benicia iridescence on antique glass found at PumpjackPiddlewick

I have a fascination for antique glass. There is something about the discrepancies you can often see in it. Sometimes it is a bubble, sometimes more of a distortion in the view.

Glass has become an interest since digging up the back garden, especially Big Dig 1, and Side B. As part of this sort of archaeological dig I find lots of bits and bobs. Mostly junk, rusty nails, the odd marble, but also quite a lot of glass.

In the ‘old days’ there was no refuse collection. People simply dumped what couldn’t be reused or recycled some place. In our case we have two places. The first is our buried lavoir, or clothes washing area in the bottom garden.

Later, as our property fell into some disrepair, and the barn roof tiles starting filling the garden, they became lazier. Preferring not to walk so far, they simply dumped their refuse outside the back of the barn amongst the broken tiles.

Now this makes it seem like we have a large pile of trash in our garden, when in fact there is really very little actually. People simply didn’t waste before refuse collection. For every foot of broken tile I shift, I probably find 2 or 3 pieces of vintage and antique glass. Most of the glass is broken, but every now and then I find a complete bottle. (Complete bottles make it into Our Shop.)

But I will admit, coming across the glass does make me excited. Particularly when it is antique glass. Antique glass has a very different thickness to it then later glass. It’s composition also varied more, giving it many more variations in texture, opacity and even colours.

Add into this mix, if antique glass has been buried in soil it goes through a change. It gains this iridescence, a sort of rainbow hue. It’s caused by a combination of the chemistry of the soil and what went into making the glass.

Some call it benicia iridescence, named after Glass Beach in Benicia, California, where lots of old glass washes up. Whatever we call it, it is beautiful. It has a glow, a warmth, and a uniquely rainbow hue of colours.

I have been fortunate enough to find many pieces with this patina to it. And the wonderful thing, is when they have this iridescence, as the glass is often thick, they pieces tend to be larger than the later glass I find.

Antique glass probably makes up about 1/3 (in volume) of the glass I find. The rest is vintage* glass, generally from the 1920s – 1950s. Most of this is much thinner and clear. As, by this time period, glass is much more prevalently made by machine. There is more consistency to it’s make-up, look and thickness.

When sorting through my Big Dig rubble, it goes into 4 buckets. One for broken tiles (which get re-used as part of my veg garden paths). Another for odd bits and bobs I can’t re-use. These do eventually, actually get thrown in the rubbish bin. And the last one is for glass pieces I find.

It doesn’t matter how small the piece is, if I spot it, into my container it goes. As our ducks like to forage, and will taste and essentially try to eat anything, removing even the smallest piece of glass is important.

But now what, I hear you ask. What will become of this container of vintage and antique glass pieces. Sure, I could just throw them in a box and into our rubbish bin to add to a tip somewhere. But there is a very definite and more ecological alternative. A jeweller. Specifically someone who makes jewellery using glass.

Offering the glass up (free of charge) in a post on Etsy’s forum, put the jewellery shop byLaurieB in contact with me. Like me, she is interested in archaeological digs and findings. So it is really nice to know that the glass will be going to a new home. And, in time, to find a new life in something unique and special.

You can check out byLaurieB on Etsy here:

And we always are finding more old glass, so if you are a jewellery or craft maker and would like some pieces, please get in contact with us through our shop.

If you wish to see the glass bottles and odd other finds we find…

*Oh, in case you didn’t know, the definition of antique is ‘older than 100 years’ and vintage is ‘older than 20 years’. Thought it might be helpful to clarify.


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