Thursday, December 17, 2009

Adding a Little Sparkle: Mercury Glass

In the spirit of doing more with less, I introduce to you (again) Mercury Glass. Ok probably not. When I started this post, I hadn't realized how very well-documented Mercury Glass is in the blogosphere. Ah well.

Mercury Glass has been called "poor man's silver," particularly in England. It's made by blowing glass into a double-walled mold and inserting silver in between. Rather than containing mercury (toxic and expensive) the solution is actually a silver nitrate that is poured between the two layers of glass.

Mercury glass began in Europe- first Germany in the early 19th Century, then moved to France, England and finally the United States. Pieces made generally were candlesticks, vases, tumblers, goblets and the like. It was (and is!) a great tarnish-free alternative to silver.

For a bit of time (I believe in the late 1800s), it fell out of favor, being criticized as too shiny and much like a mirror. Many of the pieces were tossed or destroyed, making older pieces more rare. In the early 1900s, however, mercury glass started being used in ornaments as well as tabletop pieces. Apparently, little girls working in assembly lines (the industrial revolution wasn't always pretty!) used to paint little flowers and other decor on their pieces.

Mercury Glass is having a bit of resurgence and I've found it fascinating how the bright/shiny/silver Mercury Glass was popular first but we're now seeing more and more of the "antiqued" version. One of the things I love about Mercury Glass is how it can add easily add a bit of festivity to your decor without screaming Merry Merry like some red and green. Additionally, Mercury Glass doesn't have to be packed backed up in January. Less to store! And may I say again- no tarnishing! Most of my holiday decor is of the silver-plated variety and requires polishing before setting out.

Much of the new "antiqued" Mercury Glass is available as candleholders- votives, candlesticks, etc. or vessels - compotes, vases, etc.

Used here in Design Style from Ballard Designs. 6 votives, $55 (on sale!) And I LOVE that deer!

Get a whole mix and match set of votives....

For a bit more value, check out Luna Bazaar- great selection of votives and ornaments.

Ballard Designs has quite a selection available...

as does Wisteria

Even Orvis sells Mercury Glass
Mercury Glass Candlesticks
via Orvis

And because it's "holiday-related" all are on sale! Of course, it would be more fun to discover mercury glass at your local vintage market or boutiques.

Mercury glass serves as a great backdrop to reds and doesn't require a lot of extra dressing up. Just take your everyday mercury glass, add candy canes, cranberries, and some red flowers and voila. Holiday.

or doing the silver and blue thing for a cool-toned look...

via Urban Farmhouse (she has a super-cute online store and blog and I just cheered for her when she talks about the finials appearing in Country Living!)

I happen to really like it against green, as both colors pop.

Mercury Glass Candlestick holders, via The Lettered Cottage

Katie's set around her Rosemary tree is gorgeous

Set just below a wreath (and mercury balls on top of the wreath)

or amid the greens... it's perfect Holiday.

Better Homes and Gardens via Living Better together

Ballard Designs via CocoCozy

Come Spring, add some purple or pink, and mercury glass will still work!


OK, yes, these last two are Christmas, still, but couldn't it go right into Spring!?

Have a sparkling day! (and yes, that was cheesy).



  1. Mercury glass is so underrated. I never see it unless it's in a magazine, yet amazingly you can find tons of it atr places like Home Goods, Marshall's, and TJ Maxx.

    What beautiful, inspiring pictures. I do love a little sparkle in my day!

  2. Hi Emmie,

    I just learned that Deanna from Outer Banks Trading Group is giving away ALL three prizes..., and you're the winner of prize number 2, which is the set of Coastal Pillows!! So please email me your address to

    You'll be officially announce on my blog tomorrow, Friday!

  3. I love mercury glass too!
    I have a bunch of different sized apothecary jars (like those beauties from Wisteria) on my dining table. Looks great for the holidays.


  4. I adore mercury glass -- I'm a huge fan of sparkle and absolutely HATE to polish, so it's the perfect compromise for me!

  5. I have never met anything Mercury glass that I didn't love!

  6. Absolutely gorgeous post!!! Love the fresh roses in the cups!!


  7. You know my love for it! I can't get enough! You really picked out some gorgeous photos!

  8.'s all so beautiful. I like it against the green, too!

  9. I will have a very sparkly day!

  10. Such beautiful images. I love the 'old' look of Mercury glass and the fact that it can mix with gold or silver, formal or informal settings, and it always add a touch of sparkle.

  11. Pretty Pretty...yay for the holidays and yay for Friday!

  12. that Katie DID pic is great! I have been lucky to find cheap mercury glass over the past few years at random places. I do love it mixed in!

  13. What a fantastic & comprehensive post. Sadly, the USA seems to have the franchise on M.G. availablity, as I've seen very few examples in Australia that match the product range you guys have. So I will just have to admire them from afar & hope that one day, we'll have lots to choose from too.
    Millie ^_^

  14. Not cheesy in the least, Emmie :)

    I like this post -- there are so many lovely ideas in here...the glass is very chic, indeed. I really like the pic that features the rosemary tree...

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend {xo}

  15. I don't have any MG - after seeing this I think I should! Lovely post. Leigh

  16. Gorgeous post! I must say I have quite a collection of mercury glass and it looks particularly lovely at Christmas time! Merry Christmas...Tracey xx

  17. I adore mercury glass. My kitties demolished my tabelscape full of it last year. Boo!


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