British rummers were initially produced during the Georgian period from around 1780 onwards. The name rummer is thought to probably derive from the Germanic word 'roemer' meaning ‘Roman type’. Roemers were in fact traditional German wine glasses produced during the 15th and 16th centuries. They would typically have been designed with a flared foot and decorated with prunts in the the form of blackberries, raspberries or lions' heads applied to the stem and functioning as a grip. Roemers were not produced in Britain during this period. However, a few were known to have been made in England towards the end of the 17th century.
Unlike the German roemers, English rummers were initially used for drinking rum punch or rum combined with water and, later from about 1810, used for ale and beer with this being reflected in decorations incorporating hops and barley. Hence the name rummer can logically be assumed to be an amalgamated corruption of the words roemer and rum.
Rummers were designed with a short stem, a wide bowl and foot and usually produced from clear lead crystal with varying degrees of lead. Due to the practical functioning aspect of rummers, the form barely changed during the course of their production with glassmakers having no incentive to experiment. The only notable difference in form was the feet of rummers produced became larger and thicker from around 1820 onwards as heavier drinking glasses became more popular.
Coloured rummers are particularly rare, only occasionally found in Bristol blue, green and amethyst glass. They are also known to be among the first English glasses to be applied with engraved decoration and, as such, were often later made as souvenirs with the decoration being skilfully engraved. However, the earliest examples in fact had fairly minimal decoration being more practically designed, functioning as hard wearing tavern glasses with a sturdy form and only involving a small amount of decoration to the body and foot. Sometimes rummers are further decorated with cold gilding applied to the body in the form of names, mottos or bands of decoration.
Being highly functional and hence vulnerable to wear, few have survived in good condition. They tend to have quite worn bases and many examples from the early to mid 19th century are scratched to the interior due to the contents being stirred with glass swizzle rods. Hence condition is very important and will usually dramatically affect the value. Very occasionally, a formal set of eight or more rummers can be found going to auction, but as such will command a significantly higher premium.
If you have any glassware you would like to have valued, please contact Robin Newcombe of Grand Auctions, Folkestone, Kent.
- Posted by Robin Newcombe