‘Red cut to clear’ glass appeals to many collectors

This “red cut to clear” glass bowl appeals to many collectors.
This “red cut to clear” glass bowl appeals to many collectors.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Q: I have a beautiful glass bowl that measures 9 3/8 by 6 inches across and 3 3/4 inches deep. There are no seams or trademarks. Can you tell me how old it is and the approximate value? I know it came from Germany and is at least 70 years old.

R. B., Kalamazoo, Michigan

A: This type of glass goes by a variety of names which include “cut overlay” and “red cut to clear.” It was made by using a process of creating a clear glass “blank” (usually by hand blowing, but sometimes by pressing molten glass into a mold), and then covering this “blank” with a thin layer of colored glass (in this case a deep red).

Next, a skilled glass worker cut through the red layer into the clear glass below leaving behind the clear lines, round spots, and the diamonds with the cross-hatching — all surrounded by the red overlay areas. It is a process that has been done for a very long time and is often associated with both European and American glass makers.

In the United States during the early to mid-19th century this type of work is associated with both the Boston and Sandwich Glass Co. and the New England Glass Co. In the late 19th century, American glass workers made cut glass with this colored overlay — but with intricate designs associated with the American Brilliant Period. These pieces can be highly prized.

In Europe, some of this “cut overlay” was made in England but most of it was made by the Bohemian glass companies in what is now the Czech Republic. We believe the bowl belonging to R. B. is Bohemian in origin, which means that it could not be German per se unless it was made during the years of Nazi occupation in Czechoslovakia — and we tend to have our doubts about that.

There is no question in our minds that this piece is 20th century because of the very simplistic cutting. This is not the sort of design that would have been done in the 19th century, and it is the kind of decoration that is most often associated with the latter half of the 20th century (after World War II).

Because of the expense of crafting intricate motifs, the designs on hand cut glass became simpler and simpler (for the most part) as the 20th century progressed. It is our opinion — and the opinion of the glass specialists we consulted — that the piece pictured was made in the 1950s or later.

However, it was generally conceded that this bowl might have been made in the late 1930s — but that is a long shot. Whether this Bohemian red cut to clear piece was crafted in the late 1930s or made during the third quarter of the 20th century, however, neither the aesthetic or monetary value is materially changed.

We have taken notice of the lovely cut star on the bottom of this piece, which is far more intricate than we might have expected. In all probability, this was cut into the bottom to cover the “pontil” scar that is often the hallmark of a blown piece of glass.

When a piece such as this is blown, it is attached to an iron rod called a “punty” when the glass blower wants to open up and finish the top. When this iron rod is broken off, it leaves a rough area called a “pontil” scar. Often this is polished down to a concave area that ranges in size from the diameter of a dime to that of a silver dollar (or sometimes a bit larger).

In this case, the scar was covered by cutting in an intricate star. As for insurance value, this piece is worth between $175 and $225.

Write to Joe Rosson, P.O. Box 27419, Knoxville, TN 37927, or email If you’d like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.

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