Practically every piece of glass, if not round in formation, must be formed or blown into a mould. — R. Wilkinson, in THE HALLMARKS OF ANTIQUE GLASS (1968)
… [A] blank intended for cutting can be made by blowing and tooling in a plain or patterned mold, or by pressing either with or without a pattern or partial pattern. — Kenneth M. Wilson, in AMERICAN GLASS, 1760-1930
The outline below suggests a rational classification for the several types of cutting blanks the reader will encounter when viewing American cut glass of the Brilliant Period. When reading older accounts, he will find that terminology was often neither precisely defined nor used consistently. This can be confusing. Usually, however, the meaning will become clear when context is considered.
Note that this classsification includes “pressed blanks” under “genuine cut glass.” This is because these blanks are “plain;” that is, no part of the pattern has been imparted to them by the female parts of the molds used. Such blanks, nevertheless, might be regarded as “second grade” cut glass, following a suggestion made by William F. Dorflinger in a letter to the editor of Crockery and Glass Journal, dated 11 Sep 1916. (The other blanks listed under “genuine cut glass” were considered “first grade” by Dorflinger.)
It should be emphasized that, contrary to what is often claimed, there is no inherent difference in quality between “free-blown” and “mold-blown” blanks provided proper care was taken when each type was made. The use of molds was (and is) necessary in order to standardize shapes and sizes.
In both “figured” and “pressed-patterned” blanks, part of the pattern is molded into the exterior surfaces of the blanks. In the former case this is accomplished by blowing the gather of hot glass into a patterned mold. In the latter situation the molten glass is pressed into a patterned mold. Cut glass produced using these kinds of blanks cannot, therefore, be considered “genuine” cut glass.
Because some of the patterns he considered were molded and not cut, Dorflinger did not classify “figured” and pressed-patterned blanks; he must have considered them beyond the pale. Interestingly, he did classify lime-soda blanks — as “third grade” — but only when produced from pressed (plain) blanks and subsequently fully cut. “Glass that is cut” has been used to describe this glass.
Genuine Cut Glass (Lead-Potash Blanks)
Pressed Blanks (plain)
Imitation (or “Fake”) Cut Glass (Lead-Potash and Lime-Soda Blanks)
The dish below on the left, has the straight rim of a typical blank. After cutting, the rim typically shows scallops and notches as illustrated by the dish on the right which has been cut on the same blank. (Both from LIBBEY CUT GLASS, THE CHOICE OF THE CONNOISSEUR, ACGA 1996, pp. 31 and 33. Copyrighted; used with permission. “Images may not be reproduced without the written permission of The Toledo Museum of Art.”)
The molding of the dish below on the left, eliminates the need to cut scallops on the dish’s rim. A completely cut example of this blank is shown elsewhere cut in the Chicago pattern. On the right a molded blank for a bowl illustrates a case where both scallops and notches are pre-formed, not cut. These two examples are not considered “figured” blanks because no part of any pattern is shown; the blanks are “plain.” (Both from CATALOGUE OF BLANKS, H. C. FRY GLASS CO., ACGA 1997, pp. 3 and 5. Copyrighted; used with permission. “Images may not be reproduced without the written permission of The Toledo Museum of Art.”)