If you’re anything like me, you’ve been tempted more than once by the pretty vintage plates at thrift stores and estate sales. The good news is, some of them can be successfully used in glass fusing projects.
Here’s a fun quiz question: Of the four plates pictured, can you identify the tempered ones?
(The answer is at the end of the post) In the meantime, here are some clues to help you identify different types of vintage plates.
Notice the thin pink glass next to the much thicker clear and yellow glass. Many thin vintage plates are made with borosilicate glass, a precursor to pyrex. Borosilicate is used by some lampworkers and in laboratories. The thinness of the plate is an indicator that it is tempered.
Often vintage plates will be heavily scratched. They are, after all, vintage. These scratches look remarkably like the marks made when scoring tempered glass:
And frequently, vintage dishes have chips in the edges. The chips are good news in a way, they indicate the glass is not tempered.
Often vintage dishes are pressed into molds, giving them a crisp and sparkly detail. Tempered plates can also be pressed (prior to tempering), but the detail isn’t nearly as crisp. Compare the detail of this red plate:
in the 50’s and 60’s, most tempered glass dishes were being made by Arc International (fascinating history, if you’re a glass history buff) located in France. So, lots (not ALL) of tempered plates have a label on them. Some have a name too, some just say FRANCE:
The pink one and the red one. The clear and the yellow are soda lime glass and can be used for fusing.
My recommendation is to do low heat projects, slumping or cutting and fire polishing to maintain the pattern. Here are some ideas:
This is a votive made with a clear round vintage plate. I added some mica to the pattern just for fun. Notice how stretched out the pattern is on the base. These plates behave more like art glass than bottle glass, so use an art glass slumping schedule (or use the recycled slump schedule and subtract 100 degrees from the top temperature and the annealing temperature).
Jewelry is another option, this bracelet was made from the yellow vintage plate, cut into shape, with the edges ground and then formed around a bracelet mandrel. Pendants are quite easy too, cut the glass into shapes, grind the edges, fire polish and add a bail. The patterns do the heavy lifting, and you’ll find that everyone has a fond memory of Grandmother’s candy dish.