Easter Extravaganza Part 3: Glass Eggs

The tradition of giving Easter eggs is over four centuries old, but the Victorians can be given credit for applying mass-production to the custom. Victorian culture was quite sentimental and as barons of industry flourished, so did the production of inexpensive trinkets like these. To a modern audience glass seems a little more substantial, but at the turn of the century, glass was as inexpensive and malleable as plastic is to us today. For the same reason you find boxes of old mayonnaise jars in the basement of any old house, you find these eggs laying about five generations later—it just seems like a waste to throw them out.

Overall

Antique glass eggs are blown glass and each one is a little bit different. They range in size from a chicken egg to an ostrich egg and all were once decorated. Most eggs feature hand-painted spring flowers and gold lettering. Others feature more elaborate decal designs that were applied to the eggs as an outline and hand-colored afterward. It’s difficult to find these with much or any of their original paint intact. Because the eggs have slick glass surfaces, the paint doesn’t stick very well, and after 100 years or so of rolling around in drawers or sitting in hot attics and damp basements, not much survives.

Decal Painted

Caligraphy

This egg’s matte finish probably helped save its paint

The most common eggs are just smooth glass, but some were blown into two-part molds that created raised patterns in the glass. Common themes are crosses, anchors, chicks, egg baskets and simply raised text. These are some of my favorites because even when the paint is completely gone, they still look beautiful and Easter-like.

Raised Glass

My absolute favorite of all of the eggs out there is this hatching chick egg. It’s graphic and a little creepy, but the artfulness of it is impressive. There are several styles and sizes of this egg including one that has a more eagle-like bird bursting from the end. These are harder to find and among the more valuable to collectors.

Hatching

Not all glass eggs, however, are Easter eggs. Many of the smaller eggs were originally sold to farmers as tools to prevent hens from pecking open eggs. They were put in the nest under laying hens, and after rapping their beak on a hard glass egg a few times, the hen would stop pecking open real eggs. Glass eggs used in hen houses are often etched or scratched, but otherwise you can’t really tell the difference as many small eggs were also sold decorated for Easter.

Laying AidSo this Easter, as you stand in your kitchen reeking of vinegar and hard-boiled eggs, scrubbing food coloring off your kitchen table and thinking “there’s got to be an easier way,” remember that a solution has been around since before your grandmother was born—glass eggs. Time to hit up the flea market.

 

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