Whether you inherited a beautiful stemware set or bought individual pieces at a yard sale or antiques store, most of us have glassware that we love but don't know much about. Finding the maker and pattern of a stem takes some research. However, the payoff is knowing more about your crystal tableware. That makes it more valuable to you, if you choose to keep it, and to the marketplace, if you decide to sell.
Find the Maker's Mark
Look on the bottom of the glassware for a maker's mark. This may be a signature or a symbol. Because the underside can have an elaborate decorative cut or be worn through use, it may be hard to discern the mark. Use a magnifying glass to get a good look.
Get in Touch with the Company
Once you've identified a maker's mark, contact the company if it is still in business. Many companies offer help in identifying crystal patterns, including older and discontinued stemware.
Look through Crystal Collectors Guides
Use the illustrations and descriptions in glassware identification guides in order to find your piece. Start with a general guidebook like "Crystal Stemware Identification Guide" by Bob Page and Dale Frederiksen. This book features pictures of over 4,000 crystal patterns from more than 400 glassware makers. If you know the manufacturer of your stem, use the book's index to view all the patterns from that company. If you have been unable to identify the glassware maker, compare the pattern of your piece to the guide's detailed illustrations.
Consult Other Collectors
Longtime stemware collectors are good resources for helping you identify your own tableware. Attend antiques and collectibles shows or visit antiques stores. Find booths or shops that have an extensive selection of stemware. Talk to the owner and see if he or she can give you more information about your piece. Look for a national glassware collectors club to join and network via e-mail with other members. Find out if there is a local organisation of glassware enthusiasts you can join. A website like Meetup is helpful for finding others in your area who have this interest. When communicating with a fellow collector, show detailed pictures and provide specifics of the stemware you want to identify. Share features such as manufacturer's markings, etched or engraved designs and size.
Contact a Crystal Replacement Service
China and crystal replacement services specialise in helping people acquire tableware that has been discontinued or is hard to find. Replacements Ltd. offers a free service to identify stemware makers and patterns. Send a photo of your piece via fax, e-mail, or the US postal service. Once the stem has been identified, you can buy more pieces, if available, or even sell your glassware to the company.