Acid etching of glass was discovered by a Swedish chemist in the 1770s but was not developed as a means of decoration on glass until the mid nineteenth century.
It was Benjamin Richardson who developed the method of using acids to create artistic decoration on flint and cased glass. The technique of acid etching glass for decorative purposes is described fully in the patent taken out by Benjamin Richardson in 1857. In this patent the use of acid on cased or layered glass is clearly mentioned, however no coloured acid etch glass from this period has been identified. The earliest known acid etching on cased coloured glass was carried out by Guest Brothers for Thomas Webb & Sons in 1878.
During these early days a young artistic John Northwood worked for Benjamin Richardson. He had witnessed the trials in acid etching and his fertile mind could see the many ways he would like to use the process. After a year or two he came to the conclusion that he could only carry out his ideas by giving it his full attention. In 1859 together with his brother Joseph, H.G. Richardson and T. Guest he commenced a decorating business in Barnet Lane, Wordsley. This partnership was dissolved after about a year, but John and Joseph carried on the works as J & J Northwood.
J & J Northwood provided a decorating service for many of the Stourbridge glass manufacturers, but developed a strong relationship with Stevens & Williams. They eventually became part of Stevens & Williams in the 1920s.
After separating from Northwood, Thomas Guest in conjunction with his brothers Edward and Richard set up a rival decorating business in Brettle Lane, Amblecote; Guest Brothers. Their major customer was Thomas Webb & Sons.
Guest brothers took out a patent that covered the filling of acid etched lines with black and gilt for added decorative effect.