Plate glass is thicker and better adapted to the cabinet-maker, the only thing that can be said against it in favour of sheet being its weight in large doors, though this is not a serious objection if these are properly made and hinged. It is the only kind that is or should be used for mirrors, for which the best quality only ought to be selected. In common furniture little regard is paid to this, and even silvered sheet is sometimes seen.
Glass is sold by superficial measurement, and can be had in larger sizes than the cabinet-maker is ever likely to require. There is no occasion to stock it, as the best and usual plan is to order it as wanted, ready cut to special sizes. In fact, all the cabinet-maker has to do is to fit it into its frames. The glass merchant, silverer, or beveller does all the rest, and on him the purchaser must chiefly depend for quality. Some facts about glass, however, will not be uninteresting to the user, for even if a knowledge of them is not essential, it may save the beginner both annoyance and expense. With the manufacture of glass we have nothing to do, though on account of objections which have been raised against its use in large sheets in furniture by some writers, it may be well to say that it could till comparatively recent years only be made in small pieces. This is sufficient reason for it having been used sparingly by those older furniture designers who are sometimes held up as models of all that is correct. By the way, Chippendale & Co. did not use iron and brass bedsteads, ergo, by a similar argument, these are not suitable for modern bedrooms. Just the same with glass. Of course, an excessive amount of glitter is hardly an evidence of good taste, but this is a subject which can hardly be discussed here. Suffice it to suggest that what is in good taste to one is barbaric splendour to another. All ladies are supposed, or suppose themselves, which is quite another matter, to possess good taste, and we find them differing entirely in their views as to 'what's what' in furniture. If it were not heresy to do so, I would hint that they mostly act as they would with dress, viz., follow the fashion. With such examples as these before him, the cabinetmaker cannot do better than use his own discretion about glass, only he need not be led away by the notion that because old furniture has very little in it his must not have.
In most of the largest towns there are dealers who supply glass for cabinet-makers, i.e., it is specially selected by them for the purpose of being used in furniture. Where there are not such dealers it is no use going to the ordinary glazier or builder, especially for silvered glass, though the quality of the metal he supplies may be equal, i.e., the sheets themselves are of the same make. If ordinary window glass has a few flaws it does not matter, but in a silvered plate every scratch or air bubble becomes conspicuous. On its freedom from such defects the quality of plate glass principally depends for silvering. Some importance may also be attached to colour, and this will be seen to vary if the plates are critically examined. An absolutely colourless glass is hardly obtainable in the form of plate, and for all ordinary purposes any good plate, whether of English, Belgian, or French, is practically without colour. Each kind has its own peculiarities, French being generally the whitest, while English has a greenish hue. The former, however, is more apt to change than the latter, which alters very little, and is therefore preferred by many. In any case the difference is so trifling between the different kinds that few, unless experts, would observe it.
It may be interesting to note that the principal dealers arrange their plate glass into three classes - ordinary glazing, best glazing, and silvering. The classification, however, is more or less a chance one, as there is no fixed standard to determine by. The best are put in the latter class, those not so good go in the second, while the first one includes the rest. Everything, therefore, depends on the selector, so that it is of considerable importance to the user to deal with a respectable firm, or he may find a very inferior plate classed as silvering quality. It will be found that the average of the best glazing supplied by some is quite equal to the silvering quality of others. On looking at any dealers' lists it will be seen that there is a good deal of difference between the prices of the three classes. Generally, however, the cabinet-maker buys his glass ready silvered, and it is then assumed to be only the best kind. This, however, is not invariably the case, and the purchaser should carefully examine each plate all over for flaws. These are principally scratches caused by careless handling, air bubbles, or seeds in the glass, and water stains or marks either on the silvered surface of the glass or on the surface of the silvering. If, as is sometimes the case, a defective plate is issued, in spite of ordinary precaution by the silverer or dealer, no reputable house will refuse to admit the complaint if a reasonable one. The user, however, must not expect to get a really perfect plate or one that some fault could not be found with. The difficulty of getting one without any flaw at all increases with the size of the glass, so that the novice must not fancy he has been unfairly treated if he finds some blemishes. Possibly, if he looks at a bevelled edge silvered plate closely, especially if the glass is laid flat with a bright top light shining down on it, he may be surprised to find it almost covered with very minute scratches. These are not what are referred to, as it is practically impossible to get a bevelled plate which does not appear so under the circumstances. The marks will be invisible when the plate is in its proper position. Scratches to which objection can be taken are very different, and are caused by careless treatment. The same may be said of the water stains. These are rather difficult to describe. They very much resemble the appearance of a drop of water not quite clean having dried on the glass, and cannot be mistaken. Seeds are defects in the plate, and cannot be got rid of.