If you open your china cabinet, there is a good chance you have crystal stemware that you bought or inherited but know little about. Being able to pinpoint the maker and pattern of a piece of crystal is important if you want to add to your collection or if you are interested in selling some of your pieces. Knowing where to look to research your crystal can help you find out more about the pattern, its maker, and its history.
Look for a maker’s mark. Identifying a stemware pattern is easier if you know the piece's maker. Check the bottom of the crystal for a manufacturer’s mark. This mark is usually acid etched on the underside of the piece. The mark can be a name, a symbol, or both. For example, some pieces of Waterford crystal are signed only with the name “Waterford.” Some have the name as well as their seahorse symbol. With time and wear, signatures can be hard to see. They can also be obscured by any pattern that is cut on the bottom of the glassware. Use a magnifying glass to closely examine your piece.
Contact the manufacturer. If you have been able to decipher a maker’s name, see if the company is currently in business and contact them directly. Many companies offer help in identifying their pieces. Call or e-mail customer service to ask if this option is available and what information you need to provide so that they can help you identify the pattern of your glassware.
Consult glassware guides. You can identify the pattern of your stem by matching it to the illustrations you find in collectors' guides. Also, the books can help you discover the value of specific pieces of glassware. Check your local library and bookstore for a guide such as “Florence’s Glassware Pattern Identification Guide” by Gene Florence and Cathy Florence. Also, use Internet glassware guides like the Web site www.matchyourcrystal.com.
Get help from a crystal replacement company. Crystal replacement services specialize in selling older and discontinued stemware. They are also a good resource for pattern identification help. The company Replacements, Ltd. offers this type of service for free. Send a picture of the glassware you need help identifying, and they will research the maker and pattern. A company like this is also a good resource if you are looking to buy more pieces of your stemware or if you want to sell some of your crystal.
Ask the advice of other collectors. Often, people who collect crystal are able to identify stemware patterns. Go to antiques or collectibles shows where glassware is abundant. Look at the crystal and see if any matches your pattern. Show pictures of your pieces to the seller to see if he or she recognizes it. Another way to communicate with fellow collectors is through glassware clubs. Join a national or local collectors’ organization. Many clubs offer pattern identification help if you e-mail detailed pictures of your pieces.