An Introduction to F & C Osler, Glassmakers to the Queen
F & C Osler, the leading British glassmaking company of the 19th century, was established by Thomas Osler in 1807 in Birmingham. In its infancy, the company only manufactured chandeliers and glass furniture. However, when Thomas Osler’s sons, Follett Osler and Clarkson Osler, joined the business, the company’s operation expanded, resulting in the opening of its second branch in London in 1845.
Thomas’ business acumen and skills, when combined with the inspiring dynamism and spirit of his sons, resulted in the widespread growth of the company. F & C Osler received an important commission in 1850, when they supplied a giant crystal fountain for the Great Exhibition that was to be held in Hyde Park, London, in 1851. The fountain measured about 27 feet (8.25 meters) high and contained about 4 tons (4,000 kilograms) of crystals. It was a time when cut glass was considered the benchmark of quality for glass fixtures. Hence, the quality and appeal of the fountain were primarily dependent upon the skills of glass cutters. The workers of Osler utilized that opportunity to showcase their craftsmanship and finesse, which helped the company establish a name for itself and leaving a great impression on the international visitors and experts alike. The fountain even got a special mention in the exhibition’s catalogue – its magnificence, grandeur, novelty, delicacy, and beauty of design, and the expert craftsmanship that it displayed.
The grand fountain received huge appreciation and opened doors to new opportunities for F & C Osler. The company received several other important commissions in the following years. The most important ones included the manufacturing of a large chandelier for St. George’s Hall, Liverpool in 1856, and a 36-lights chandelier for the Mansion House in London.
In 1858, the company received another important order, but this time it wasn’t for a lighting fixture, but for tableware. F & C Osler provided tableware for the banquet held by Queen Victoria in the Great Dining Room of Aston Hall at the occasion of the mansion’s opening for the public. According to the company’s archives, the Queen was so highly impressed by the quality of glassware that she asked the company’s representative for permission to keep a champagne glass.
The company also received huge appreciation from both experts and the public when it exhibited its products at the Paris Exhibition in 1862.
Owing to the expert craftsmanship that was displayed in its products, F & C Osler continued to grow throughout the 19th century and was considered a leading name of the industry. Experts were of the opinion that the company redefined the art of ‘brilliant cut glass.’ As you know, ‘brilliant-cut glass’ is a style or form of glassware decoration that’s crafted entirely by hand. It involves making fine cuts on the glass surface by manually holding and moving it against a rotating stone or metal polishing wheel and requires great skill to achieve the multitude of fine facet cuts.
The style emerged in the late 1870s and was taken to new heights of brilliance and finesse by the experts at F & C Osler. The motifs or designs that were initially used included stars, strawberry diamond, polygonal or hob-nail diamonds, and fan scallops. However, F & C Osler continued to improve on its designs regularly. By the 1880s, the company was producing glassware with significantly complex, brilliant cut glass designs.
Since the United Kingdom had established trade routes to India by the 19th century and the country was seen as a potentially beneficial market for glassware, F & C Osler started exporting its products to India. India made the largest export market for F & C Osler products during the 19th century.
Nicholas Wells Antiques is delighted to offer a collection of 19th-century chandeliers by F & C Osler, the collection can be viewed here. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further details. Worldwide delivery is available.