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The Collectics Antiques Information & Education pages are designed to further knowledge of antiques, collectibles, collecting styles, periods, artists, designers, and manufacturers of fine and decorative arts. To learn more, our Antique Collector Bookstore lists only the best collector books and price guides, complied by surveys of top antique dealers and auction houses. For a different shopping experience, you can also browse our featured selections in a fun new way with the Antique Price Guides Slideshow or see current bestsellers by using Collector Books Topic Search.

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Mercury glass was produced in the United States, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), Germany, and England from around 1840 until the early 1930s although its popularity significantly eroded at the turn of the century. Mercury glass is sometimes referred to as silvered glass, glass that was blown double walled and subsequently silvered between the layers with a sterling silvering liquid solution and sealed. Although elemental mercury was used to make mirrors in the early years of production, it was never used in tableware and after about 1860 was almost completely replaced by the use of silver nitrate. Mercury glass will have some type of hole or opening in the bottom base of a piece to allow the internal silver coating to be poured in, and then it was sealed with a glass or metal disk to prevent tarnishing of the silver within. Silvered mercury glass was often intricately painted, enanameled, etched, and engraved to create intricate, luxurious looks, but it was much more affordable than true silver and as such was referred to as "poor man's silver". Nevertheless, researchers have cited mercury glass vases, goblets, and diverse range of tableware to be one of the earliest examples of true art glass, i.e. glass produced solely for the aesthetic value and not for some everyday purpose. Designs could be quite large and elaborate, so they were often seen in public institutions such as alter candlesticks in churches. Mercury glass was first patented in England in 1849, and the first U.S. patent was registered in 1855. Some U.S. mercury glass was made and marked by the New England Glass Company, while English mercury glass is sometimes marked E. Varnish & Co or F. Hale Thomson.

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The Corning Museum of Glass: A Decade of Glass Collecting Standard Encyclopedia of Opalescent Glass: Identification & Values
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