Chambers's Edinburgh Journal.
William and Robert Chambers,
Editors of Chambers's Educational Course, 'Information For The People,' &c.
Nos. 366 to 391. January-June, 1851.
Published by William and Robert Chambers,
and W. S. Orr, London.
Chambers's Edinburgh Journal. No. 369. New Series.
Saturday, January 25, 1851.
Of all the fabrics that now contend for the palm of beauty in art manufacture, glass is at once the most elegant and the most superb. Coloured or gilt, our modern works in this pure and fragile material begin to excite just admiration, owing especially to the almost perfect quality of British glass. This circumstance has enabled out glass-stainers, with their improved artistical taste and chemical skill, to compete with and distance completely the antique productions in stained-glass, some of which have long remained the wonders of art, from their imperishable quality of colour an quaint expression of character or design. In common coloured ornaments, formed of glass pervaded by colour, the Bohemians have long eclipsed the world, and we had till lately no expectation of being able to compete with them in any department of ornamental glass manufacture, although their material, as stated in the 'Revue Polytechnique' is understoof to hide its imperfections under the cloak of the colour interfused. A recent invention by Mr Hale Thomson will henceforth place the British manufacturer far ahead of all such competition in the production of ornamental glass. It consists in coating the inner or reverse surface with pure silver. To this process it is that we owe the gorgeous orbs that begin to appear in London and Edinburgh drawing-rooms as pendants to the gaselier. The exhibition of the varied results and applications of this novelty in art is, however, still comparatively unknown, being almost limited in London to the private friends of the patentees, and in Edinburgh only displayed at one establishment in Princes Street (Mr Millar's). The extraordinary reflective power of the surface, and its capacity to throw back rays without more cleaning or polishing than might be required by a window-pane or common tumbler, render the process specially applicable for the reflectors used in railway signal lamps and in lighthouses. It is contemplated even to employ it in the construction of astronomical instruments, and not only so, but already have its extraordinary powers in the multiplication and reflection of light been rendered available in surgery as an important auxiliary in conducting the most difficult operations.
The dull amalgam applied to ordinary looking-glasses, and which derives nearly all its lustre from the glass, the back being opaque, and devoid of radiance, can bear no comparison with this silvering, which is effectually beyond the reach or possibility of being tarnished or impaired, except by the destruction of the object into whose supersicies it is interfused. A sparkling warmth emanated from the metallic radiance, contrasted with the Bohemian glass is merely pretty or tinselly. The gorgeous glow of the antique Venetian glass, the secret of which is now a lost art, seems here restored; but even the Venetian absorbed the light, and before its exquisite beauties could be described, had to be held up, whereas the English silvered glass flashes back the light, and at night, when surrounding objects are obscured in partial gloom, is then most radiant and conspicuous. Professor Donaldson, in a recent address to the Royal Architectural Society, in advocating the use of this gorgeous material in shop fronts - which would give us indeed brystal commercial palaces, and exlipse in London the --- of Augustus at Rome, of having found it built of brick, and left it of marble - pointed out that, independently of the silvering, many of the tints produced are entirely new, and such as no combination of prismatic hues had hitherto disclosed to the most experienced colourist. The nomenclature of art has in fact at present no vocabulary expressive of these novel results. But purples, sapphires, pinks, vermilions, pearls, bronzes, and every chromatic hue from brightest steel to deepest gold, are thrown up in this new argentine reflection. Another characteristic never, according to the German prints, attempted since the discovery of glass itself by Hermes the Syrian, distinguishes this manufacture - that is, embossing. The thing, it is true, is an optical delusion. To the touch, the apparenty raised or sunken surface, dead or frosted, cut or burnished, does not exit. But the eye nevertheless beholds such results.
Crystal silver cups, goblets lined with burnished gold, epergnes, candelabra, wine-coolers, salts, tazzas, ink-stands, ewers, sugar-boxes, and all sorts of ornaments, are the objects to which we have seen this invention applied. Candlesticks it seems impossible to distinguish from actual silver; and looking-glasses, with frames made in the same piece, are warmly praised by the Liverpool press, where it has been stated that frame and glass together, composed of embossed and variegated glass, have also been prepared expressly from the residences of certain eminent London artists from designs furnished by themselves, and are perhaps a greater source of astonishment than any of the smaller achievements in chimney, toilet, or table ornaments. But the mirror globes which we have already mentioned are in their exquisite simplicity the gems of the whole collection. Of all sizes, of all colours; from two to thirty inches in diameter; from the capacity of half a pint to that of forty gallons, those magnificent mirror balls, places on the shoulders of an Atlas or under the talons of an eagle of bronze, are at once the type and glory of this exquisite art.