Cranberry Glass

There is a belief that a form of this glass was first made in the late Roman Empire. The craft was then lost and re-discovered in the 17th Century by either Jonathan Knuckel in Bohemia or by the Florentine glass maker Antonio Neri in Italy. The most famous period of cranberry glass production was in 19th Century Britain during the Victorian era.

Although coloured glass has been produced at least since medieval times, translucent ruby red glass was unkown until the late 17th Century, at which time manufacturers developed the colour using gold chloride as a tinting agent.

Engraved or coloured glassware became popular on the continent in the 18th Century, but it was thought too flamboyant for English tastes.

The glass, which has become known as Cranberry, was probably first produced in Bohemia in the early 18th Century.  In those days it was known as ruby glass.  This delicate and much loved colour of glass is made with a thin layer of ruby glass in or outside a thicker layer of clear glass.

From the 1850s the Victorian’s relish for extravagant decoration created a demand for coloured glass goblets and vases, in particular ruby and cranberry glass.  The best ruby glass came from Bohemia where craftsmen had perfected methods of engraving glassware, usually depicting city views or landscapes.  The techniques of flashing and casing glass were also developed in Bohemia and from the 1830s most of the decorative glass imported into England was of Bohemian origin.  From 1850, however, English factories at Stourbridge in the West Midlands and French factories at Baccarat and St Louis started to produce high quality cut glass.

There was a phenomenal growth in design and style throughout the 19th Century after the abolition of the punitive Glass Tax and more especially around the period of the Great Exhibition.  The heyday of Cranberry glass making was from 1870-1930 by which time it was produced in England, France, Belgium, Bavaria, Bohemia and the USA.  The glass works of America were mainly in New England.  Here, cranberries are grown and the term Cranberry Glass was coined and it is still known by that term today.

Some of the prettiest and most popular collected pieces were produced around the Stourbridge area of the Black Country.  Some of it was made in small backyard factories and some in the major glass works fo the day.  Factories such as Webb, Stuart, Richardson and Steven & Williams produced some of the finest glass in the world.  From these makers and many more came the antique Cranberry Glass.

Cranberry Glass is made in craft production rather than in large quantities, due to the high cost of the gold and the delicate mixing process required.  The gold chloride is made by dissolving gold in a solution of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid and the glass is hand blown or moulded.

Cranberry Glass creations were most popular as table displays, often holding sweets or flowers, although it was also frequently used for wine glasses, decanters and fingerbowls.  Cranberry Glass was also well known for its use in ‘Mary Gregory’ glass.  This glass had a white enamel fired onto the glass in a design, usually of a romantic inclination.

Dating is difficult as there are no identifying marks to go by and usually one has to get some experience in handling the pieces to understand which shapes were made in which periods in time.  Cranberry Glass is still being made in both the UK and the US but most collectors prefer the pieces from the Victorian period.

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