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Glass Necklaces

This week, our Jewellery Valuer, Maddy McDonald has been looking at many forms of glass necklaces.

01/03/2024     Blog

This week, our Jewellery Valuer, Maddy McDonald has been looking at many forms of glass necklaces. Have you ever wondered if the antique glass necklaces in your jewellery boxes have any history?

Often overlooked whilst we rummage through our costume jewellery, antique glass beads can take many beautiful forms; varying colours, patterns and textures are what truly make these glorious beads a testament to their time. Although antique glass is by no means a semi-precious material, it is certainly a manufacture of the finest and highly trained craftsmen. French Jet, End of Day and Wedding Cake, just to name a few. There’s something for everyone!

Now we all know Whitby Jet, the highly desirable (and highly priced!) fossilised wood, commonly used in Victorian mourning jewellery, carved to create meticulously beautiful designs. However, French Jet soon became a mass produced, cheap alternative to Whitby Jet. Black glass beads are moulded as opposed to carved, and are significantly weightier than Whitby Jet, meaning they can be moulded into smaller beads and are most seen on a necklace. Glittering by the candlelight with its deep black opulence, French Jet soon became a more affordable and sought after statement piece for the wardrobe, even in modern day fashion.

Moving on to a more colourful, playful glass bead, we find Splatter glass, or ‘End of Day’ glass. More often derived from Czechoslovakia/Bohemia, End of Day glass dates back centuries, to Roman times. Mythology allures that Glass Workers would take leftover multi-coloured shards of glass used throughout their workday, and at the end of the day, in their own time, blow molten glass over these shards, and the result would be a beautiful marbleised ‘splatter glass’ – a perquisite of their job. The method used to create End of Day glass ensures that you won’t find two pieces the same, adding to the desirability of the pieces.

Fiorato, or ‘Wedding Cake’ glass beads are ultimately self-explanatory in terms of appearance and aesthetic, in the sense that these gorgeous decorative beads look just as decadent as a wedding cake. The term ‘Wedding Cake’ is likely derived from the XIX Century, when elaborately dressed wedding cakes were seen becoming more popular. These beads are created by winding thin strands of molten glass over a solid base layer lamp work bead in elaborate scrolling patterns. Additional narrow strands of molten glass are then added to create a dainty floral design. Much like End of Day glass, the method used to create Wedding Cake beads ensures that you will have a one-off piece to treasure for years to come, from years gone by.

So, if you find yourself picturing those lovely antique glass beads sat in your drawer, wondering what they could be or if they hold value, or if you fancy your hand collecting and adding some to your wardrobe, pop down to see Maddy at Sheffield Auction Gallery!