white vitro-porcelain plate

Vitro-Porcelain Glass:
19th Century pressed glass

Brought to you by The Glass Encyclopedia

above: white basket-
weave vitro-porcelain
glass plate, Sowerby
c. 1877.

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vitro-porcelain glass

Vitro-Porcelain Glass: A short explanation

Vitro-Porcelain is pressed glass which is made to look like porcelain or pottery. The term was first introduced by Sowerby's Glassworks in Gateshead, England in 1877, the invention of John George Sowerby. The basket-weave plate shown on the left in white vitro-porcelain was also produced in a pale blue which Sowerby's called "turquiose vitro-porcelain" and a rather unattractive opaque green. These plates sometimes have the Sowerby peacock trademark in the centre, and are more valuable when they do.

The dense opaque porcelain-like appearance of vitro-porcelain glass was caused by adding cryolite to the glass mixture. Natural cryolite is sodium aluminium fluoride (Na3AlF6). So far as I know the term was used in the UK but is not common in other countries. Vitro-porcelain-type glass is sometimes called "cast porcelain" and sometimes "cryolite glass". Very similar glass is also known as milk glass, opal glass, opaline, opaque white glass, porzellanglas and porcellain-glas. However, these terms are frequently used for glass made opaque by adding tin oxide to the mixture rather than cryolite. They can sometimes be slightly translucent, which is never the case with vitro-porcelain. Opaque glass made with tin oxide has been made for centuries by the Chinese, the Venetians, Bohemians, Germans and others.

white vitro-porcelain posy
above: vitro-porcelain
posy vase by Sowerby,
design reg'd 1882

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Vitro-porcelain glass was highly suited to the kind of surface decoration on pressed glass which became very popular during the 1870s and 80s. Sowerby transposed popular art of the time (the book illustrations of Walter Crane) onto their molds and reproduced with surprising accuracy these illustrations. The little posy vase on the left shows a copy of Walter Crane's illustration for the nursery rhyme "Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy and Bess" from his book An Alphabet of Old Friends published in 1874.

References, Sources & Further Reading:

Click on the book cover or title to read more about a book.

Sowerby Ellison Glass 1986 Sowerby Pattern book 1982 British Glass Book 2 Millers 20th Century Glass 2006 British glass book British Glass Between the Wars 1987 Victorian Glass - British 20th Century glass book 19th C British Glass English Pressed Glass 1987 English Pressed Glass by Thomson 2000 20th Century glass 2004

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