland and France helped supply glass houses in the United States with
skilled cutters. Their products soon rivaled those of cutters in "the
old countries" who, until then, had produced most of the cut glass.

we learned, it was the cut glass displays at the Philadelphia
Centennial Exposition in 1876 that really launched cut glass in the
United States. From then on, American cut glass pieces became popular
gifts, especially wedding gifts, and according to Google, "most
mid-income to affluent households had a few pieces."

cut glass was a slow process. Facets were cut into finished glass pieces
by pressing them against a large rotating iron or stone wheel. The most
expensive cut glass has a high lead oxide content which is what gives
pieces their sparkle. The Google material goes on to tell how to
recognize the most valuable pieces which are still very much prized
And as we passed the bright red cranberry sauce in the
sparkling bowl around the family dinner table, I had a richer
appreciation of cut glass.

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