Glassware is one of the world's oldest crafts, with glass objects dating back to 3500 BC. Glassware has developed over the centuries from plain, utilitarian pieces to ornately patterned objects of great beauty. Many of us have pieces of glassware we have collected or have inherited. Learning more about these pieces, especially about their patterns, is not as difficult as it may seem initially due to the vast number of widely available resources on this age-old material.
Consult guidebooks. Your local library, bookstore, or online stores have collectors’ guidebooks that will help you learn to identify different glassware makers and patterns. Some books are general guides, while others concentrate on a specific maker or time period. If you know the manufacturer or approximate date your glassware was made, you will be able to better focus your research. A few examples of books about identifying glassware include “Florence's Glassware Pattern Identification Guide” by Gene Florence and Cathy Florence, “Depression Era Glassware: Identification & Value Guide”by Carl F. Luckey and Debbie Coe, and “Fifty Years of Collectible Glass 1920-1970: Easy Identification and Price Guide : Tableware, Kitchenware, Barware and Water Sets” by Tom Bredehoft and Neila Bredehoft
Browse online resources. If you have been able to pinpoint the maker or time period of your piece, you can make use of Internet resources that list specific patterns. Some china replacement stores list their most popular glassware patterns arranged alphabetically by manufacturer. Check online collectibles stores for glassware, paying particular attention to different patterns on the glassware. Looking through sites such as these will also give you an idea of how much different patterns and pieces of glassware are worth.
Use an identification service. The china, glass, and silver company Replacements, Ltd. has a free identification service. In order to identify your piece, send the company a clear photo or drawing of the glassware. The image can be sent via e-mail, fax, or regular mail. Provide as much information as you can about your glass item in order to help the company make a quick and accurate assessment. Also, if you know the maker of your glassware, you may be able to access another identification service if that company has its own website. Often, individual manufacturers will offer help in identifying their patterns, including ones that have been discontinued, and the information on how to contact them for identification help is usually listed on their website.
Ask antiques and collectibles dealers. Visit local antiques dealers who specialize in selling glass. These people are often willing to help you identify your pieces. They may also have their own identification guidebooks with which to help you find the pattern name. If your area hosts large antiques fairs, these are also good places to find experts in glassware and to see a large selection of glass patterns, both of which can help you determine the name and maker of your own glassware. The websites Antiques and the Arts Online and Antique Trader post calendars of antiques shows being held throughout the country. Check these to find antiques events in your area.