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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

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.

[caption id="attachment_95" align="alignleft" width="90"] Venetian Bronze[/caption]

So to what do we owe this flourishing of such home d├ęcor?  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.

[caption id="attachment_104" align="alignright" width="150"]glass knob The star base on the inside of a Victorian glass knob.[/caption]

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.

[caption id="attachment_52" align="alignleft" width="150"]pink glass knob A classic Victorian style pink knob w/ a chrome base.[/caption]

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.

[caption id="attachment_19" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Antique Blue Glass Knob Antique Cobalt Blue Glass Knob[/caption]


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