My Experience Collecting Ruby Glass
True Ruby-Flashed Glass
Prior to 1880, in order to make two-color glass, colored glass had to be layered or "flashed" over clear glass. This was achieved by dipping the clear one into a molten colored glass, and then patterns were cut into it by hand. This type of glass was labor-intensive to make and expensive to own.
Early American Pattern Glass—Cheap but Beautiful
In the late 1800s, glass-manufacturing improvements made it easier and cheaper to make decorative glass. The new method involved pressing molten glass into a mold with a pattern on it. The patterns were often copies of old cut glass patterns. Beautiful pieces were produced that were affordable to the working class. Objects created by this method are called “Early American pattern glass (EAPG).”
In 1888, Henry Mueller patented a process of applying a chemical stain to the raised surfaces of pattern glass. This is what made ruby-stained pattern glass possible. It mimicked the more expensive ruby-flashed variety. The stained, pattern glass was often further decorated by etching patterns, like flowers, or ivy, into the red stain. I am fortunate enough to have some fine examples of that technique.
Flashed Glass vs. Stained Glass
Although they are two different manufacturing processes, in modern times, the terms ruby-flashed and ruby-stained glass are often used interchangeably. I have seen many times in antique stores or on eBay items described as "ruby-flashed glass" or "ruby-flashed cut to clear," when the mold marks can clearly be seen. That makes it obvious that it is actually pressed.
It is also easy to tell genuine cut glass by looking at it. The cuts are sharp, in contrast to the more rounded edges of pressed glass. Most of the red glass you see in antique stores in the US is stained and pressed, like my collection." I call this simply "ruby glass."
A lot of the information I am relating here came from the Ruby Stain Museum website. The website is no longer available, which is unfortunate. There was some great information there. The museum itself is located at 2454 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA 70117.
My Introduction to Beautiful Red Glass
The first time I became aware of ruby glass was on a driving trip I took with my husband to New England about 10 years ago.
We stopped at quite a few antique stores along the way, and I fell in love with a little souvenir creamer with "Gettysburg" engraved on it. I paid $25 for it, which is really top dollar.
I ended up giving that to my daughter, but because of that experience, when I spotted a beautiful little tumbler at a yard sale near my house, I knew what it was. At $10, it seemed a bargain. That was the first little piece of my collection. I love the deep red color.
A nice thing about collecting something is, people see it, and then they know what you like. They will give you more of it on gift-giving occasions. Sometimes that backfires, and you find yourself up to your ears in figurines of turtles, or owls, or cows.
I never mind receiving ruby glass as a gift. My mom got this delicate-looking little basket for my birthday. She bought it at a thrift store in our town. I don't know how much she paid for it, but I'm sure it was a bargain.
Vase With Floral Motif
When I got this piece from a friend, who is a professional junk dealer, it was part of a really ugly lamp. It has a hole in the bottom where the cord passed through. I really wish I had taken a picture of that tacky thing.
I looked past the gaudiness and saw how beautiful the glass was. At $20, it was a real steal. I believe it was originally a vase that was turned into a lamp. My friend was very impressed when he saw how spectacular it looks now.
I picked this decanter up in an antique shop in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. This is the most expensive piece I have; I paid $95 for it. I really do think it is quite breathtaking. I'm afraid my amateur photography does not do it justice.
I had to bring it back home with me on the airplane. I wrapped it in bubble wrap, then many layers of clothing and put it in my suitcase, which I checked. I was so relieved to see it all in one piece when I got home.
I received a set of two of these gorgeous lamps as a gift from my husband. They are a rare find. He couldn't resist bragging that he paid only $25 for the pair.
He will often spend more on things for my collection than I will, as I have been known to be a bit of a miser. I think they are very special. Just look at the beautiful details.
Now all I need is a fitting set of shades for them.
Whether my collection is worth more than I paid for it, or it will be worth more in the future than it is now, I do not know. I collect ruby glass just because I love it. I love the color and the way it sparkles. When I see a beautiful piece, I just can't resist.
© 2012 Sherry Hewins