Rock Crystal Engravings

by Joy McFadden
Issue 43 - November 1976

Rock Crystal by Cambridge is some of the most beautiful glassware produced by the Cambridge Glass Company and yet at this time seems to Rock Crystal advertisement be of least interest to the collector.

Perhaps collectors would better appreciate Rock Crystal if they could see a glass cutter at work. Before the piece of glass goes to the cutter, a few guide lines are made with a white ink or similar substance which will come off. The cutter sits at his workbench facing the wheel attached to his bench, and as the wheel turns, water is dropped on it to decrease the friction. Touching the glass to the wheel is what makes the cuts in the glass.

The glass cutter's true skill is recognized when you realize that he cuts the pattern into the glass and determines the depth and spacing of the cuts with only the aid of the guide lines. After the cutting is complete, the article cut is termed a "gray cutting". It must be acid polished to produce the brilliant surface known as Rock Crystal.

The glass cutting department at Cambridge was owned by Hershel Hancock, who worked there from about 1918 until 1954. In his 36 years at Cambridge, he created perhaps seventeen to eighteen hundred different patterns. A number was assigned to each cutting and a name was selected by the Cambridge Glass Co.

Why aren't collectors of Cambridge glass interested in Rock crystal? Perhaps it is because the patterns are not easily recognized and there is very little published information about Rock Crystal. It would seem at this time that the easiest way to find Rock Crystal by Cambridge would be to look for a familiar blank or a recognizable stem. If one would take into consideration the number of cuttings made by Cambridge, it seems strange that so little of it surfaces for the collecting public.

In the future, we hope to provide you with information about patterns of Cambridge Rock Crystal, as this information becomes available.