Whatever the name you use to describe the rich hues of ruby glass, the jewel tone color is key to this glassware’s popularity with collectors.
“Ruby glass of the Depression era is solid red, and collectors love it today just as they did when it was first introduced,” said Ellen Schroy, author of Warman’s Depression Glass Field Guide.
Ruby glass was particularly popular in the 1930s and ’40s when it was used as a premium by grocery stores and in boxes of soap.
Many firms, including Fenton, Fostoria, New Martinsville, Viking, L.E. Smith, Westmoreland and Blenk, produced Depression glass patterns in red, but it was Anchor Hocking that topped them all with its patented Royal Ruby glass.
Today, producing ruby glass is a relatively easy manufacturing process, but this was not always the case.
During the Middle Ages, glass workers in Venice were forbidden under penalty of death to leave the island of Murano or to reveal the secrets of glassmaking to foreigners. The fortunes of one Bohemian village rested on the passing of a secret ruby glass formula from one generation to the next.
Production of the glass became easier in the early 20th century when the coloring agent was changed from gold chloride to selenium. The change led to an abundance of ruby glass products from many different glass manufacturers.
In the mid-1930s, Hocking Glass Co. (now Anchor Hocking) introduced a deep red glass that used copper as the coloring agent. Royal Ruby glass was a hit with consumers.
The pattern named Royal Ruby was produced from 1938 to 1943, again from 1950 to 1967, and then was re-introduced in 1977. The long production run means the pattern is widely available at reasonable cost to collectors.
Schroy values a punch bowl and stand at $75 and punch cups at $3.50. Dinner plates can bring $14, and a 3-quart tilted pitcher is worth $45.
Bubble is another pattern Anchor Hocking produced in ruby glass. The pitcher is valued at $60 to $65. The tumblers range from $10 to $20 a piece.
The patterns Coronation, Old Cafe and Oyster & Pearl, produced until 1940, also offer Royal Ruby options. The Old Cafe cereal bowl is valued at $12. The Coronation handled bowl tops out at $20. A sandwich plate in Oyster & Pearl is the most valuable piece of that pattern at $50.
“Because it is somewhat translucent, Ruby Red glass can be very pretty to use at the table or place in a window, unlike the black glass of the era that is so dense you can’t see through it,” said Schroy. “It’s also rather durable and doesn’t easily show wear such as knife marks.”
Collectors aren’t only seeing red when it comes to dinnerware. Lamps, vases, beer bottles, apothecary jars and ashtrays can also be found in Anchor Hocking’s Royal Ruby glass.
When gauging the value of a ruby glass piece, collector and author Naomi L. Over recommends that the C’s should be considered — color, condition and collectability.
Pieces were sometimes made in several hues of red. Each of the color variations will be valued differently.
Top prices should be paid only for undamaged pieces with good color and iridescence. Chips, cracks and signs of wear greatly reduce values.
Lastly, consider collectability. A piece is only worth what another collector is willing to pay for it. The competition for an uncommon piece will usually drive up the value.
Copyright 2002 by Krause Publications. For a free catalog of Krause Publications books or periodicals on collectibles, write Public Relations, Dept. IC, Krause Publications, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001, or visit www.collect.com on the worldwide web, or e-mail [email protected]

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