Overshot Glass

Pink overshot jug
Above: pink jug with overshot decoration.

by Stan & Arlene Weitman ed. Angela Bowey
based on an article first published in Glass Collector's Digest Volume XIV, April/May 2001

Overshot glass had its origin in 16th century Venice, and the ability to make this ware eventually spread to Bohemia, Spain and elsewhere in Europe. Sometime prior to 1800, the production of this glass seems to have stopped. The Englishman Apsley Pellatt, owner of the Falcon Glass Works, is credited with reviving this decorative technique around 1845-1850. He acknowledged the origin of the technique by calling his product "Venetian Frosted Glass" or "Anglo-Venetian Glass". Later it would be called by other names, such as Frosted Glassware, ice Glass or Craquelle Glass.

It is important to understand the difference between crackle glass and overshot glass. Two different processes were involved. Crackle glass was produced by dipping a partially blown gob of hot glass in cold water. The sudden temperature change caused fissures or cracks in the glass surface. The gob was then lightly reheated and blown to its full shape. The blowing process enlarged the spaces between fissures to create a labyrinth of channels in varying widths. When cooled in the annealing lehr, the surface of the finished object had a crackled or cracked-ice effect.

Overshot glass was made by rolling a partially or fully inflated gob of hot glass on finely ground shards of glass that had been placed on a steel plate called a marver. The gob was then lightly reheated to remove the sharp edges of the ground glass.

Pink overshot jug

Sometimes overshot pieces were immersed in cold water before application of the ground glass, and blown to full size after addition of the glass particles. Such glassware can be considered both crackle and overshot.

Barlow and Kaiser explained in "The Glass Industry in Sandwich", Vol. 4, "The ground particles adhered uniformly over the entire surface of the piece, showing no roadways, because the glass was not stretched after the particles had been applied. Overshot glass produced by this second method is much sharper to the touch." (P. 104)

Overshot glass which was blown after the addition of the glass particles did have "roadways" and has been mistaken for the Tree of Life Pattern. However, this pattern is pressed glass, whereas overshot is either free blown or mold blown.

Of course, not all frosted glass is crackle or overshot; much of it was produced by acid etching or sand blasting. Sometimes making frosted glass was a means to utilize a bad batch of glass, since it concealed "seeds" and other defects.

Overshot pieces could be further embellished with an applied glass design that required a third decorative technique at the furnace, such as applied glass designs or fine threads of glass that have been picked up and fused to the object. This latter decorative style, called Peloton, was patented in 1880 by Wilhelm Kralik in Bohemia.

A significant amount of overshot glassware was made in the United States and Europe from the 1860's through the first quarter of the 20th century. Yet most collectors whether beginners or advanced, do not know much about this glass, and very little has been written about how overshot was made. Boston & Sandwich, and Hobbs Brockunier were among the companies that manufactured overshot in the United States. Their products were quite utilitarian, with this type of glass being made in vases, decanters, cruets, bowls, water pitchers with ice bladders, lights, lamps and other shapes. Yet very little of this glass has survived the passage of time, so there is not a lot of it to be found. We can't tell you how many times we have been to the Atlantic City show in New Jersey or the Brimfield show in Massachusetts and returned home disappointed. Combined, these shows have thousands of dealers, and yet we might see two or three pieces, and sometimes none.

Barlow & Kaiser estimate that the Sandwich Glass Company made a large quantity from 1870 - 1887. A 1875 catalog reprint shows more than 60 overshot items in their line. Colored overshot pieces were included in the production at Sandwich. They began with a small gather of colored glass, which was cased with a layer of clear crystal. From shards dug at the Sandwich factory site, it seems that the applied ground glass treatment was always in clear crystal. Shaded glass, like Amberina, Peachblow and Rubina Verde was not made at Sandwich, so such pieces in overshot came from elsewhere, usually England.

Czechoslovakia is known to have made a lot of overshot with colored ground glass. Many of these items are acid stamped "Czechoslovakia" although the overshot treatment makes this mark difficult to read. The difference between Sandwich overshot and European overshot, is that Sandwich always used clear crystal shards, even on their colored pieces, while European pieces used colored shards to match the colors. Whether foreign of domestic, overshot glass makes a worthy addition to any collection.

References and Further Reading

1: Crackle Glass: Book II by Stan and Arlene Weitman, published by Collector Books, 1998.

2: Crackle Glass: Identification & Value Guide by Stan and Arlene Weitman, published by Collector Books, 1996.

3: Hobbs, Brockunier & Co. Glass by Neila & Tom Bredehoft, published by Collector Books, 1997.

4: The Glass Industry in Sandwich, Vol. 4 by Raymond E. Barlow and Joan E. Kaiser.

If you are looking for overshot glass, you can usually find pieces on offer on ebay. Click Overshot Glass to see some examples.

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