Antique glass decanters are one of a kind. This beautiful piece of art is a blend of craftsmanship, elegance, and warmth.
Decanters aren’t just beautiful; they’re also extremely functional. This, combined with the fact that they’re long-lasting, explains why antique decanters are popular.
This guide considers the value of these priceless art pieces and how you can identify rare antique decanters.
Brief History of Antique Glass Decanters
During the early 17th-century, decanters served as vessels for serving wine drawn from a bottle or barrel. People had to decant wine because it made serving and cleaning up easier.
About 2,500 years ago, decanters were used for the first time, and before then, wine was served in earthenware when glassware had not yet been invented. By the 18th century, decanting had become a common practice, especially in the United Kingdom, and this practice eventually spread across Europe.
Types of Antique Decanters
There are a variety of decanters out there that are used for different types of alcohol. However, the decanting process isn’t necessary for all types of spirits.
The purpose of decanters is to prevent the drink from falling flat and preserve the alcohol with its stopper. White and red wines with noticeable residue are just a few examples of wines that would benefit from decanting.
With that out of the way, here are some of the types of decanters that can be traced down to centuries.
Squat-Shape Antique Glass Decanter
Several early decanters abound, including clear glass versions of the squat onion or shaft and globe wine bottles. These bottles usually have long, narrow necks and loop handles added.
They’re pretty rare, and just a few are found in museums. They were serving bottles from the late 17th century, explaining their rareness in recent times.
Pontil Scar on Glass Decanters
The design has a rough base — the pontil scar. This is where a pontil iron was attached and pushed upwards so that the scar wouldn’t harm a polished surface.
String Rim on Decanters
It wasn’t until the 1730s that the straight-sided mallet decanter, or octagonal bottle, became fashionable. It featured a single-string rim on the huge, six-sided, long-necked glass bottle.
Early bottles had a thin glass rim around the neck to secure a muslin cloth or cork by wire or string before introducing fitted glass stoppers. The string rim decanter was made by blowing glass into an iron mold.
It’s rare to find these bottles with a handle and a pouring mouth, so they attract a high price when they do come up for sale.
Cruciform Antique Glass Decanters
New serving bottles were dubbed the “cruciform” because of their cross-sectional look, especially when viewed from the underside. This cruciform decanter was introduced between the mid-1730s and the late-1750s.
The new design may have evolved to provide a wider contact area, enhancing cooling efficiency when used in wine chillers. Some of the earliest examples of this design are the real cruciform.
The later ones are more box-like and have straight sides. They also come in vertical grooves and a string-like rim comprising many glass trails.
Some of these bottles are adorned with intricate carvings and engravings. Others, on the other hand, are simple and unadorned. Regardless, the stopper’s form varies from one model to the next.
Later Styles of Glass Decanters
The 1820s and 1830s welcomed the iconic decanter design with three neck rings. They came in either a bullseye stopper or mushroom stopper. These bottles are widely sought after and are even in use today because of their ability to display wine to its best.
Bullseye Stopper in an Antique Glass Decanter
One variation of the design features three neck rings and a flattened bullseye stopper in a somewhat different form than the earlier designs.
Mushroom Stopper in an Antique Glass Decanter
Colored decanters of this design were produced, although in considerably smaller quantities, explaining why they’re more difficult to come across.
These are the two most common designs, and there are countless variations of the basic decanter shape with varying numbers of neck rings and cut embellishments.
Colored Antique Glass Decanter
The late 18th and early 19th centuries welcomed large quantities of little colored decanters. They came in small, club-shaped decanters and were commonly found in blue glass. However, they also exist in other colors like amethyst and green varieties.
They’re often adorned with fake gilded labels for liquors like rum, brandy, and hollands (Dutch gin). Due to their diminutive size, they’re not as sought-after by collectors. However, if you seek a beautiful assortment of decanters in various colors and shapes, these are a great option, and they’re usually reasonably priced.
How to Identify Genuine Antique Decanters
Decanters have stoppers, which separate them from other serving containers like a carafe or a pitcher, and that’s because they’re designed to keep liquids (typically alcohol). These bottles date back to antiquity and can be either plain or elaborate in design.
