Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Poor Man's Silver: Mercury Glass

They provoke childhood memories. The mirrored-silver always captivated my youthful eyes. Today I still have a few of the beautiful old mercury glass ornaments that were popular over 50 years ago. 



Mercury glass was first discovered in Germany during the 19th-century. It was known as the "poor man's silver" in England, as it provided an inexpensive alternative to the silver that only furnished the houses of the wealthy. While the glass was named after the silvery fluid element, mercury glass contains no mercury. The original procedure using actual mercury was short lived due to the toxic nature, and the expense.

Today mercury glass has been replicated, and I have seen prices on the replicated pieces from the $1.00 votive candle holder to $500 vase. Of course, the original pieces of mercury glass fetch a much higher price. Mercury glass just doesn't come in the traditional silver, as mercury glass ornaments, vintage and new, come in a variety of colors including gold. 


My miraculous roses I picked this morning in 38 degree weather
How to tell the difference between vintage and reproductions?  Look for the "double wall."  Vintage mercury glass was originally blown with a double wall, and then "silvered" between the layers with a liquid "silvering" solution as used in mirrors. Although mercury was originally used to provide the reflective coating for mirrors, elemental mercury was never used to create tableware. Today? Not so much. Today mercury glass is often sprayed with a relatively safe silver nitrate finish. 

Can you tell that I love mercury glass, especially candle holders? I love how the flame in a piece of mercury glass seems just that much brighter and warmer. Mercury glass is elegant and many pieces are affordable. It's about the simple "trimmings" for an elegant life - Passementaries. 






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