Paula Collects: Cranberry Glass

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Paula Collects: Cranberry Glass

By Andrea Goto

Most collectibles are considered irreplaceable among the people who cherish them, but Paula’s delicate cranberry glass pieces are the most precious things she collects because they are a part of her personal history. Her grandmother gave her each and every one.

Paula has a personal stake in her collection, but cranberry glass is a precious item all on its own—it’s actually made from gold. Glassmakers achieve the distinct pink color by adding small particles of gold to molten glass. The more gold that’s added, the darker red the glass becomes. In fact, cranberry glass is historically referred to as gold ruby, which was darker in color than the delicate pink glass we’re familiar with today. Historians are not in agreement when it comes to pinning down when and where cranberry glass was invented. Some historians date the production of gold ruby back to the late Roman Empire but believe that the lost formula was rediscovered in Bohemia in the 1660s. We can say with certainty, however, that the hey-day of gold ruby glass spanned from 1870 to 1930, when it was widely produced in England, France, Belgium, Bavaria, Bohemia and the Unites States. It was during this time that New England American glassmakers coined the term “cranberry glass” because the color closely resembled the berries native to that part of the country.

Making authentic gold ruby or cranberry glass was never an inexpensive or easy process—the price of gold made production costly and the slightest mixing error could yield an unusable material. Therefore, instead of being mass-produced, single pieces were handmade by small groups of skilled artisans. Today, many pieces have a thin layer of cranberry glass coated with clear crystal, producing what is referred to as “flash” cranberry glass. An untrained eye would have trouble telling the difference between “flash” and traditionally made glass, but it’s safe to say that most companies—especially the ones whose products are sold in department stores—could not afford to produce cranberry glass the old fashioned way. Fenton Glass Company, however, is one of a few American exceptions; they continue to use the century-old mixing technique even today.

Victorian cranberry glass is very expensive and highly collectible. A chandelier can fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction. Pieces known as “Mary Gregory” cranberry glass, named after a 19th-century glass art painter, are highly collectible. These pieces are adorned with a white enameled painting, often of children. Most of these pieces were not actually painted by Gregory, but rather refer to the style of glassware. To help sift through the cranberry-glass confusion, collectors recommend investing in a good guidebook. Newer cranberry glass is fairly affordable, widely available and still very beautiful; nonetheless, it’s good to know the value of items in your collection and/or the going rate for pieces that you hope to acquire.

If you’re like Paula, the origin of a piece matters little when compared to the sentimental value it carries. Ask her and she’ll tell you: the pieces in her cranberry glass collection are simply priceless.

See Paula’s Cranberry Glass used on this festive table:
Savannah Style: Paula’s Holiday Taffy Table

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Reader Comments:

54321

I found eight cranberry glasses and eight cranberry goblets in perfect condition.I am interested in selling them but do not know what they are worth.Please contact me if you are interested.

By ren blanks on February 06, 2013

54321

Hi, I was researching to get information regarding cranberry glass dishes, I came across this site. I am a volunteer in a thrift shop that all the proceeds go to help children around the world. We received a bunch of these beautiful glass dishes and cups. I just wanted to let you know if you are collecting them we have a service for 8 and some of the tall glasses too. If you are interested send us an e-mail to fcnorg.com. Our organization is a non-profit organization called Focus on Children now and our store is called the Opportunity Shop. Our phone number is 818-366-8740 Eleanora Hayrapetian

By Eleanora Hayrapetian on March 10, 2012

Hi Paula, this is just another reason why so many people think we are alike. Not only do we look a like but we cook alike and now the cranberry glass. I have all my mothers and I have added to it through the years. I dearly treasure it. I really enjoyed reading this article, not to mention how informative it is. Priceless indeed.

By Paulette Cox on December 05, 2010

Hi Paula,
I,too,collect cranberry glass ever since my mother bought me the first piece over 40 years ago. I have a hard time finding it though. if anyone has ideas please let me know. I would love to go to Fenton glass in West Va. sometime.

By Bonnie on December 01, 2010

I have two of the wine glasses that our daughters gave to us one year for christmas when they were in grade school.  They are treasures because of where they come from. 

I have a few pieces of the pink,and the blue depression glass, as well as cups and saucers in the clear pattern.  Platters, plates, cookie jars, and cake plates.  Fun to have and to use.  My grown grandsons love to use these things.  Every holiday they are on the table, cabinets, etc. filled with food and goodies, and yums.

By Mrs. Mary Lou Overkamp on November 30, 2010

In your article on Cranberry Glass you say from 1970-1930 I would guess you mean 1870 or is the first date a total mistake…

By referee90 on November 30, 2010

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