They played a vital role in the family supper throughout the Middle Ages. In recent years, collectors have picked an interest in decanters.
“How do you know if you’re holding an authentic decanter?”
If you’re looking for a whole collection of extremely rare vintage decanters, you’ll have to shell out thousands of dollars. Although decanters might be worth a lot of money, their value is rarely recognized. Here are some tips to help you identify the real vintage decanters.
Verify the Manufacturer
This will help you determine its worth, and you can do this by looking for the maker’s mark on the base of the item with a magnifying glass.
Examine Its Condition
Decanters will lose value if it sustains damage, particularly around the lip and base. It’s also possible that engraving will lower the item’s value.
Lean Towards Rare Antique Collectibles
If you’re collecting, you should consider how rare the item is. The rare designs are more valuable to antique collectors than the more common designs.
Identify the Dating of the Decanters
An antique professional can help you trace the dating of a rare vintage decanter. That way, you can identify the year the decanters were in vogue, further assisting you in assessing their value.
Outlines below are a series of differently dated antique glass decanters:
Old European Wine Decanters
Usually, a Dutch Amethyst wine bottle from the 1750s is shaped like a genie’s wand. Moreover, it’ll have a dark amber-colored glass and be ribbed all around.
In the early 1700s, a black glass decanter had a simple shape and a seal at the bottom. You can always check this seal to confirm when a bottle was made.
Antique Whiskey Decanters
Whiskey decanters, which date back to the late 1880s, were composed of ceramic and encased in a basket-weaved cover. You’ll find this type of decanter on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, along with other collections of antique decanters.
Antique Decorative Glass Decanters With Peculiar Patterns or Shapes
For vintage decanters, you should also check the cut the glass sports and the logo of the company to ascertain it’s authentic. Some antique models come with a small triangular pattern at the bottom. In the past, machine etching was used to make the Pall Mall decanters—dating as far back as the early 20th century (1915 precisely)—and other glassware with curly or triangle patterns.
A good example of this type of antique decanter is one with fish patterns at the bottom of clear crystal and an Art Deco-inspired frosted glass container with feminine silhouettes. This could be identified as one of the works of the French glass craftsman—René Lalique—and dates as far back as the 1900s.
Vintage Silver Wine Decanters
This piece—dating back to the early 1900s to 1909—is one of the antique decanters sold today. It’s an American silver genie bottle sporting a tall and intricate stopper.
This wine decanter has a container with leaves and grapes design that reminds one of the Art Nouveau. It’s easy to identify with the large side handle and its unique tree branch-like look.
If you’re not sure of the authenticity of decanters, you can consult antique appraisers to help you with it.
Evaluating Antique Glass Decanters’ Worth
People have made a few hundred to a few thousand dollars worth selling off their vintage crystal decanters at online auction sales. Etsy also has a plethora of antique decanters for sale, and you can also find them at antique dealers.
Antique decanters, like any other antique item, are quite valuable. However, if there’s less demand for them, the price declines. In the case of decanters, their age doesn’t quite matter; the design always appears to define how much they cost.
In the past, a 1970s whiskey decanter would retail for $245, but now it sells for only $221. Antiques like the Silver and Cut-Glass Claret Jug are examples of a bad sales record. This decanter dates back to 1887, but its price decreased by 52%. Despite its fine workmanship and good condition, this Victorian decanter lost its original value.
In determining the value of antique decanters, you should also consider the quality and quantity of decanters manufactured. Additionally, their current market value is an essential consideration. If the decanters are chipped or hazy, they sell for less than those in perfect condition. The most priced antique decanters today are crystal decanters.
Here are some of the most expensive decanters ever sold at auctions:
Highland Park 50-Year Old Decanter
This Highland Park decanter was designed by Maeve Gillies and was inspired by the flow of the wind and sea. Only a few bottles are still available, and their current value is about $25,000. The decanter has a St. Magnus Cathedral’s iconic rose window pattern, which is evident when the bottle is empty.
Baccarat Crystal Decanter
For the centenary of Kilian Hennessey, Baccarat crystal was used to create an elegant decanter. Moreover, there are four whiskey glasses included with the liquor cabinet. This decanter is for sale at the Schiphol Airport Retail in Amsterdam and is currently valued at $190,000.
