Tea caddy

ARTIST / MAKER: George Lowe (silversmith)
DATE: 1804 (made)
PLACE: Chester (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Cut glass, with silver mounts

The technique of glass-cutting was developed in Western Europe during the 17th century by German glassmakers. Their technique involved cutting glass with deep notched lines and facets to create a pattern in high relief, enhancing the brilliance and reflective quality of the glass. In the early 18th century, English and Irish glasshouses adopted this technique and made elaborate diamond, triangular and prismatic patterns – as seen on this caddy – a characteristic of British cut glass design. Three types of cuts were used to produce these patterns by holding the glass at different angles to the cutting wheel. Such was the desire to create the deepest cuts and the most intricate of motifs that these objects were nicknamed ‘prickly monstrosities’ when they were displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851. The technique was replaced in the mid-19th century by a mechanical pressing of molten glass into a plain or engraved mould, which created a near-identical imitation of cut glass at a much lower cost. It is likely that George Lowe, the maker of the silver mounts, retailed this caddy in his shop in Chester, which sold ‘an extensive range of the most fashionable items’, including tea urns.