Styling: Mandy Keener |
Glass decanters were born out of necessity to decant, or pour, filter and oxygenate wine. Their various shapes also have a purpose, such as those designed with very large bases so as to not tip over while traveling on a ship. But beyond that, says collector Larry Jordan, owner of Little Rock’s Fabulous Finds Antiques, their appearance is largely ornamental. “The fancier the decanters were, the more impressive,” he says. “It was a sign of wealth.”
Jordan, however, doesn’t collect decanters for their monetary value or to hold liquor. “What I’m after,” he says, “is a unique look that no one else has.” He offers a plethora of original ideas for decorating with and using decanters.
He often begins by grouping three or five together on a silver or wooden tray, or arranging them at alternating levels using stacked books or brass or silver bases. And he experiments until he finds the look that he wants. This might involve hanging a tassel or two, or even draping a piece of vintage jewelry. “Being in the antique business, sometimes I purchase jewelry boxes and the contents are still inside,” he says. “Wrapping rhinestone necklaces around the neck of a decanter creates something completely different and beautiful.”
Switching out the original stoppers with ones he discovers while antiquing is another one of Jordan’s tricks-of-the-trade—even the stoppers were artfully designed and can add appeal. They have distinctive shapes, such as spire or mushroom, and often feature beautifully cut or etched glass as well.
The wide variety of styles further encourages Jordan’s artistic license. He is particularly fond of cut-to-clear glass. Through this delicate process, colored glass is layered or flashed over clear glass before being cut, exposing the clear glass underneath. “A lot of times, poorer people would buy decanters made to look cut, but they were really pressed,” he explains, noting one of his own with a pressed thumbprint pattern. Bohemian cut-to-clear glass, which Jordan also has, is cut and etched, sometimes with pastoral scenes. Still others are hand-painted or feature enamel overlay, and they come in a wide array of vibrant colors—amber, amethyst, apple green, which is Jordan’s favorite, and more.
When he’s not carefully adorning or displaying them, Jordan is filling them with flowers or using them to hold mouthwash. “I do whatever I can,” he says, “to make the collection all my own.”
Advice from Larry Jordan of Fabulous Finds Antiques
-Consider shape when determining age. For example, amphora and globe shapes were popular during the Victorian era.
-Estate sales are a good source for antique decanters. “They’re often passed down through family,” Jordan says, “which may be one reason that some of the wonderful ones are still around.”
-Examine the edges to distinguish between cut and pressed glass. Cut glass has sharp edges while pressed glass has rounded edges.
-Hand wash flash-colored decanters to keep the color from fading.