Tequila Ley .925 Diamond-Crusted Sterling Decanter
This is the most expensive decanter globally, and it’s currently valued at $3.5 million. That’s surprisingly expensive for a bottle that holds not more than 1.4 liters of spirit. Sporting over 4,000 cut diamonds, this piece was made with hand-blown glass encased in platinum and silver.
Where to Find Antique Decanters and Price Guides
If you’re planning on having your collection of vintage and antique decanters, you’ll need a reliable and comprehensive price guide. You can identify antique decanters with the help of antique appraisers or visit websites to compare the current market value. Here are a few places to begin your search:
They’re known as the “Duke and Duchess of the antique world” for a reason. Here, you’ll find collectibles of the best quality. Created by Ralph and Terry Kovel, the store has more than a hundred books and resources for collecting antique items.
The pair are renowned authors and have syndicated newspaper columns running for decades. Using the free online pricing guide, you can see what other people have paid for antique decanters in your area. The price guide is a part of the free account, and it includes current prices for a wide range of items, including vintage decanters.
Digger Odell Antique Bottle Price Guides
If you’re interested in learning more about different kinds of decanters, Digger Odell Publications usually has a lot of offers in this area. Namely, they offer free and paid resources for anyone looking to identify vintage collections.
Furthermore, this site has a comprehensive guide for prices and everything concerning bottles. They provide resources to guide antique collectors, so they don’t fall prey to eBay scams and coach them on how to make money selling antique decanters. Summarily, you’ll find the amount of information on this platform incredibly valuable.
The Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors (FOHBC)
This is one organization dedicated to the preservation of historic bottle collections. Founded in 2010, FOHBC was set up to promote historic bottle collections. When you subscribe, you’ll receive their bi-monthly newspaper, “Bottles and Extras.”
They have free listings for sale in the publications and one free “wanted” ad each year. They also provide other tools, so you’ll learn the most about the worth of antique decanters from this resource.
Although membership comes at a cost, you can either subscribe to the digital membership or mail membership in the United States. They also offer lifetime and associate membership options.
eBay is an excellent starting ground to identify antique decanters and determine what customers are willing to pay for them. Also, you can compare the prices with the previously sold decanters.
However, be aware that the decanter’s condition may not always be as stated, and you should educate yourself on the specific decanter before engaging in an auction. Aside from that, you should also know that the site is free to use and is subject to scams. You only pay for purchasing one of the many sellers on eBay.
Etsy is one platform where you can find a good collection of antiques. If you’re looking for where to begin your search for antique decanters, you should give this site a shot. It’s a great place to search for one-of-a-kind pieces, and you’ll likely get a good bargain here.
You can find a large range of decanters at this online store. Additionally, you can be lucky to get a fair deal, but you should always be careful when buying antiques online.
Most people feel more at ease when they see what they’re buying in real-time. Besides, antique stores usually have dealers who have a good knowledge of the value of the decanter. These antique appraisers help you identify authentic antique decanters, precluding the risk of fraud or scams that go on online.
You can start your search at a nearby antique store close to you. However, the only drawback with antique stores is that you’ll be paying relatively high prices. The antique decanters are already appraised and valued, which could be rather expensive.
Mistakes to Avoid When Collecting Antique Glass Decanters
When collecting or buying your antique glass decanters, here are some of the mistakes you should avoid and how you can identify them.
Buying the Wrong Stopper
Antique decanters frequently come with the wrong stopper, but it’s easy to notice if the stopper fits well. The stoppers are designed to be airtight, and therefore if the stopper doesn’t fit snugly, it’s likely that it wasn’t the original one installed. Some 200-year-old decanters aren’t airtight and should only be purchased for their historical value and not practicality.
Another thing to check is whether or not the stopper looks right. In terms of appearance, does it have a coordinating design and color? If they were produced together, both the stopper and decanter should share similar designs. Generally, when looking at the antique glass, it’s easy to notice if any of its parts weren’t manufactured together.
Also, check for the numbers that have been etched in the decanter. Most brands have their model number on stoppers and decanters to prevent them from becoming jumbled during the assembly process. The decanter should have the same number on the stopper if it has one.
