What Is Mercury Glass?

By Kelly Nuttall
What Is Mercury Glass?
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The memory is clear in our minds of beautiful silver antiques lining the shelves of our grandmother's china cabinet. But those goblets and vases may not have been silver at all. Maybe Grandma was keeping a secret. Her beautiful silver may be something called "mercury glass." It may look like silver, but it isn't even close to it. Mercury glass is something to adore all on its own for the collector of antique glass.

What is Mercury Glass

Mercury glass, also known as silvered glass because of its look, is ornate. Its name may be deceiving because there is actually no mercury or silver in it. It is a mold-blown clear glass that has double-sided walls and then has a thick coat of silver-colored liquid nitrate inserted into it through a small opening the size of a pinhole. The tiny hole is then sealed up to keep the nitrate inside.

Origin Of Mercury Glass

Mercury glass originated in Germany during the 19th century. It became popular due to its low cost. Most people, regardless of their economic status, could afford it. Over time, mercury glass spread throughout Europe, making its way around the globe.

Objects Made of Mercury Glass

In the beginning, mercury glass was used mainly for candlesticks and door knobs. As it became more popular, however, it was used to make other collectibles, such as wine goblets, vases and picture frames, just to name a few items. However, in the past 60 years, mercury glass can be found in a variety of different home accessories, such as lamps, Christmas tree ornaments and other holiday decorations, dining ware and much more.

Cost Of Mercury Glass Today

Mercury glass is affordable to most economic classes. It is considered an imitation to silver and therefore the price is greatly reduced. Vintage mercury glass is always popular with collectors. With the advancement in technology, the quality of mercury glass has gone up slightly (see link in Resources).

Mercury Glass and its Flaws

Mercury glass will not be mistaken for real silver once it is examined closely. Mercury glass does age and the liquid nitrate can crack and fall from the double-sided walls. Mercury glass also oxidizes with age, due to air flow that can get in through the small pinhole opening if it wasn't sealed properly. The quality of mercury glass created today has greatly improved with modern technology.

Resources