According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the quaich was inspired by the low silver bowls with two flat handles frequently used as bleeding vessels in England and Holland in the 17th century.
Traditionally they are made of wood, an artform known as "treen". Quaichs often have different colours and are supported by hoops. They are generally fitted with two, and, more rarely, three short projecting handles. In addition to wood, they are made of stone, brass, pewter, horn, and of silver. The latter were often engraved with lines and bands in imitation of the staves and hoops of the wooden quaichs.
The origin of quaichs in Scotland is traced to the Highlands; it was not until the end of the 17th century that they became popular in such large centres as Edinburgh and Glasgow. The silversmiths of such local guilds as Inverness and Perth frequently mounted them in silver, as may be seen from the hall-marks on the existing examples.
The English and Colonial American counterpart of the Scottish quaich is the porringer, made with a single handle. The Sami and Norrland, Sweden, equivalents are the pahkakuppi and the kåsa, which also only have a single handle.
Some quaich's bottoms are made of glass, allegedly so that the drinker could keep watch on his companions. A more romantic quaich had a double glass bottom in which was kept a lock of hair so that the owner could drink from his quaich to his lady love, and, in 1589, King James VI of Scotland gave Anne of Denmark a quaich or "loving cup" as a wedding gift.