Collecting Inkwells

15 Aug 2011

In the 1950s the United States Postal Service scrapped the use of dip pens and inkwells in all its branches and replaced them with new roller ball pens. This indicated one of the major and final steps in the global shift from a nib and ink based writing to ball-point pens.

The oncoming change had been on the cards for about a century, since the appearance of the first practically usable fountain pen in the mid-19th century. However, even then most of the writing had to be done with steel nib straight pens dipped in inkwells.

From the late Georgian period onwards – i.e. the early 1800s – glass was the most common material for inkwell production. However, many inkwells were also made of ceramics, waterproof porcelain or glazed slipware pottery, stone, wood, metals and brass but also silver and gold and many other materials. Though it was more lucrative to sell silver inkwells and sell gold inkwells, production costs were higher, meaning these items were mainly purchased by the wealthy.

Among the widely collected inkwells are those dating from the 19th century. But many 18th century examples do appear on the market and they tend to be of a grander appearance. Homemade inkwells are also popular with the today’s collectors, as they are often uniquely designed and employ a variety of unusual materials and production techniques.

Some of the finest glass inkwells of the early 19th century were produced in blown three part moulds. As it describes – the glass was blown into a mould made of three parts. Such glass products can be easily recognised by the rough unpolished seams running on their external surface. The moulds were carved with intricate patterns and decorations and they often followed the contemporary cut glass designs. The glass varied from colourless translucent to Ruby red, Bristol blue, milky opaque, Cranberry, yellow and other colours. The most sought after inkwells are those having the most intricate patterns and unusual colours. These often fetch hundreds of pounds at auctions and are fought over by international enthusiasts. Selling inkwells may be more lucrative than you think!

Victorian and later inkwells are still relatively modestly priced and affordable for new collectors. In the industrial age these were often machine-cut decoration pieces, but moulded and pressed glass pieces were also in production. Late 19th century pieces start featuring attempts at producing art glass of various colours.

Metal inkwells were pricier to make than their glass counterparts, although brass moulds were fairly mass produced. Some Berlin iron and Vienna cold painted bronze inkwells, which often include figural or intricate architectural decorations, are exceptionally sought after pieces. And among the named designers Louis Comfort Tiffany and Lalique retain kudos in terms of prices achieved in this field.

Therefore, if you’re seeking to buy or sell antiques or to sell inkwells of this kind, our advice would be to look out for these seemingly useless items because they do tend to be good investments. If you have such an item, you can always upload it to us and we’ll give you a free appraisal.

Here at, we offer you a safe, secure and quick way to sell antiques, sell jewellery, sell art, sell gold, sell watches and sell silver. Follow the steps at and get the process started today!