Man's fascination with cranberry glass may date as far back as the Roman Empire. Legend holds that a noble tossed a gold coin into a mixture of molten glass, accidentally creating the red hue which is now associated with cranberry glass. While the legend is likely untrue, the glass still holds an important place in many homes and has been collected and used in decorating for centuries. If you're ready to start your collection, follow these tips to find pieces worthy of display in any setting.
Learn to recognize the color of cranberry glass. The most distinguishing feature of any piece of cranberry glass is its color. By adding gold chloride to hot molten glass, crafters can create shades varying from pink to burgundy. The pieces often have a deeper hue by the neck of the vase or near the edge of the bowl, indicating where the glass was blown from.
Search for blemishes. When looking for quality pieces to add to your collection, be sure to check for chips, ash, or unpolished areas. Cranberry glass is craft-produced, one piece at a time, and each delicately hand-blown item should be smooth and polished. This slow production process is due to the high cost of gold and a delicate and precise mixing procedure, requiring the skills of a true craftsman.
Look for the pontil. The pontil is the mark created when blown glass is separated from a blowing rod after the piece is finished. If this mark is not present on the bottom of the glass, you can be sure that the piece is not "blown" glass.
Date the piece. Cranberry glass was particularly popular in 19th century Britain and the Victorian era. Antique pieces will be significantly more expensive and harder to find. Producers from the 19th century include Thomas Webb, Stourbridge, and Mary Gregory.
Newer cranberry glass is affordable and makes a great decorating piece, but be sure to know which you are buying. Brand names from the 20th century include Fenton, Hazel Atlas, Indiana Glass, and Hocking. Avon put out a set in the 1970s that had a deep burgundy hue.
Grow your collection. The more your collection grows, the more familiar you will be with the glass.
In addition to scouring local antique stores and auction houses, a would-be collector can find many individual pieces on Ebay. Be sure to check the seller's feedback history to ensure you are buying a quality piece.
Sandra Phaneuf is a freelance writer with more than eight years of experience. She has been a contributing writer for "Voice of America," the "Informed Constituent" and the "Albany Student Press." Her focus is energy policy and Eastern European studies. Phaneuf has a B.A. in political science from the State University of New York and is pursuing a graduate degree in journalism.