Historical information

This broken, handmade black glass bottle was made around the mid 1800s. The bottle was found in the coastal waters of Victoria about 100 years from when it was made. It is now part of the John Chance collection.

Black glass is one of the oldest bottle colours and dates back to the early 17th century. In the 1840s to late-1870s black glass bottles were mainly used for liquor and ale. All glass is made from silica, which is found in quartz sand. The naturally occurring sand has impurities, such as iron, that determine the colour of the glass. Residual iron leads to green or amber coloured glass, and carbon in the sand makes that glass appear as ‘black’. A strong light behind the glass will show its colour as dark green or dark amber.

This handmade bottle appears to be made in a dip mould, with the molten glass blown into a seamless shoulder-height mould to give the body a uniform symmetrical shape and size. After the body was blown, the glass blower continued blowing free-form (without the mould) to form the shoulder and neck, then the base was pushed up with a pontil tool, and the finish for the mouth was added. The dip mould gives the body a slightly textured surface, with the free blown shoulders and neck usually looking smoother and shinier. A horizontal line can often be seen around the shoulder where the mould of the body meets the free-blown shoulder. A lump or mark in the centre of the base, called a 'ponty' mark (named after the pontil tool), is also common on this type of bottle.


Although the bottle is not linked to a particular shipwreck, it is recognised as being historically significant as an example of bottles imported for use in Colonial Victoria in the mid-to-late 1800s. (Similar bottles were recovered from the 'Loch Ard' shipwreck, lost in 1898.)

The bottle is also significant as it was recovered by John Chance, a diver in Victoria’s coastal waters in the late 1960s to early 1970s. Items that come from several wrecks have since been donated to the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village’s museum collection by his family, illustrating this item’s level of historical value.

Physical description

Bottle, thick black glass (dark olive) with matt surface. Mouth has been broken off, leaving sharp edges. Short neck, wide shoulders, body tapers slightly inwards towards base. Wide uneven heel and deep concave base with a fold line in glass. No visible seams.