Sandwich Glass

Martha Stewart Living Television

"Sandwich glass" may sound like some kind of fancy lunchbox, but it's actually a highly prized American collectible. In the mid- to late-nineteenth century, the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, of Sandwich, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, became known for its pressed glassware, an innovation that, at the time, was often attributed solely to the Sandwich company. There were other companies that used this process, but Sandwich contributed so much to the technology and created such beautiful pieces that pressed glass and Sandwich were inextricably linked in collectors' minds.

As Kirk Nelson, of the Glass Art Center in Bennington, Vermont, explains, the glass comes in vibrant colors, or it can be clear. The pieces are usually pressed in more than one piece and are then joined together; sometimes a blown-glass piece is also attached. One way to tell if a piece is in fact Sandwich glass is to look for the seam where the two molds were joined together; reproductions were often made in one piece. True Sandwich glass also contains lead, making it quite heavy.

In the 1830s the company produced vast quantities of what was known as "lacy" glass, which featured a background pattern of small bumps or stipples; this was very popular among collectors in the early-twentieth century. The most popular Sandwich design was the dolphin candlestick; nine different forms of pressed dolphins were made at Sandwich. Other pieces Kirk shares with Martha include a goblet with a tiny doll encased in the base; bright blue and yellow trays; an "overlay" kerosene lamp, in which the globe is made of many different layers featuring cutouts so you can see the depths; and a rare amethyst-colored compote dish that would sell for around $20,000.

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