From the Crucible of the Industrial Revolution to the International Antiques Circuit
Scour American and European flea markets for vintage finds and you’ll find milk glass merchandise by the score, half-hidden among the material efflux of history like shoals of fish among a coral reef
Click here for Thai.
RCB Auctions’ current Timed Auction features a charming specimen from this class of antique wares: a set of palm-sized vanity jars that are the perfect starter piece for budding collectors seeking a beautiful acquisition within their means.
The History of Milk Glass
Milk Glass is a 16th Century innovation that originated in Venice, a city with a rich cultural and artistic heritage. Known in Italy as “lattimo”– derived from the word latte, which means milk– milk glass was a readaptation of an old glass-making technique, as archaeologists have found milky-white glassware dating back to 1,500 B.C.
What are the characteristics of Milk Glass?
Milk Glass’ defining feature needs no introduction: the milkiness of the glass results from the incorporation of zinc oxide, a matting agent which oxidizes and opacifies the mixture into a cloudy-white product. Additionally, Milk Glass can be pigmented in blue, pink, yellow, brown and black, which has precipitated a plethora of colors and designs over the centuries of Milk Glass production.
Milk Glass: An Alternative to Porcelain
At a glance, Milk Glass’ smooth and white veneer might seem indistinguishable from porcelain. However, closer inspection will reveal that porcelain is more transparent and fragile, and its coloring more delicate, than its competitor (a gentle tap will pronounce the difference).
During the Industrial Revolution (1760-1850), Milk Glass rose to prominence as a cheaper alternative to porcelain, amidst the introduction of a spate of new materials that met the demands of mass manufacturing and lowered production costs. From the 19th Century to the mid 20th Century, Milk Glass was popular among American and European consumers, and led to a surge of manufacturers of Milk Glass wares.
A Union of Beauty and Utility
As a result of the Industrial Revolution, the Milk Glass industry burgeoned throughout the Victorian era (1837 – 1901), spawning a proliferation of products– from lamps, door hinges and snuff boxes to cutlery, keys and decorative objects– made of Milk Glass. Equal to the beauty of traditional Thai cosmetic jars with spired lids, known as “Toh Prik”, Milk Glass glassware is hand-painted and consummately crafted, as is the highlight item for the Current Live Auction: a set of milk glass gilt enamel vanity jars on pink ground.
Lot 725 A set of milk glass gilt enamel vanity jar on pink ground (3 pcs.)
Dimensions: W 8 cm H 8 cm
Circa: 20th Century
Estimated price 20,000 – 25,000 THB
Starting price 10,000 THB