Bavarian Ruby Flashed Chalices
A strikingly beautiful pair of ruby-colored and clear crystal chalices is our Museum Feature for this Newsletter. Our curators have learned that the pieces were made in Bavaria, but have not been able to confirm the manufacturer. The method by which this type of glassware is produced is called “flashing.” In the case of these items, the clear crystal pieces were dipped in molten glass that was ruby in color. The crystal is then quickly removed, so that only a thin layer of ruby glass coats the entire piece of clear crystal. Portions of the ruby glass are then cut or ground away, exposing the clear crystal beneath.
This technique was probably first employed by the Romans, whose products were imitated by Middle Eastern artisans. Flashing and other layered-glass techniques flourished under the Abbasid Empire (749-1258) in 9th century Mesopotamia (now Iraq). Islamic artisans cut or ground two layers of differently colored glass to create what was called “cameo” glass. Similar items from the period have been found in Persia (now Iran), and even as far away as Mongolia, demonstrating the large distances over which these exquisite luxury items might be traded. The Phoenicians are credited with broadening the distribution of glass products, both those made by the Romans and those of the Islamic countries. This process of export and the subsequent imitation of items led to the development of glassmaking in the forests of Europe, where the woodlands provided abundant fuel for firing.
In fact glassmaking was taking place in western Germany as early as the 3rd century. Sites have been unearthed in Worms, Trier, and Cologne, but these were Roman production facilities constructed during the Empire. Glassmaking in the eastern locations of Bavaria and Bohemia, which comprise Austria, Poland, and the Czech republic, was more recent, developing in the Medieval period, probably in the 14th century.
Over the centuries, glassmaking in the Bavarian region has seen many changes in art and style. Probably the most commonly available collectible pieces come from the Biedermeier Period (1840-1880) through to the Modern era. This period saw a profound rise in industrialism and the rise of the middle class in Europe. Despite the savage destruction of World Wars I and II and the tensions of the Cold War, glass manufacturing continued to develop in the region to the present. Larger companies include Moser, Egermann, Harrach, Hosch, Kralik, Lobmeyer, Loetz, Pallme-Koenig, Reidel, and Rindskopf. While manufacturers and styles have changed over the years, the constant has been the magnificent craftsmanship of the Bavarian artisans handling the glass.
In addition to being splendidly beautiful, the Bavarian Ruby Flashed Chalices in our Museum collection feature interesting and fun design characteristics as well. Zoom in on the image above, and you’ll see on the left-hand chalice a young male figure splashing wine from an open barrel onto a female figure who is asleep on the ground, obviously overcome with the effects of the wine she’s been drinking from the overturned glass in her hand. On the right-hand chalice, three figures, one, an older female, is pulling the hair of a young male figure holding a goblet and wine bottle, while a third figure, a young female, lies asleep atop a turned-over wine barrel, its contents still spilling on the earth. The etching of these humorous designs is wonderfully delicate and lifelike.
While the Bavarian Ruby Flashed Chalices in our Museum are not for sale, there are many crystal patterns from Bavarian and Bohemian manufacturers (and manufacturers from Ireland, England, and America!) that are for sale. Come empty-handed - leave with a double armload of fine Bavarian crystal with which to entertain family and friends for decades to come. Please visit Replacements, Ltd., where free tours are available every half-hour. Our showroom and museum are open from 9:00am to 7:00pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays). Be sure to bring your walking shoes – our facilities are 500,000 square feet, the size of 8 football fields! The showroom and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!