Crystal decanters are beautiful and useful pieces valued by collectors, wine connoisseurs and lovers of fine glassware. Some people have collected their decanters from antiques stores and flea markets, while others have received pieces passed down through the family. Because of this, many people own decanters but don't knowing anything about their glassware's maker or pattern. Following a few easy steps, however, can help anyone learn to identify his or her crystal decanter.
Look for the maker's mark. Most pieces of crystal have a signature etched on the underside. Sometimes the signature is hard to read because of the decorative cuts on the bottom of the decanter or because of wear to the crystal.
Determine the name of the pattern. A decanter's pattern is determined by its distinctive design of decorative cuts and shapes. Become familiar with yours so you can identify it. Replacements Limited offers a large selection of new and antique crystal, and you may be able to find the pattern of your decanter through their online inventory. If you are unable to find your piece on your own, you can send the company a picture of your decanter, and they can help you with identification and valuation.
Visit your local library or bookstore. Look for guides on identifying decanters as well as more general guides on identifying fine crystal. Some examples are "Decanters 1760-1930" by David Leigh, "Decanter" by Andy McConnell, "How to Identify English Drinking Glasses and Decanters, 1680-1830" by Douglas Ash and "Collecting Decanters (Christie's International Collectors Series)" by Jane Hollingworth.
Take your piece to an antiques store that specialises in crystal. Many times, a knowledgeable shop owner will be able to identify the pattern for you, or you may be able to identify it yourself by looking at their selection. Also, owners of antique stores often have their own library of collectors guides with valuable information on identifying glassware.
Explore Internet antiques stores. Online stores are also useful for discovering information about the makers and patterns of crystal. Look for large, reputable antique and collectibles websites offering a diverse selection. Some examples are The Silver Queen, Ruby Lane and Go Antiques.
Find an appraiser who specialises in crystal. For a fee, the appraiser will authenticate and identify your piece. Contact a local antiques store or museum for recommendations on qualified professionals.
Look on eBay.com. Online auctions sites such as eBay are excellent places to see a wide variety of crystal and are often helpful in identifying a piece because of the pictures that accompany each auction. In addition, you will come away with an idea of what price you could get if you intend to sell the decanter yourself.