Hi everyone! Do you remember the box of antique and vintage bottles I bought a while back? I purchased a box of freshly dug bottles for a quarter each. I’ve been slowly cleaning them and planning several posts about the contents of that wonderful box. First, I wrote about how to clean them, and today I’m going to chat a bit about the amber-colored bottles from the box. The color is derived from a combination of the natural impurities in glass (iron and manganese) and chemical additives, like carbon, nickel, and sulfur. Amber was, and still is, a good choice for bottling beer and light-sensitive medicines. You’ll find out today, if you didn’t know already, that there are many clues to a bottle’s age–seam lines and maker’s marks, for example. You’ll note that none of the bottles I show you have screw tops, an innovation of the 1920’s, but cork-top bottles do continue to be made even to present day.
There was a time, not too long ago, when amber glass would simply sit on the shelf in an antique shop. No one was interested in decorating with these dark honey to chocolate-colored bottles. But its beauty has been rediscovered and recently it has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. I expect each of these bottles to sell rather easily in my booth at the Gristmill Antique Center (Troy, NY).
The first and last of the six bottles are wine bottles, and the first is older than the second.
The first wine bottle exhibits a lighter shade of amber than its taller cousin on the end, typically indicating that it has some age. It would have been manufactured via a process referred to in the bottling world as “blown in a mold” (BIM), and the lip would have been applied in a separate step. [BIM–picture a glass blower blowing molten glass into a bottle-shaped mold. The other type of bottle you’ll see today is “machine made,” where the glass blower is no longer necessary.]
By examining the seam (mold mark) on the side of the bottle, we can get an idea of how old a bottle might be. In the photo, you can see the seam line coming up the side, but then it stops short of the upper neck and lip. This tells us that it was BIM sometime between 1860 and 1880.
The bottle also contains a number of “seeds,” small and large seed-shaped air bubbles, which also tend to indicate age.
On #6, also a wine bottle, the seam starts at the bottom of the bottle and continues all the way to the top, though it’s hard to see in the photo. And in fact, it runs up over the top.
If you looked straight down on my bottle, you would see the seam, just like in the illustration above. This indicates that the bottle is entirely machine made, dating it to after 1900.
What’s notable about the bottom is the “suction scar” that you see running around the edge and through the “Diamond O-I” maker’s mark. This is another sign of a machine-made bottle, dating it to post-1910, but the maker’s mark, belonging to Owens-Illinois Glass Company, was used from 1929-1959. This mark is quite common as Owens-Illinois dominated the glass manufacturing industry in the U.S. during this time period. Given the heaviness of the bottle and thickness of the base, I would date it to pre-1945, after which war-time restrictions aimed at conserving resources would have been in place. Not terribly valuable, but nice to decorate with.
I’m not exactly 100% sure of bottle #2’s purpose, but the shape seems to suggest extract.
On the bottom we find the Owens-Illinois Glass Company “Diamond O-I” mark (and the suction scar) dating it to 1929-59. It’s seam also runs to the top and over the lip, letting us know it was entirely machine made. Again, not a high value bottle, but an interestingly shaped one.
Both bottles #3 and #4 are likely medicinal or chemical bottles of some sort. The side seam on #3 ends short of the lip, dating it to about 1860-1880. It would have been hand blown into a mold (BIM), and the flared lip would have been hand-applied in a second step.
Both machine and hand-blown bottles frequently display embossed numbers and/or letters on their bases, sometimes having to do with their makers or date of production, but more likely related to their contents or production site.
The seam on #4, also a medicinal, runs right up to the very top, and as in my black and white illustration above, is visible when you look down on the top.
This “Box O” mark on the bottom lets us know that the Owens Bottling Company manufactured it sometime between 1919 and 1929. You can also see the suction scar surrounding the mark.
I call #5 a “brandy,” but really it’s the shape you expect for the specialty liqueur, B & B (Benedictine & Brandy).
It was manufactured by an English company, Edgar Beffits & Co Ld (E B & Co Ld), in business in Yorkshire from 1844-19. By 1884 they had become a limited (Ld) corporation, dating this bottle to sometime after 1884, even though it’s side seam stops short of the top (which would typically date it to between 1860 and 1880). But brandy bottles in Europe continued mold blown with applied tops until the 1920’s. [I know, it gets confusing!]
It’s got some really nice seeds running through it, so I might date it on the earlier side.
So it looks like my bottles range in age from a possible 1860 to 1959, and I’d guess they range in decorative value from $5.00 for the smallest medicinal to perhaps $12-20.00 for the larger medicinal and the brandy. Thanks for sticking with me to the bitter end–if you read this far, you’re a saint!!
I am grateful to
The Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Guide
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