Old-Fashioned Glassware Terms You Should Know

From Nappies to Comports, Learn Glass Definitions You Can Use

Some terms in the antiques and collectibles world reflect back on the time when items were produced rather than the way we describe these objects today. These names were often gleaned from manufacturer’s catalogs and vintage advertisements when these things were first recognized as collectibles decades ago.

As time has passed, the names have become more obsolete but continue to be used in collecting circles. The advantage to knowing both old and new names for these things is being able to search...MORE for them online if you’re shopping, and, to capitalize on keywords in titles if you’re selling. The glass collecting genre has a number of these terms to learn.

Take a look at the illustrated definitions below to find out more about some quaint definitions that will come in handy as you further explore both selling, collecting, and using antique and vintage glass in your home.

  • 01 of 07

    Comport and Compote

    Steuben Glass Comport
    Steuben Glass Comport. Clements Antiques of New Hampshire on RubyLane.com

    The terms comport and compote are sometimes used interchangeably along with the Italian word “tazza.” But are they the same thing?

    A comport is often shaped like a large, albeit flatter, sherbet dish (see below for shape reference) and they are used for holding food. Some are a bit flatter in shape, like a small rimmed plate sitting on a pedestal base. 

    How does a compote differ? The origin of the word comport actually is a 16th century variation of compote, so they are connected. Some folks...MORE maintain that a compote will have a lid whereas a comport doesn't, but that's not always the case. Some original catalogs issued by glassware manufacturers show pieces identified as compotes without lids. Compotes do vary in shape, however, to look somewhat like vases or candy dishes and comports are usually more bowl or saucer-like in appearance as shown here.

    A tazza is essentially a shallow stemmed, footed vase or cup as well. They can be purely decorative, though, and may be made of materials not intended or safe for use with food. 

    Note that covered footed bowls the size of sherbet dishes were sometimes sold as powder jars in Depression glass patterns. These shouldn’t be confused with larger lidded compotes. 

  • 02 of 07

    Console Bowl

    Pink Depression Glass Console Bowl with Etched Design
    Pink Depression Glass Console Bowl. For the Love of Trees on RubyLane.com

    This is a type of large glass bowl used to hold a centerpiece arrangement of flowers or fruit on a dining table or buffet. They were especially popular from the 1920s through the 1940s, and usually had matching candlesticks to place on either side of the bowl. Depression glass versions often have wide, rolled edges like the one shown here, but they took many shapes. 

    Console bowls can be part of larger sets of etched glassware, such as those made by Fostora and Cambridge, for instance. A round...MORE flower frog (see below) fits neatly into the center of these bowls. 

    Later console bowls were made of ceramic materials and other types of glass, like milk glass, in many different shapes including shells, swans, and dolphins along with more abstract Mid-Century Modern designs. They were largely out of fashion with homemakers after the 1950s but collectors and vintage enthusiasts find a place for them in homes today. 

  • 03 of 07

    Frog

    Glass Flower Frog to Hold Flowers in a Vase
    Glass Flower Frog. Chessie & Nestor Go Antiquing on RubyLane.com

    In glass terms, a frog is an element, usually round, with multiple holes that hold flowers in place in a vase or console bowl (see above). They range from small clear glass pieces to flatter versions fitted to a specific vase or bowl. Some of the most decorative, and expensive, flower frogs were made in figural shapes such as nudes or birds.

    Plain flower frogs are considered common, and are usually very reasonably priced, unless they’re made of glass in unusual colors. Many vintage frogs were...MORE made of other materials including metals (more cage-like in appearance) and ceramics.  

  • 04 of 07

    Nappy

    Handled Heart-Shaped Early American Pattern Glass (EAPG) Nappy
    Handled Heart-Shaped Early American Pattern Glass (EAPG) Nappy. Art Decosurf'n on RubyLane.com

    Nappy, in antique glassware terms, references a shallow open serving dish with no rim and a flat bottom. In most instances it defines a small bowl, with or without one or two handles. This term is commonly used to identify small bowls when referring to Depression glass and antique china.

    Nappies are many times round, but can be leaf- or heart-shaped as well and formed of many different types of glass and ceramic materials. The term is likely derived from the obsolete word “nap” which referenced a...MORE drinking cup or bowl in Middle English.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Sherbet

    Georgian Green Sherbet Dish
    Georgian Green Sherbet Dish. Jay B. Siegel for ChicAntiques.com

    Since vintage sellers don’t want to thwart the marketability of a dish by denoting that it might be made only for one purpose, these small bowls are usually just called footed dishes today. But back when they were new, they were always listed as sherbet dishes in glass wholesaler catalogs. Most vintage types were made entirely of glass. Occasionally antiquers will run across examples that fit into a metal holder, and those were made without bases.

    Sherbet dishes can actually be used for dishing...MORE up everything from reasonable servings of ice cream, or sherbet if you want to be traditional, to berries and yogurt. They can still readily be found in thrift stores and antique malls in variety of colors and patterns in the $5-10 price range.

  • 06 of 07

    Spooner

    Early American Pattern Glass (EAPG) Spooner
    Early American Pattern Glass (EAPG) Spooner. Decrepit Dan's on RubyLane.com

    Some spooners, at first glance, can be mistaken for large sugar bowls since they may handles on each side and are similar in shape. Spooners, however, but do not have covers. They were designed, as the name implies, to hold spoons or other flatware on a buffet or serving table.

    Most spooners are older than the few made during the 1920s and ‘30s to match Depression glass sets. They are often identified as Early American Pattern Glass (EAPG), or pressed glass, like the one shown here, and were made...MORE in a variety of patterns during that peak in popularity.  

  • 07 of 07

    Tumbler

    Windsor Pink Depression Glass Tumbler Glass
    Windsor Pink Depression Glass Tumbler Glass. Pamela Y. Wiggins for ChicAntiques.com

    In basic terms, antique and vintage tumblers are just everyday drinking glasses. They can be plain or footed, and were made in a variety of sizes from juice varieties to those large enough to hold iced beverages. You'll find Depression glass, Carnival glass, and milk glass, along with a host of other antique and collectible tumblers available.

    Most online sellers use the word tumbler in describing old glasses like these because they know collectors will employ this keyword when searching for...MORE pieces to add to collections.