Victorian wine glasses are highly diverse in form and colour. Whole-coloured glasses can be found in many and varied hues: peacock blue, Bristol green, apple green, Bristol blue, yellow, amber, cranberry, ruby, amethyst, teal blue, turquoise, iridescent blue and the vivid uranium colours – and this list is by no means exhaustive. There is more variety within antique wine glasses from the Victorian era than any other.
As a general rule, the bowls of Victorian wines glasses were larger than those of their Georgian and Regency predecessors; in the 18th century, the price of wines fluctuated wildly with the political situation, mostly wars with the French and the imposition of taxation to fund them. In the 19th century the price of wine fell in real terms and the increased size of wine glass bowls gave greater license by which the artistry of engravers and new decorative techniques could be displayed upon a hand blown glass goblet with a large funnel bowl. A highly competitive and growing industry created a myriad of designs showing far broader scope than ever before.
Development in manufacturing processes also provides invaluable dating evidence for antique glass from the tell-tale marks left not only as pontil marks. The contours and profile within the foot of an antique wine glass, the shaped bowl, the method, type and style of engraving al provide dating indicators. Even the colour of the glass may be used as newly discovered metals were introduced into glassmaking. Bristol Green and cobalt blue provide no dating evidence in the 19th century. The same cannot be said for neodymium yellow for example.
With colours and bowl decorations to the fore, stems were somewhat overlooked; whereas the 18th century mantra seems to have been “the more knops the merrier” Victorian wine glass stems became comparatively plain, twist stems were deployed to a lesser degree on wine goblets. From the second quarter of the 19th century onwards, the extravagant designs of Bohemian glassmakers began to make an impact, with their penchant for intense colours and marbled glass, engraving and gilding setting the stage on which extravagant creations and a tranche of intensely-coloured hock glasses would find their niches. The somewhat inane perception of Victorians being universally staid and sombre is at odds with the nature of their richly cut glass, crystal glasses and with its hand painted polychromatic excesses, and any collection of 19th century wine glasses is sure to make for an eye-catching display.