Acrylic vs. Glass Knobs

It’s the knob battle of the century here as we have Acrylic in one corner and Glass in the other – which knob will win?

If you have ever looked at a glass knob and an acrylic knob and noticed they are hard to tell apart and wondered “which one is better?”  Well you are not alone.  Many people when picking out knobs for their homes or crafts wonder what are the pros and cons of each and which one should I pick?  Ultimately it comes down to your own preferences and needs, but here is a little summary of the differences between the two to help you decide.


Both acrylic and glass knobs are made in molds.  When you compare clear acrylic and glass knobs, it is hard to tell them apart.  There is a slight difference if you look closely; the glass knob reflects light a little differently – you could say it is “brighter.”  This is due to the fact that glass reflects light a little more than acrylic glass.  It is also slightly clearer and easier to see through.

Now acrylic glass is not really glass – it is a plastic, it’s true name is poly(methyl) methacrylate or PMMA.   Acrylic glass knobs were made as a cheaper alternative to true glass.  The advantages of PMMA are that it is shatter-resistant,  lighter, and cheaper than glass. However, I would like to point out that even though acrylic is shatter-resistant, it is more prone to scratching at the surface than glass.

The glass used in your typical glass knob is called soda lime glass and it’s general composition is 70% silica (SiO2), 15% soda (Na2O), and 9% lime (CaO).  The advantages of glass are the greater shine and clarity, it is also easier to clean.  Glass is more scratch resistant, but if it does scratch it is harder to buff out than acrylic.  Also, as mentioned, glass is more expensive.

A Victorian Touch – Antique Glass Knobs

Whenever you are sitting around your house, whether it be lounging in your living room or having dinner in the dining room – do you ever stop to think about how your house reflects the accomplishments of those who have come before us?  I can’t say I had done so until recently; I had always taken our current living standards for granted, not appreciating that the build of our homes today are a luxury the vast majority of our ancestors could not experience.

Throughout most of human history the majority of the population lived in houses that were plain, simple, and served one main purpose: to protect you from the elements.  Unless you were a king, a noble, or extremely wealthy, your house did not have a formal dining room, an office, or an entertainment room; and yet today we see these rooms as standard in modern homes.  In addition, the hardware of the house reflected function, not ornamentation.  The cabinets and counters were unadorned.  Today, every aspect of a house is built with a style in mind – which is reflected even in the choice of knobs.

Venetian Bronze

So to what do we owe this flourishing of such home décor?  Well we can trace the beginnings of this architectural trend to the Victorian era, circa 1837.  Home layout and interior design took on a new importance.  Houses built around this time began to focus on a separation of public and private rooms.  Dining rooms and parlor rooms (similar to our current day formal living rooms) became the most important rooms of the house; highly decorated in order to display to guests the particular style and status of the homeowners.

This time of the century was also marked by the Industrial Revolution; which among other things, made constructing hardware cheaper and therefore more readily available to the average person.  Up until this point, most knobs were made of wood and lacking in artistic design, color, or shape.  They were there for no other purpose than to assist in opening a cabinet or drawer.  The combination of the Industrial Revolution with the invention of pressing molten glass into molds during the Victorian era brought forth the emergence of glass knobs.

glass knob
The star base on the inside of a Victorian glass knob.

The Victorian era spread to the United States later in the 19th century.  Around 1860 we see a growth in the use of glass knobs in the U.S., however metal knobs were the most common until the time of World War I.  The war brought on a demand for metal and so metal knobs were donated in order to build such things as weapons and airplanes; this in turn sparked an increase in the use of glass knobs.  During the 1920’s we see the emergence of Depression Glass.  Due to the low cost of producing glass, glassware was distributed for free or very cheaply as an incentive to acquire customers.  For example, such glassware was included in cereal boxes or given away at events.  By the late 1920’s glass was so widely produced that glass knobs became the standard in the American home.  Most knobs were clear with flat faces so that you could see the designs molded into their bases, though colored glass knobs were also used.  Towards the end of the 1950’s, after World War II, American styles began to shift back towards metal knobs, such as iron or steel.

pink glass knob
A classic Victorian style pink knob w/ a chrome base.

Today glass knobs are again growing in popularity.  There are hundreds of styles, sizes, and colors for your choosing; from six faceted to twelve faceted and from peacock blue to a Coke-bottle green.  Styles vary from accurate antique reproductions such as the glass knobs with a through-hole and a glass bolt for mounting to thoroughly modern creations featuring satin nickel mountings.  Therefore, if you are looking to build a house or redecorate and are interested in using glass knobs, you are almost guaranteed to find something to fit your tastes.  The amount of choices may even be overwhelming, and prices can vary greatly.  On that same note, do not think that you have to pay a fortune for antiques; you can easily find affordable Victorian knobs that will give your home the touch you’re looking for without burning a hole in your pocket.

Antique Blue Glass Knob
Antique Cobalt Blue Glass Knob