Digger Odell Publications

The term black glass refers to bottles made in dark amber, olive, olive-amber or black glass.  The earliest glass made in the United States was probably Black Glass.  The dark color was desirable to help protect the contents from sunlight and spoilage and was a result of the impurities in the sand used to make the glass.  The presence of iron oxides imparts this dark coloration. Early American glass blowers were from the European continent and brought with them this technology which had been used since at least the early 1600s. 

Bottle designs varied from country to country in Europe, with each one creating slightly differing forms.  These forms changed over the two to three hundred years black glass was made.  Black glass is the glass found on many of the early ship wrecks found off our coasts.  It can also be seen in paintings of the 1600-1800s. Identification of these various forms takes some practice and knowledge. Very little of the black glass sold in the US market today is of American origin.


The Most valuable Black glass bottles are those from the earliest period.  The form was called the shaft and globe so named for the bottle shape.  It became popular in the late 1600s through the early 1800s for glass seals, stamped with pictures, dates, names or initials, to be applied to the body of the bottle while still hot.  These are known as seal bottles.  A shaft and globe bottle with a seal would be a top bottle in this category. American seal bottles are in great demand.  Shards of one found in a well in Williamsburg, VA has been reproduced and is often mistaken for a valuable bottle. Many of the American seals were produced in the 1800s.


 Get Your Copy Today


European Seal bottle

Example of an American Seal bottle circa 1816

Most Black Glass is undecorated
and without seals

Paintings are often found on
Black Glass bottles.

Black Glass Bottles come in a variety of forms and colors.
Examples of late Seal Bottles 1790-1830
Case Gin Bottles circa 1800-1820



Digger Odell's Black Glass Price Guide, 2009.


Hume, Ivor Noel. Artifacts of Colonial America. New York. Vintage Press. 1969.


Murschell, Dale.  American Applied Glass Seal Bottles. Springfield, W VA. Privately Printed. 1996.