Types of Antique Vases

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Some antique vases mix materials such as metal and glass.
Some antique vases mix materials such as metal and glass. (Image: Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Antique vases are highly collectible objects of art and home decor. Depending on its country of origin, its style and the material from which it is made, an antique vase can be quite expensive and will fetch a high price at an auction. Many cultures and societies throughout history had their own methods and styles for making vases for either functional or decorative purposes.

Pottery

Ceramics are non-metallic materials that are formed through the use of fire and heat. Pottery includes all ceramic pieces that are comprised of only clay. The Egyptians, people in what is now the Middle East and early American Indians made the first clay vases. The earliest pots from the Middle East dates to 6500 BC. Many early pots display symbols and pictures imprinted into the clay. Egyptians, for example, inscribed pictures images of gods and depictions of scenes such as funerals.

Porcelain

Porcelain is also considered ceramic, but elements added to the original clay separate it from being pottery. As early as the 10th century, the Chinese mixed crushed china stone with white clay to create porcelain. They used the resulting fragile material to create intricate vases that were works of art. Porcelain has a shiny, smooth finish and was used to make Chinese Ming vases, which are highly collectible. Porcelain was also used to make the iconic blue and white Greek vases as well as European pieces such as Germany's Dresden vases.

Glass

Glass vases date back to the 1500 BC; the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III had a glass goblet that is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Ancient glass items were owned by only the world's richest people until the 100 BC, when the Romans discovered the art of glass blowing. This made the manufacture of glass vases simpler and less time-consuming. Not all antique glass vases are from ancient times. Deep blue glass from 1700s New England and carnival glass vases that have an iridescent finish are both prized by collectors.

Metal

The ancient Egyptians used metals such as gold, copper bronze for tools and houseware items such as bowls and pitchers. They created vases made of copper first, as early as 3400 BC. Since then, metals have been used to make vases. Gold replaced bronze as the most sought-after metal used to make the decor for the homes of the rich. Europe became a leader in metalworking around the 16th century. Italy was the long-time center for metal and many glass vases. By the 1800s, countries such as Italy and Germany were using gold, silver and pewter to create vases.

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