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Brilliant cutting

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts


Brilliant cutting


Cutting a pattern into flat glass with a rotating stone wheel, the cuts are then smoothed with polishing powders using a felt wheel. See also gilding, signwriting and reverse glass sign painting.


Status Endangered
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised
Origin in the UK 19th Century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 11-20
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Not known
Current no. of trainees Not known
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Not known
Current total no. of leisure makers
Not known
Minimum no. of craftspeople required



Brilliant cutting would have been common in the UK in the nineteeth century, with most towns boasting cut glass craftsmen, gilders and signwriters.

Brilliant cut glass is associated with traveller and fairground culture and communities. It is also synonymous with the British pub and pub culture.





Local forms





Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • The craft is labour intensive which puts people off learning it. It takes dedication and a lot of time to hone your skills.
  • The grindstones used to brilliant cut glass are principally of aluminium oxide, although historically they were made of sandstone from Craigleith in Edinburgh. Diamond impregnated wheels can be useful for roughing out. For some years it was difficult to source the wheels, however, there is now a source of new grinding wheels in the UK which is making the craft more accessible again.
  • The high cost of the materials and labour compared to the low cost and high speed of computer designed vinyl graphics reduces the number of clients willing to commission work.


Support organisations


Craftspeople currently known

Individual craftspeople:


Other information




  • Dreiser, P, and Matcham, J, (1982) The Techniques of Glass Engraving (London: Batsford)
  • Duthie, Arthur Louis, (1982) Decorative Glass Processes, 1908 (London: Dover reprint)
  • Frost, AC, and McGrath, R, (1961) Glass in Architecture and Decoration (London: The Architectural Press)
  • M Girouard, M, (1984) Victorian Pubs (Yale University Press)
  • B Stewart, B, (1983) Signwriting; a craftsman’s manual (Wiley-Blackwell)