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Author Topic:   Silver on glass questions

Posts: 104
Registered: Nov 2005

iconnumber posted 10-12-2006 07:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SusanT     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

In working with my and my mother's glass - identifying makers and patterns, I have come up with 3 silver on glass items that have generated my curiosity. I know this isn't a fully silver issue; however, as silver is involved thought I would sound out the knowledgeable folks on this forum. My questions deal with how done, silver overlay companies, possibly a silver rim actually attached - not overlaid - to a very very thin crystal rim.

1. A common torte dish, 8�� dia (1966), in "Flanders" pattern (poppies) by Silver City Glass of Meridian, CT. I had no problem identifying the pattern & maker but then found out Silver City bought blanks from such glass companies as New Martinsville, Viking, Duncan & Miller, Heisey, Fostoria, and Cambridge, "applied the silver overlay (with silver/rhodium coating to prevent tarnishing or 22 kt gold) design", slapped their sticker on the pieces, and "sold them as their own." Rainwater does note there was a Silver City Plate Co. in Meriden, CT, but International Silver bought the business and tools in 1908.

Q: The process of applying silver to glass baffles me. I am correct, aren't I, in thinking blanks are the glass items already formed/molded and ready for the etching /cutting? How can hot silver be applied to glass/crystal and not disfigure/melt the formed glass item?

Q: It appears this Silver City Glass Co. only applied silver/gold overlay, didn't make the glass, and as their name says glass they probably didn't make any silver items. Do you think Silver City Glass was a descendant of Silver City Plate (family members running it) and using the same facilities? Orrrrrr do you think IS did the silver overlay work and used Silver City Glass as the marketing trademark? Somewhere I read a quote from a retired clerk in Macy's silver or glass department in NYC saying her department would get in a Silver City Glass catalog, she would order/pick out silver overlay items and designs, Silver City Glass would design the blanks to her orders.

For interest sake here is a pic and a scan of the overlay design:

2. Another piece that raised my curiosity: 7� x 10� 3-part relish dish, no luck in identifying pattern, manufacturer, age, or even country. The glass is probably a "Candlewick" pattern of some kind, and the overlay design appears to be leaves, vines or scrolls, and may include grapes. It is at least 50 yrs old. The appraiser of Mother's estate thought it dated to the turn of the century. As I found errors in her work, I don't take much stock in what she said. The silver overlay appears almost gold at certain angles but suspect it is tarnished. I'm scared to polish for fear of damaging the intricate overlay.

Q: Do you agree on leaving the overlay alone?

3. The 3rd piece(s) is a Bulgarian made footed shrimp cocktail dish with insert - (c1966). Do not know maker or pattern. Original gold sticker "Made in Bulgaria" still attached. The crystal is paper thin - very very delicate. Stands 5 3/8" to top of insert; dish 5"h, 3�" dia top, 3" dia. base; insert 3�"h, 3�"w. Dish has a 3/4" wide silver band rim outside **and** inside and a 1/4" silver band overlay on base edge. Top of insert edge has a touch of silver. I'm not sure the wide silver band inside and outside the rim is overlay. It almost appears to be an actual silver band that may have been attached to the top of the dish? I was surprised to discover the silver was inside the rim. This set (8) was a wedding gift to us and for over 35 years has been kept in original wrap and box. On unwrapping found the silver a mess. I have delicately polished one of them.

Q: Is it possible that the top rim of silver is a thin piece of solid silver and not overlay? If so how did they attach this band to the top of the crystal? Between you, me, and the fence post the detail work on the silver band inside is not well done. It has rough spots.

Q: Again how did they apply hot molten silver to this fine thin crystal without damaging it?

Pics of the total piece, and of different angles of the wide band on bowl:

Sorry, this posting is so long. No doubt I went into too much detail/background.