Purchasing a Cloudy Decanter
A decanter may appear murky if it has limescale. A limescale buildup could occur if the decanter’s contents were left to evaporate. Luckily there’s a quick fix for this, as you can easily remove this with a simple cleaning solution. Inside re-polishing, which is best done by experts, is the only way to get rid of this.
You should be careful not to buy a decanter from an unscrupulous or unaware vendor. If a decanter is moist on the inside, be sure to inspect it closely and ask the dealer about its condition if you suspect bloom (a delicate and powdery deposit on the decanter’s inner surface).
Failure to Verify the Manufacturer
The value of a decanter depends on who produced it. Decanters with the names of British manufacturers etched into their bottoms began to appear in the 1930s and 1940s. You should check the base of your decanter for an engraved name by shining a bright light on it.
The names are really small, so be sure to pay close attention to them. The name of a corporation may have been etched into the base of an early Irish decanter, but these are extremely rare.
Not Checking for Damages
The value of the antique decanter will decrease if there’s any damage to the item. To be sure there’s no damage, ensure you examine the decanter properly. If you notice any cuts, that could be a red flag.
Many antique glass decanters may have a crack running through them, which may significantly impact their value. Before purchasing a decanter, be sure to inspect it thoroughly. If it’s broken, you can expect to pay a lot less for it.
Buying Fake Antique Glass Decanters
If you’re interested in authentic antique decanters, you’re likely to go for Georgian decanters, which were popular in the early 20th century. However, the problem is that there are several duplicates or, rather, fake designs. This is because it’s quite easy to replicate the Georgian elements in the decanter.
Many dealers aren’t aware they’re selling replicas because these decanters have some wear on them. Another possible fake that collectors lay their hands on is the Irish Cork Glass Co. Decanters — the most expensive fake of the Irish Cork Glass Co. Series. The only way to be certain you’re getting the real deal is to get a cast iron receipt from the seller before you buy a decanter of this type.
Just be wary of buying at the high end of the market if you’re looking to invest in other types of fakes. There’s a silver lining when it comes to acquiring expensive Victorian decanters.
Some dealers don’t know their onions when it comes to decanters. For example, they may not really know who to attribute an antique piece to. So, if they label an antique to be from a particular manufacturer, it may not be correct.
If you don’t know much about decanters, you should do enough research to know what you’re getting so you don’t end up paying more for a decanter of lesser value.
How do I know if my antique glass decanters with stoppers are authentic?
One thing that sets decanters apart from other glass bottles is their stoppers. Decanter stoppers are designed to be airtight, and if the stopper isn’t airtight, it’s probably not original. It functions to preserve your wine or spirits, so it’s important you have the right fit.
Where can I find antique glass decanters for sale?
You can buy antique glass decanters either at online auction sites or from antique dealers. You’ll find most sellers on sites like eBay or Etsy. However, if you feel more comfortable buying at a physical store, you have the option of visiting an antique store to find an authentic antique glass decanter.
Are there experts for antique glass decanter identification?
Yes, there are.
If you’re unable to tell an authentic from a fake antique glass decanter, you can get help from professionals. An antique appraiser can help you determine the accurate value of the antique item.
Is cleaning antique glass decanters easy?
Yes, it’s pretty easy to clean an old antique glass decanter.
A great approach is cleaning with vinegar solution. It would help if you poured the vinegar into a cup of hot water, then into the decanter. However, ensure you leave it in for 10 minutes.
The delicate glass may break if the water is too hot, so avoid using boiling water. Finally, remove any remaining wine with a simple drain-and-rinse procedure.
If you’re collecting extremely rare antique decanters, you may wonder how much they’re worth. Some decanters, especially crystal decanters, might cost as much as tens of thousands of dollars to acquire. However, it’s advisable to know how much they’re worth in the antique market to avoid being scammed.
Also, remember to look out for authentic decanters. You can easily tell them by identifying the manufacturer’s logo and ensuring the antique is in great condition.
It doesn’t matter if you buy an antique or contemporary decanter, as long as you know its worth. Decanters have a delicate and attractive appearance which can attract high prices at auctions. If you’re able to get an antique that’s old enough at a fair price, you can easily sell it off for a higher value. Even an early 20th-century cut crystal decanter was sold for $2,215 at a recent auction.