Monday, January 23, 2017

A Line of Relief . . . and Intaglio Work

The line of work picked up by our man Penrose Hawkes—the one whom we discovered between the covers of a discarded family photograph album in a local antique shop—was not only an enterprise handed down to him from the previous generation, but one with a long history intertwined with the family heritage.

As we saw last week, the man bidding Penrose to leave his home in County Cork, Ireland, to join him in Corning, New York, was Samuel Hawkes, son of the founder of T. G. Hawkes and Company, masters at cut glass manufacturing.

What was so special about cut glass? The allure of this product is better realized when we understand it was a material known as cut leaded crystal in which the company was actually dealing. In order to withstand the forces of the engraving process, a special type of material needed to be used: glass to which is added up to forty percent lead oxide, making it to soft enough to cut—thus gaining the ability to withstand the pressures associated with application of artistic designs.

From its founding in Corning by Thomas Gibbons Hawkes in 1880, the company used both cutting and engraving techniques to create geometric and floral scenes in the decorations featured on their crystal. The engraving processes used at T. G. Hawkes included various styles. Primary among them were relief work and intaglio work—the former referring to a design raised above the background, and the latter involving a design cut below the surface.

Though T. G. Hawkes and Company enjoyed prosperity up through the first half of the twentieth century, after World War II, they faced inevitable decline. Yet even now, you can find many of their still-sought designs in catalogs such as this one, from the firm known as Replacements, Ltd.

Yet, below the surface of that one company's rise and fall lies not just the story of Penrose's immediate family history, but a link to a more long-standing family heritage, as well. You see, Penrose was not only related to the man who started the T. G. Hawkes concern in Corning, New York, but he also had roots in another company back home in Ireland, known for centuries for their crystal work, as well.

Above: Entry in the Corning City Directory for T. G. Hawkes and Co., two years before its president's passing in 1913; courtesy 


  1. I've inherited a lot of crystal but I guess no Hawkes.

    1. I always thought crystal was crystal was crystal--not being as fortunate as you, Wendy, to inherit any fine specimens--but if we can believe the Hawkes Company's own PR, they must have had some impressive designs.

  2. I know there are many different designs, I find glass such a beautiful distraction:)

    1. I'm not surprised to learn that, Far Side, having seen some of your glass creations.

  3. I've some Waterford glasses that I got when visiting the factory in Ireland.

    Beautiful stuff.


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