--- Susan

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Posts: 2132
Registered: Nov 2002

iconnumber posted 10-12-2006 11:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are two ways to apply silver overlay, to the limited extent I understand the process. One is to use very fine silver foil, or perhaps a bit heavier, and press and shape the silver to the glass. This type of method generally leaves an edge on the silver. And is subject to breaks which can cause cuts in users. It also tends to be susceptible to damage as the difference in expansion/contraction between glass and silver is large, in the presence of temperature change. This is like Sheffield plate.

The second way is to electroplate the glass. Which is not as absurd as it sounds. Early photography was a system of depositing silver on glass to produce a picture. Both electroplate and photography rose from the same breakthroughs in science.

The glass is cleaned and a negative of the pattern is applied. Usually some substance that silver will not bind to is used, like wax. The glass piece is then put into a tank of cyanide, at about 82' farenheit. The glass is one the negative pole, the silver on the positive. The silver then migrates and desposits on the glass. The piece is removed and cleaned thoroughly. Somehow the cyanide part is not mentioned in the advertizing. The pattern is then on the glass, ready for the final polishing and detailing.

Your first piece appears to date from the 20's or 30's. The second is probably from then or maybe into the 60's. What one runs into here is that frequently regional distributors had silver added to the glass, which is apart from the known production pieces. The third is easy to explain: the piece was suspended upside down over the tank, let down into the tank just as far as needed for the plating. The crystal effect comes from using a cooler tank, which gives this look.

Don't nobody fool around with molten silver. Why people think that melting silver is part of plating always baffles me. Plating is a very high tech process, one of the first to be widely used. It involves careful calibration, temperature control and chemical rigor. Anything that will carry a current can be plated, including glass.

Hope this helps. Silver on glass is almost never of a Sheffield type: that does not work real well. It is usually electroplated.

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Silver Lyon

Posts: 363
Registered: Oct 2004

iconnumber posted 10-13-2006 01:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Silver Lyon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There was an exhibit, with accompanying catalogue on this subject at the Rhode Island School of Design about five years ago.
There is a chance that their bookshop will be able to supply copies of the catalogue.

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Posts: 1627
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 10-13-2006 02:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are several techniques but the most common one is to make up a "flux" that contains turpentine and powdered silver and apply the design to the glass with this liquid flux. In some cases this is handpainted on but in most cases, such as the ones you have, it is applied with a stencil or similar reproduceable system of applying the design. You take any piece of glass you like and apply your design to it using this flux like paint. Then you pop your glass into an oven to bake it dry and help it adhere better. After that you dip it into an electroplating solution for as long as you like and the silver in the solution will be attracted to and will build up on the baked flux. The longer it stays in the thicker the build-up of silver you get. You then take it out of the electroplate bath and polish it up and there you are. If you want it to be fancy you can make the plating thick enough to where a talented finishing person can engrave and burnish it to give it that really nice three-dimensional look.

You can lightly polish good quality silver on glass objects so long as you don't use an abrasive polish or a rough rag, don't bear down, and don't do it often. Lower quality silver on glass tends to have a pretty thin layer of silver and you can polish it off pretty easily, especially in areas were the design is thin and thread-like.

[This message has been edited by Kimo (edited 10-13-2006).]

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Ulysses Dietz

Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 10-13-2006 09:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Silver deposit on glass and ceramics (the electroplating technique) was developed first in Newark, NJ in the 1880s by the Alvin Manufacturing Co. (which moved to Irvington, NJ, before being bought out by one of the Attleboro silver companies). Alvin & LaPierre Mfg. were two Newark firms that specialized in such silver deposit (called "Silver overlay" by collectors today). Rockwell Silver Co. of Connecticut also did such work. "Sumptuous Surrounds" was the show that came from the midwest to RISD, after we showed it at Newark (Jayne Stokes came with the show to RISD, a place she has recently left). Gorham also did a lot of silver deposit. Newark owns examples by all these firms from the 1880s to the very early 1900s, on glass and on porcelain. The pieces shown here are distinctly later, and do appear to be a different technique--the foil technique, I'd guess, as described above.

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