Bohemian glass is a distinctly decorated type of antique glassware, typically vividly colored and intricately engraved. Items stylistically recognizable as Bohemian glass date from the early 18th century to the beginning of the 20th. While many pieces produced were drinking glasses or beverage sets (pitcher with matching glasses), there are also vases, perfume bottles, boxes and other decorative items. The glass itself is a stronger blend of elements, allowing for the use of specialized engraving tools, most notably the engraving wheel, which helped to bring about the intricacies of design seen on Bohemian glass. Sets of coordinated pieces tend to be more valuable to collectors than single pieces, but Bohemian glass is still a relatively affordable antique for the glass fancier.
In "An Illustrated Dictionary of Glass", Bohemian glass is defined as glassware produced by the artisans of the formerly independent country of Bohemia (now a large part of the Czech Republic), or in the style of the Bohemian artisans. Glass making as an industry began in Bohemia in the 14th century. According to Andrew Lineham Fine Glass, the distinctive coloring and engraving of Bohemian glass developed fully in the early 18th century. The tradition of glass making in this particular style continued until the end of the 19th century.
Bohemian glass is primarily made of lime glass, a particular chemical formulation of glass which was invented in the late 17th century. Lime glass is stronger than previously popular types of glass, and could stand up to the stresses of the engraving tools used by the artists to create the designs and patterns unique to Bohemian glass.
The primary identifying feature of Bohemian glass is the engraving. With the discovery of lime glass, artisans could etch designs onto the glass surface with an engraving wheel and not break the item, allowing for detailed carvings. Often, the glass was flashed to add color and make the patterns more visible on the finished product. Occasionally, designs were made of beaten metal and sandwiched between two layers of glass, or the glass was painted as well as engraved.
Bohemian glass objects were typically flashed. Clear glass objects were dipped into molten-colored glass before they were engraved, to enhance the beauty of the finished piece. The most commonly produced color was a ruby red, but Bohemian glass was also available in amber, black, blue and green.
According to “Warman’s Glass, 3rd Edition”, values on Bohemian glass in 1999 ran from $40 to nearly $2,000. Andrew Lineham Fine Glass prices Bohemian glass collectibles at $75 to nearly $30,000 as of early 2010, so prices at the bottom ranges have not grown much in the past 10 years. Most pieces in existence date from the late 19th century, and were not necessarily made in Bohemia--by the late 1800s, Bohemian glass was being produced in England, Germany and Switzerland. Country of origin does not affect value, since by the mid 1800s, the term "Bohemian glass" referred to the artistic style and not origin.
- "An Illustrated Dictionary of Glass"; Harold Newman; 1977
- "Warman’s Glass, 3rd Edition"; Ellen T. Schroy, ed.; 1999
- "The Hallmarks of Antique Glass"; R. Wilkinson; 1968
- Andrew Lineham Fine Glass, London: Coloured Bohemian Glass
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