Flashed on Color in Vintage Glass

King's Crown Bowl with stained coloring on clear glass

The Rabbit Hole / RubyLane

Occasionally when perusing descriptions of glassware being offered for sale online or reading tags at an antique mall or show, you might run across the term "flashed on" referencing a piece of red or cranberry glass. It's wise to understand exactly what this term means to avoid paying too much for low-quality glass.

"Flashed on" Color

While a piece of glass might look as if it is solid red or cranberry through and through, glass with flashed on coloring actually has a light coating of vivid color over the plain old clear glass. Using this term is somewhat of a misnomer, however. True flashed glass was made by taking a piece of clear glass and dipping it in a molten glass mixture to coat it red. That type of ware was made to imitate red or cranberry glass at a lower cost, since red glass is made with gold oxide and that key ingredient increases the cost of production.

Today many antique dealers and collectors refer to the technique where a piece has been stained red or cranberry as flashed on color since the term stained glass usually brings to mind leaded glass (like that used in church windows or Tiffany lamps, for example) to most people.

As accepted in antiques collecting circles, flashed on pieces have a light stain that was applied to the surface of a clear glass base. The base glass is sometimes thinner and lighter in weight than true red or cranberry pieces made in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Again, this was another technique used to make less expensive glass look nice at an even lower cost to manufacturers. Those cost savings were passed on to happy consumers who wanted the look without the high price tag.

Cranberry flashed glass was also made in the mid-century styles, those made in the 1950s and 60s, and are usually similar to other glass patterns popular during the period. These are the most common pieces found today. They weren't super high in quality, to begin with, and they should be fairly reasonably priced when you find them at flea markets or in antique malls today.

Occasionally older glass with red painted accents will be referenced as flashed as well. This is not the most common use of the term, and probably not the best as it can be confusing to the vintage glassware novice.

How Can Flashed on Color Be Identified?

One of the easiest ways to identify a piece of glass with flashed on color (whether actually flashed or stained, as noted above) is to look for scratches and wear where the clear glass is showing through. Being a less-expensive and lower-quality product, the decor on these pieces wasn't the most durable, especially with stained pieces, and they didn't hold up very well with daily household use and subsequent cleaning.

You can also check the bottoms and edges of the glass for evidence of clear glass beneath the thin coating of red or cranberry color. Even pieces that were rarely used still show some shelf wear, and there are usually telltale signs when the bases of these items are closely inspected. Use a magnifying glass or jeweler's loupe, if needed, to examine a piece more closely.

Some pieces of this type of glass will also fall into the category of "cut to clear," which means that the glass has been etched through the red or cranberry flashing so clear glass shows through purposely. Older pieces with hand etching are generally nicer than newer wheel etched items. Common cut to clear pieces includes souvenir items from the late 1800s with event or town names etched into the glass.

The main impetus for learning to distinguish flashed on coloring is so you won't pay too much for something not knowing what type of glass you're handling. If you find a piece of this type of glass you like, and the price is within your budget considering what it is, there is no need to hesitate to add it to your collection.