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 Vintage Elegant Depression Glass

Vintage Elegant Depression Glass

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  • Elegant Glass Glossary
Cut or Etched?

Have you ever wondered whether your glass is cut or etched?  Sometimes it is hard to tell.  And lots of glass for sale online with flower designs is listed as etched when it is really cut.

Cut Glass

A cut glass pattern like the miter design on this stem is easy.  The lines are straight and V shaped.

Here's a design that is a little harder to tell.  This is Trellis from Fostoria, a simple cut with stylized half flowers.  

Fostoria Trellis (Old) Cut Sherbet

What lets us know these are cut is the V shape on the cuts.  The miter cut stem has deep V shapes where the center of the cut is deeper than the edges.  The flower petals on the Trellis stem are slightly scooped.


One thing that causes confusion with cut patterns like Trellis is that the cuts were left unpolished.  See how the miter cut cocktail is shiny?  The artisans fire polished the design after it was cut.  That makes the cuts smooth and shiny.  Unpolished designs like Trellis or Cynthia are called "gray cuttings".

Fostoria Holly combines gray and polished cuts.  That must have been more time consuming to make.  This candle holder is pretty neat, from Fostoria's Sonata line.

Fostoria Holly Duo Candle Holder

Fostoria Holly Duo Candle Holder


Another technique is called "cut to clear" as in this Egermann ruby cut to clear vase.  I got this at an estate sale where the people had massive collections of fine crystal and china from America and Europe.

Egermann Ruby Cut to Clear Vase

Egermann Ruby Cut to Clear Vase


Etched Designs

Although some cut patterns are elaborate, most often designs with a lot of intricate detail are etched.  This Fostoria Navarre sherbet shows how complex an etched design can be.  It would be nearly impossible to get the curves and thin lines with a cutting wheel.

Fostoria Navarre Etched Sherbet


Making etched glass is like stenciling a wall.  Glass makers coat the surface with wax, then cut through the wax with a thin stylus.  The etching solution will dissolve wherever the glass surface is not covered with wax.  The result is the design has uniform depth.

It is possible to get multiple depths by uncovering more surface and applying the etching solution again.  But even with that method the individual line will be the same depth at the edge as at the center.

The Fostoria Navarre stem is one of the more fancier designs.  Here is a Fostoria Lido goblet.  Is it cut or etched?

Fostoria Lido Etched Goblet

Fostoria Lido Etched Goblet

Lido is simple enough that it could be cut so we need to touch it to find out.  The individual lines are all the same depth, so this is etched.


Have you noticed that all the etched designs are gray, not fire polished?  That's because the etched lines are thin.  Fire polishing always softens the edges just a bit, and if the artisans polished the etch it would lose detail.  You can imagine how that would ruin a delicate design.


Tips to Tell Cut from Etched

  1. Cut designs tend to use a lot of straight lines
  2. Cuts will be V shaped, with the edges shallower than the centers.  Some cut designs rely on many thin, parallel cut lines to fill in the flower or leaf shape
  3. Etched line will be the same depth.  Different motifs within an etched pattern could be different depths.
  4. Cut patterns can be gray cut, left unpolished, or fire polished to make them shiny.  Etched designs are not fire polished
  5. Intricate patterns with a lot of detail are almost always etched.  Cut designs can be complicated but don't look like they were drawn the way etched designs do.
  6. Colored cut-to-clear is used for cut glass.  I have not seen etched to clear. 
  7. Last but not least, just because someone calls a piece "etched" or "cut" use your judgment to decide how the design was made.
Tip! Measure Goblets

Tip:  How to Measure Stemware

If you want a set of vintage stemware it's important you know how to measure stems and are aware of size changes over the past 50 years.

Originally wine goblets were small, much smaller than we use today, especially in restaurants or contemporary, trendy glass.  Wine goblets in patterns from the vintage glass companies usually held two to five ounces.  

Fostoria June Wine Goblet

Fostoria June Topaz Wine Goblet

This Fostoria June goblet, from the 1930s, is 5 1/2 inches tall and holds three ounces filled right to the brim.  That's more the size we see today for cordials or after dinner drinks.

To measure stems, put the goblet on a flat table.  Take a stiff ruler and measure vertically to the top of the rim.  That's the height.  Don't measure sideways from the foot to the rim.

The other key measurement is capacity.  Vintage stemware, pitchers, creamers and such always give capacity measured by filling it right to the point of overflowing.

I find it is easiest to take my stem t the cupboard by the sink.  I use a one ounce measuring cup and fill the measuring cup right to the brim and pour into the goblet.  Then repeat until the goblet will not hold any more.  (The hard part is keeping count and not losing track, but maybe you won't have that problem.)

Cambridge Rosalie Etched Water Goblet

Cambridge Glass Rosalie Etched Crystal Water Goblet

The reason you want to measure full to the brim is that flared pieces, like goblets, will often take a surprising volume from the point where you would fill for use and when filled to the brim.  It's too subjective to measure filled the way you would use it.


I have tried filling a stem with water and pouring into a measuring cup.  This doesn't work for me at all as half the water ends up in the sink.

If you don't have a one ounce measuring cup, then use a regular liquid measurin cup to fill it most of the way, then use a tablespoon to fill the remainder.  Remember a tablespoon is half an ounce.

Water goblets, like the Cambridge Rosalie shown above, are usually between 6 and 10 inches tall and hold somewhere around 10 ounces.

