Mercury Glass, Silvered Glass or Mirrored Glass was first made in Germany in the early 19th Century. And no, it does not contain either silver or mercury; it is clear glass coated on the inside with a liquid silver nitrate. This is actually inserted through a small hole at the bottom, into the double walled blown glass object. In the better, more expensive factories, a seal of some sort was inserted, thus preserving the intense silver color. Absent a seal, the lining would begin to disintegrate and become blotchy: I’m sure you’ve seen this in flea markets. But this really was the “poor man’s” silver and made owning “silver” pieces available to a new economic group. The glass was fashioned into all sorts of home and table accessories: it actually started with door knobs that, of course, did NOT need polishing. But soon there were candlesticks, lamps, dishes, goblets etc.
By the 1850’s it had come across the pond and gained in popularity in the Untied States where much of the glass was made in New England. But it soon fell out of favor for being “too much of an imitation”, or “too mirror-like”.
But of course, what goes round, comes round, as they say, and mercury glass reappeared,around 1900 , for the Christmas season . And the rest is history! The glass ornaments, some below, that appeared then are still the basic ornaments we all buy…
Here are some vintage, antique pieces of mercury glass:
Ballard Designs is a great resource for some of these new pieces: the mirror and candlesticks above are from their catalog.
These pieces are just gorgeous:
These antique “industrial jars” now on ebay! Would love a collection of them for the mantle:
And this beautiful vintage piece:
Is this a trend? Yes, I think so. Look at your magazines and catalogs, look at the auction sites, go to your local antique/vintage stores and flea markets: you will see this trend. And, it even ties in with the recent spate of bejeweled dresses at the Oscars:
I found a video from Better Homes & Gardens showing you how to imitate mercury glass. (no way to insert the video, so you have to link…) All you DYI’ers take a look!