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  • Place of origin:

    London (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hale Thomson, F. (inventor)
    James Powell & Sons (manufacturer)
    E. Varnish & Co. (inventor)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ruby and white glass, silvered

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125c, case 3

Object Type
This trumpet-shaped vase is a purely decorative object, designed to impress. It seeks attention with its silvery surface, and the use of ogee-shaped arches suggests a slightly adventurous exotic taste on the part of its owner. The method of making double-walled silvered glass was complex and made more so by the introduction of coloured glass.

Materials & Making
The process of making double-walled silvered glass was patented by Edward Varnish and Frederick Hale Thompson in 1849. A number of glassworks, such as that of James Powell & Sons of Whitefriars, London, made the blanks. A stemmed vase or goblet shape was formed, with the glass-blower stopping short of opening out the mouth. Instead, the top of the vase, still sealed as a bubble-shape, was reheated and 'dropped' inwards to form a double-walled interior. This plain, undecorated vase was then supplied to E. Varnish & Co., where it was filled between the walls from the foot end with a solution of silver nitrate and glucose (in the form of grape juice). The final stage was to seal the hole in the foot with a metal disc, in this example marked for Varnish's Patent.

The silvered glass exhibited by E. Varnish & Co. fascinated commentators on the 1851 Great Exhibition. Varnish's salvers, vases, globes and goblets were bold in size and presentation, using non-tarnishing silver, ornamented with coloured casing, cutting and engraving. The process 'added a richness and beauty of colouring to that material of which few could deem it capable of receiving' (Illustrated London News).

Place of Origin

London (probably, made)


ca. 1850 (made)


Hale Thomson, F. (inventor)
James Powell & Sons (manufacturer)
E. Varnish & Co. (inventor)

Materials and Techniques

Ruby and white glass, silvered

Marks and inscriptions

'E. Varnish & Co. Patent London' inscribed on the metal rim and on an inserted metal plug in the base
Makers's mark


Height: 46.9 cm, Diameter: 18 cm

Object history note

Probably made in London by James Powell & Sons

Descriptive line

Vase, England (probably London), possibly made by J. Powell and Sons under the patent of F. Hale Thomson and E.Varnish, 1849-1860

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Chen, xie jun. World Exposition Museum. Shanghai: Shanghai wen yi chu ban she, 2010 ISBN 9787532140503/G.107. 95,97,99,105,pp. ill.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Stylistically and technically this vase demonstrates the flair of British manufacturers in the 19th century. The arched decoration suggests the Moorish (Islamic) architecture of Spain and northern Africa. This is combined with colouring and cutting in the manner of glass from Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic). [27/03/2003]

Production Note

E. Varnish and F. Hale Thomson patented the silvering process used in the manufacture of this vase.


Glass; Vases; British Galleries


Ceramics Collection

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