Crackle glass was first developed and produced in 16th century Venice. Master Venetian glass blowers invented the process of briefly submerging molten hot balls of glass in very cold water, which resulted in the outer layer of the glass cracking. The process would then continue with the glass being reheated and blown into the desired shape. As the glass was shaped and expanded, the cracks would become larger, resulting in a distinctive crackled effect.
Pieces made by this method are sometimes called ice glass, craquelle glass, and overshot glass. Glass bearing this distinctive crackle pattern became very popular in the late 1800s. Many factories throughout the United States and Europe utilized the process from about 1920 through 1960, and much of the world’s crackle glass pieces were produced around this time. Very little new glass has been produced with this method since then, and the process is not commonly used in glass creation today.
Possibly because of the lack of current production, crackle glass has become a popular collectible. Most collectible pieces are transparent, allowing the effects of the process to shine through the piece. Some have additional painting and embellishment on top of the crackle effect, adding another dimension to the design. This style of glass was made in a variety of colors.
When someone touches the outside of a piece of crackle glass, he or she can feel the fractures along the surface. These fissures, however, are confined to the top layer of the glass. The inside will feel smooth and even, with no sign of cracks or crevices.
The smooth underside is achieved because the glass is reheated after being submerged in cold water. The reheating process seals the cracks caused by the drastic temperature change, resulting in a flat under layer, making the glass suitable for a variety of uses.
A wide variety of items were made from glass produced with this method. Crackle glass beads made into necklaces and earrings were fashionable in the 1950s. Other popular items include vases, bowls, and pitchers. Knickknacks like figurines and paperweights have also been made from it.