The other thing to be aware of is shape.  Wine and water goblets look like goblets.  The goblet bowl may be rounded but most often the bowl is taller than it is wide.

You might see sherbets mistakenly called wine goblets.  Sherbets look like saucer champagnes or else have V shaped bowls like this Cambridge Chantilly tall sherbet.

Cambridge Chantilly Sherbet

Cambridge Chantilly Sherbet

I hope this helps you get the stemware you want!


Elegant Glass Glossary: Decorations and Companies

Glass Decorations

Etched Glass. Glass is etched by acid treatment and some etchings are elaborate and beautiful! The glass company craftsman coats the glass with wax, then applies a stencil to the wax and cuts through the wax, then dips the glass in acid. The acid dissolves the glass where the wax was cut through, leaving the design. All etched pieces will have the design inset into the glass surface.

Cut Glass. There are several techniques to cut glass, but all involve a cutting device like a wheel that is used to remove glass. Craftsmen might cut many small parallel lines or cut angles. You can tell cuttings from etchings because cuts will be shallower at the sides than in the center.

Blank. The blank is the plain piece of glass before any decoration. Companies like Fostoria used a few blanks, like Fairfax, for many etchings and sold the glass undecorated. Fostoria blanks that are particularly collectible are Fairfax, Lafayette, Century, Baroque, Coronet. Many people enjoy Cambridge’s Decagon.

Line Number.  Most companies did not name all designs and referred to them by pattern or line number. Later collectors and glass authors coined nicknames for some of the most desireable patterns.  Cambridge Glass line number 732 is a gorgeous etch called Majestic.    

Plate Etching. Plate etchings are made by applying a stencil and using a stylus to cut through the design. Fostoria’s Navarre, Chintz, Trojan, Versailles, Cambridge’s Cleo, Rose Point are examples.

Needle Etching. Needle etchings are among the first etching techniques used commercially. Needle etchings are just what the name implies, a needle was used to cut through the wax coating. Needle etches often are continuous lines with spirals, loops, zig zags.  A good example is Fostoria Glass' Eilene needle etch.

Deep Plate Etching. Deep plate etchings are a type of plate etching.

Prescut or Pres Cut. Technique to enhance a pressed pattern by cutting parts of the design. Several companies had trademarks with similar names to pres cut.

Gold Trim, Silver Trim, Platinum Trim.   Glass was decorated with precious metals, often around the rims and handles. Sometimes the etched design was picked out in gold. 

Gold Encrusted Gold trimmed, usually the design is gold, not only the rim.

Elegant Glass Companies

Cambridge Glass was active from 1901 to 1960, located in Ohio. Cambridge made some of the most beautiful glass in a rainbow of colors. Many of their etchings and colors were superb, making wondeful elegant glass patterns to collect. Look for Cambridge Rose Point, Diane, Elaine, Chantilly, Roselyn, Roslie etches and Caprice and Decagon pressed patterns. Cambridge did not name all their patterns and some of the most beautiful are line numbers 704 and 732, nicknamed Windows Border and Majestic, respectively

Central Glass had some unique, head turning patterns such as Harding, Morgan, Balda and made glass in art deco shapes and colors. Central’s etches were among the highest quality, intricate, well-designed and beautiful and their colors are terrific. Central went out of business in 1939 and Imperial bought many molds.

Duncan Miller had the slogan “the lovliest glassware in America” and one of their prettiest patterns was Canterbury where the crystal was unadorned but far from plain. Duncan Miller made Early American Sandwich and lovely cut and etched designs like First Love before they ceased operations in 1959.

Fostoria Glass was located in Moundsville, West Virginia, and was one of the longest running American elegant glass companies, closing in 1986. Fostoria produced gorgeous crystal and colored elegant glass. Today Fostoria Trojan, Versailles, Meadow Rose, Navarre, Chintz, Vesper etches and the wondeful Baroque blank are especially popular.

Fry Glass made lines of extremely elegant and beautiful crystal plus kitchen glass, all collectible today. They closed in 1933, leaving behind some exceptional glass.

Heisey Glass is well known for their fine quality glass, including stemware. They went out of business in 1958 and Imperial Glass took over many of their molds. Empress and Twist are among their best-known patterns. Heisey’s etchings are among the most elaborate and beautiful.

Imperial Glass; made both depression glass and elegant glass. The beautifully simple Candlewick glass pattern has a simple row of glass beads on the edge and is their best known pattern.

Lancaster decorated their glass with cuttings, etches, mold etching and painted designs. Their pieces have graceful shapes with scallops and interesting pressed textures.

Monongah Glass was taken over by Hocking Glass early in the depression. Before their demise Monongah did some outstanding etches like Secretaries Primrose or the striking art deco etched design Roseland.

Morgantown Glass made etched and interesting pressed glass. If you are interested in crinkle glass then consider getting familiar with Morgantown.

New Martinsville Glass became Viking Glassafter World War 2. New Martinsville made glass that straddles the boundary between elegant and depression glass, such as Radiance. New Martinsville made some etched patterns as did Viking, with Prelude being the best known.

Paden City is another company whose glass is considered both elegant and depression glass. Crow’s Foot is a neat blank you can find etched or plain in many colors. They are well known for Peacock & Rose and Cupid etchings.

Tiffin Glass was in business later than the other companies listed here and made an amazing variety of glassware. They took over molds from Duncan Miller. One of their most beautiful etches is Classic, which shows a dancer with a long scarf surrounded by swags.