Excerpts from "The Art of Making Fine Glassware"

by the Cambridge Glass Company
Issue #116, December 1982

Cutting is the method of beautifying glass most used by the ancient Romans, the Venetians and the English. It is still one of the most effective. With rapidly revolving carborundum wheels of different sizes, or copper wheels supplied with a steady stream of emery dust and oil, skilled workmen follow designs which have been placed before them or previously stenciled on the glass. With their wheels they are able to cut any desired design much as an artist would draw a picture with a pencil.

When the piece comes from the cutting room, the cuttings are gray and must be polished either by buffing wheels or by immersing in a solution of hydrofluoric acid. The acid method is most generally followed in America. The acid dissolves a portion of the surface, smoothing it out and giving a beautiful, polished appearance. It s more satisfactory in many ways than the old style buffing process which, if not carefully done, causes spreading or pulling of the design and distortion of the pattern.

Repeatedly the questions come up, "Is this Genuine Rock Crystal?" Strictly speaking, no glassware is rock crystal. The only rock crystal is the natural quartz as Mother Nature made it. Large pieces of quartz have been formed into cups, chalices and molds. Almost invariably, these are museum pieces. So, if one desires to be absolutely correct, they are the only pieces of genuine rock crystal. However, in common usage, Rock Crystal is fine handmade glassware that has been cut and polished.

Others ask the question, "Is this Crystal or is it just Glass?" Originally, crystal referred solely to the color of glass and, regardless of its quality, crystal glass was clear glass, to differentiate it from colored glass. However, in recent years the word "crystal" has been adopted by the public to indicate any fine handmade glass in contrast to cheap, machine-made glass, regardless of color. More and more you will hear the word "crystal" applied not only to clear or colored glassware of fine, handmade quality, called "Clear Crystal," but also to the same grade of colored glassware such as "Ruby Crystal," Moonlight Crystal," "Amber Crystal," etc.