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Antique Glass Knobs

Updated on February 13, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Nothing can give a home historic styling more than antique glass knobs. While the reproduction knobs may save money and give you a similar look they will never have the same qualities as the real thing.

History of Glass Knobs

Glass knobs for cabinets and other furniture, as well as regular door knobs, came into common use early in the 19th century. Although first made popular in England the style spread to the United States and was definitely established throughout the American Empire era (1814 – 1840) and into the Victorian years. In fact, glass knobs remained popular well into the 20h century.

The first glass knobs were very plain and made of smooth round glass but as the manufacturing techniques improved shapes and details changed.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s glass knobs were made even more popular because of their use in the Sears and Montgomery Ward's kit houses.


Styles of Antique Glass Knobs

Although the first knobs were little more than balls of glass late knobs were given facets and shapes by wheel-grinding them and finishing with polishing.

Later knobs were cast in iron molds. These can be identified from the ones shaped on the wheel grinder because the cast knobs have rounded edges rather than sharp.

Once the Sandwich glass factory began making knobs the details became unique and complex with rosettes, carvings, and unique shapes. These fancy knobs were saved for the parlor furniture and other important areas of the home rather than kitchens and bedrooms. Doorknobs were generally consistent throughout the home, whether they were fancy or plain.

Hexagon shaped knobs came into vogue during the Craftsman era. The geometric shape complimented the other details from the era better than the oval and rounded shapes that had been previously popular.

Kitchen knobs were usually clear or milk glass; shaped in smooth rounds. This made them easy to clean and care for. It wasn't until after 1900 that the colored glass knob made its way into the kitchen on a regular basis. Even then, the clear or milk glass was used far more.

Some colors of antique knobs include:

  • Amber
  • Cobalt blue
  • Green
  • Light blue
  • Vaseline glass (light yellowish green and very rare)

Where to Find Vintage Glass Knobs

There are many places to find antique and vintage knobs if you want to add their charm to your home. Locally you can check for architectural salvage companies in your area. These companies remove usable parts from historic homes before they are torn down and they stock everything from flooring to drawer pulls.  They are usually found in larger cities and areas with more historic homes.

Another possibility is a flea market. Dealers bring all kinds of things that they have found and believe that people will be interested in buying. Door knobs, cabinet knobs, and other small house parts are often found among their wares.

Antique shops are a good choice. You may pay more than in the other venues and find less of a selection however.

If you can't locate the knobs in your area then the Internet if full of architectural salvage companies specializing in old house parts and eBay is an excellent resource of these types of vintage house parts.

Using Antique Knobs in Decorating and Crafts

If you happen to find a few unique vintage knobs but they don't work for your renovations you may want to pick them up anyway. Glass knobs can be used in a variety of decorative ways.

  • Attach to a painted piece of wood and attach to the wall as clothes hooks, key holders or a towel rack.
  • Attach to the wall to hold light pictures suspended on ribbon or wire.
  • Use mismatched knobs on a distressed dresser or cabinet.
  • Mound several of them in a basket just to look at.
  • Mount one of them on each side of a window to use as curtain pullbacks
  • Mount several small ones across the top of a window and use them to hold a valance attached with ties.

The ideas are endless. Finding ways to add these interesting vintage items to your home may become a personal hobby.


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    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 6 years ago from USA

      Hi Marye - Interesting article, this one. I remember how, many, many years back, someone in our X-ray department bought some glass doorknobs and stacked them close by one of our powerful X-ray therapy units, leaving them there for a few weeks. The glass turned from being without any color to various shades of blue, purple, and brown - very colorful.

      Well I do know that not very many of us can do something like that, but we might be able to see what might happen by our sticking some clear glass into a big sack of 13-13-13 chemical fertilizer which emits some radioactivity, or putting the glass into a pike (sack?) of coal ashes (lots of thorium and uranium in it), or seeing what happens if you simply stick the glass out into the bright sun for a few months.

      Gus :-)))

    • profile image

      gogogo 6 years ago

      Loved the article

    • profile image

      Golfgal- Lisa 6 years ago

      While antiquing some years ago i bought a box of that box was a pair of old glass knobs. I have always loved that little find. I just sit them around here and there to look at. voted up.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I love antiques, and found this hub interesting since I have some of my great grandmother's glass doorknobs. It sounds silly, I know, but we use them in our home today.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Having grown up with them, I've always loved antique glass doorknobs. Great Hub!