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What is Elegant Glass?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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Elegant glass is glassware made during the Depression Era, and well through the 1970s. It is typically differentiated from Depression glass by quality; elegant glass, as the name suggests, was a much more high-quality form of glassware, making it valuable for the time and even more valuable today. Antique stores sometimes carry elegant glass, as do firms which specialize in glassware, and it can be purchased at auction and through collectors' organizations as well.

Defining elegant glass can be a bit challenging. As a general rule, people use the term “elegant glass” to describe glass which was made by hand, by artisans, separating it from mass-produced Depression glass, which was designed to be as cheap as possible. Elegant glass would have been costly, but like Depression glass, it came in a range of colors and was often heavily faceted. Elegant glass was sometimes also acid-etched to create patterns and designs.

This form of glassware was most commonly found in upscale department stores and shops which supplied goods for private homes. It was designed as an alternative to crystal and china, which would have been extremely expensive; elegant glass was in a sense a middle-ground between goods of very high quality and expense, and more mundane housewares. As a result, it appealed primarily to people in the middle and upper classes, as people in the lower classes could not afford elegant glass.

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By the 1970s, glass manufacturing techniques had improved to the point that high quality glass could be mass produced relatively cheaply, and the economy had improved, so it was possible to purchase imported china and crystal. As a result, elegant glass largely faded from manufacture, since there was no longer a call for it, and manufacturers like Fenton Glass, Tiffin Glass, Westmoreland Glass, Viking Glass, and Louie Glass ceased to produce it.

Like other vintage and antique items, elegant glass has attracted interest among collectors and firms which specialize in such items. As a result, it is often readily available on the open market. However, people should be careful when purchasing elegant glass, to ensure that they are purchasing the genuine article, rather than an imitation. Numerous firms publish guidebooks to help people spot elegant glass, and skilled antiquers sometimes offer classes and field trips to teach people to identify elegant glass and other objects of interest to collectors.

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