Characteristics of Blown Glass Art

Blown glass art is ancient art form in which heated glass is shaped into vases, glasses, ornaments and other objects by blowing air through a long tube known as a blowpipe. While being blown, the piece is shaped with various tools, or sometimes blown inside of a mold, to give the piece a particular shape. When you find a glass piece at an antique market, estate sale or shop, it can be tricky at first to tell the difference between a pressed or molded piece of glassware and a handmade blown glass piece. But if you look closely, there are certain characteristics of hand blown glass that will help you identify the real thing.

Telltale Signs of Blown Glass
The first thing to look for is a small mark or bulge where the glass piece was separated from the blowpipe. This little mark is known as a rod mark. While it can be difficult to see on some pieces, it is always present on blown glass. On certain pieces, such as on a blown glass lamp, this mark may be hidden.

The next identifying characteristic of blown glass is bubbles. While some fine glass art may not have any bubbles, most types of home blown glass have many small, visible bubbles. A type of hand blown glass popular in Mexico, called bubble glass, is covered with these bubbles, which occur naturally during the blowing process as air gets trapped in the molten glass. It's possible for bubbles to appear in machine-made glass, so bubbles alone shouldn't be the deciding factor in whether a piece is hand blown or machine made.

A common feature of glass blown and shaped by hand is a slightly imperfect shape. The most talented glass artists are able to create near-symmetry in their pieces, but even these won't have the precision shape and uniform size of machine-made glass. A slightly irregular shape adds to the charm of a piece of glass, an it can help identify a piece as hand blown.

Look closely for mold marks or identifying marks from a manufacturer. If you notice lines or seams down the sides of a piece, then the piece is not hand blown. These marks will appear as a thin, raised line of glass on opposite sides of the piece, indicating where the two halves of a mold met. A logo pressed into the bottom or side of a piece is often a giveaway that the object was manufactured, although some companies do add stamps to hand-blown pieces. Since these marks can be easily faked, it's best to have an experienced glass appraiser evaluate the mark to determine its authenticity.

The skill and craftsmanship that goes into hand blown glass pieces make them highly desirable to collectors, as well as anyone who appreciates owning beautiful and functional pieces of art.

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