The National Glass Collectors Fair

Heading: National Glass Collectors Fair

Thomas Webb & Sons:
Queen’s Burmese Ware

By Dilwyn Hier


A selection of Queens Burmese Ware.
A selection of Queens Burmese Ware, showing plain and decorated, matt and gloss finish.

For a number of years I have been researching Queen’s Burmese Ware and have catalogued many records and details for a book on the subject. It is hoped that I will be able to publish soon, making the book available either in electronic and perhaps paper format. To make this work the definitive reference book, I still require illustrations of some variants that I know exist but have not yet seen.

The following information is intended to provide a taste of the type of content you can expect from my publication. I also wish to outline the areas of research where I require help in acquiring samples or photographs of specific Queen’s Burmese designs.

Queen’s Burmese Ware was one of the most popular and most commercially successful types of glass. It is characterised as an opaque, single layered glass, which shades from a pale greenish yellow to a deep salmon pink, the whole having a rather fluorescent appearance. The mixture used to make the glass is initially yellow in colour. The glassmakers were then able to alter the colour by re-heating the mixture. Areas of a vessel, which were exposed to this re-heating, develop a distinctive pink (ruby) hue. The development of this colouration could therefore be determined by the amount of re-heating the glass was exposed to.

The colour development varies considerably, from a faint pink blush to a very dark and dirty pink, with a hint of blue. On some examples there is no evidence
of pink at all and with others the yellow is so weak it looks white.

The most important and distinctive characteristic of Burmese is that it’s transitions in colour occur in a single body of glass, and are not produced by coating one layer of coloured glass with that of another colour. The types of glass that were produced using the multi-layer technique, often used ruby in a “die away” fashion i.e. the ruby would be strong around the rim of an article shading into the base colour further away from the rim.This type of technique results in items of glassware where the transitions in colour can only be seen either on the inside or outside of the glass. Burmese differs in that such colour shading can generally be seen simultaneously on both the inside and the outside of a vessel.

Signatures and Shapes

Thomas Webb and Sons Trade Mark.
Thomas Webb & Sons
Trade Mark with and without the registration number.

Thomas Webb & Sons registered a Trade Mark on 11 September 1886. This mark is reproduced to the right. The signature, in the form of this Trade Mark, appears either acid etched or on printed-paper labels. Some acid etched signatures have an additional registration number below this mark.

Three numbers can be found: Rd. 67648, Rd. 80167 and Rd. 86246. However not all pieces were signed. I would be particularly interested in any items of Burmese with the registration number Rd. 86246.

Thomas Webb and Sons Trade Mark.
Illustration from the Pattern Books. All available patterns will be
reproduced in my book.

Thomas Webb's Records

Some records from Thomas Webb remain, which are by no means complete, where drawings confirm details of the patterns, shapes and designs of Queen’s Burmese ware. The first recorded pattern number is 15740, dated October 1886 (illustrated on right).

Surface Finish

Burmese was mainly given a matt (dull) satin finish, obtained by the use of acid. Those items that were not treated retained the natural high gloss finish. Burmese glass that has been left with its natural finish is often mistakenly referred to as “fire polished”.


Gilt and Enamel decoration - Jules Barbe Patterns

The decoration of Queen’s Burmese Ware at Thomas Webb
& Sons was carried out in the decorating shop under the direction of Jules Barbe, a Frenchman recruited by Thomas Wilkes Webb at the 1878 Paris International Exhibition.

The enamelled decoration is usually very flat. Most designs incorporate additional leaves, applied in a blue/grey wash, which resemble shadows and give the decoration a three dimensional effect. Where the enamel is raised from the surface, it is usually in the form of paste details, such as dots in the centre of flowers, to represent the stamens, or to represent tendrils on Ivy.

Most gilding, on the other hand, was generally raised from the surface in a style mastered by Jules Barbe. Some pieces of Burmese were decorated with a combination of gilding and enamel. For example, the branches and leaves of a design might be rendered in gilt and the flower heads enamelled. Alternatively you can also find examples where flower details can be found to have been accentuated with gilding.

Many different floral designs were produced, the most common being Hawthorne (usually referred to as prunus blossom), Ivy, Ivy and Berry, Virginia Creeper, Thistle and Dog Rose.

Another range of decorated Burmese Ware appears in a 1902 Webb pattern book. The designs are greatly influenced by the Art Nouveau style, with flowers and leaves taking on the characteristic “whip-lash” forms of this style.

Surface Patterns and Moulds

Surface pattern using honeycomb dip mould.
Surface pattern using honeycomb dip mould.

A further form of decoration adopted with Burmese Ware utilised raised surface patterns, achieved by the use of ‘dip’ moulds. The moulds, made of iron or brass, had a pattern cut into their internal surface, which created a pattern in relief on the surface of any gather of glass dipped or blown firmly in the mould. The gather was then blown or fashioned to the desired shape. During this process the pattern would distend, but remain clearly visible on the surface of the glass. On the surface
of such items, the thicker glass of the pattern would not
cool as quickly as the main body of the vessel. Consequently the re-heating process turned the glass surrounding the pattern, but not the pattern itself, which remained yellow.

The rib mould was the most commonly used design but diamond, honeycomb, arched semi-circular lines and water wave were also used.

Another innovative design utilised a patented skeleton mechanism (illustrated below right).

Patented skeleton mechanism.
Patented skeleton mechanism.

Air Trap and Air Twist

Some of the surface moulded patterns above were used to produce what is known as ‘Satin Air Trap’; this is referred to as ‘Mother of Pearl’ in America. In this case the gather of glass is dipped into the mould as before, but is then cased with a thin layer of clear or coloured crystal. This outer casing would trap air in the depressions of the design, between the two layers of glass. The usual finish on air trap articles, as the common name implies, would be matt satin. On these vessels the shaded effect common to Burmese would be visible on the inside only.

Another unusual variation on this technique was ‘air twist’, where spiraling tubes of air are trapped, spiraling around the body of a glass object.

Call For Contributions

I would be extremely interested in photographs that show examples of Queen’s Burmese that incorporate either of the above techniques, as well as any other unusual designs, patterns and colour variants.

I would also consider purchasing any of these items if they were offered for sale.

If you have any information regarding the designs I am looking for, you can contact me via email:

Many Thanks.

Dilwyn Hier


Please note that the content of this article is the sole intellectual property of the author. No reproduction or reference to the text of this article may be made without the express permission of the author.

Return to Glass Archive >>>