Also known as uranium glass, Vaseline glass glows bright green under ultraviolet light, thanks to the uranium oxide added to the glass in its molten state. In natural or indoor light, Vaseline glass has a yellow or yellow-green tinge with an oily sheen, which is where its name comes from. Vaseline glass is not to be confused with Custard glass and Burmese glass, which also glow under ultraviolet light. While Vaseline pieces are transparent or translucent, these pieces are opaque.
Uranium oxide was first used as a coloring agent in the 1830s; Vaseline glass was produced commonly from the 1840s through World War I, though it was most popular from the 1880s onward. A variety of companies produced it, including Adams & Co., Steuben Glass, Cambridge Glass Co., and Baccarat, which released its first Vaseline glass piece in 1843 under the name “cristal dichroide.”
Different companies called its distinctive color different names, including citron, jasmine, golden green, mustard, Florentine, and canary. Pieces could also have different exterior color finishes, like satin, opalescent, iridescent, rubina verde, and yellow-green.
Vaseline glass was produced in a variety of styles over the years, from Victorian to Art Deco. During the Great Depression, some manufacturers added iron oxide (rust) to the Vaseline glass mixture in an effort to make the glass look greener in natural light. As a result, Vaseline-glass purists exclude this Depression-era glass from the Vaseline-glass family, since Vaseline glass in the traditional sense does not include iron oxide in its composition. Carnival glass was also produced in Vaseline glass varieties, which generally had a marigold, iridescent look.
Although making dinnerware out of uranium may seem like a bad idea today, companies produced an endless variety of Vaseline glass dinnerware pieces, including wine servers, water pitchers, mugs, and butter dishes, along with more decorative shapes like candlesticks and paperweights.
Around 1943, the U.S. government halted the production of Vaseline glass altogether, as uranium became a heavily regulated substance. In 1958, uranium oxide was deregulated, and the production of Vaseline glass resumed. This time, however, producers used depleted uranium in place of more radioactive natural uranium.
Practically since its invention, Vaseline glass has carried the burden of a bad reputation. Stories of Vaseline glassblowers dying young from lung cancer raised the question of r...
The U.S. Nuclear Regulation Commission studied the health risks of Vaseline glass in its 2001 report, “Systematic Radiological Assessment of Exemptions for Source and Byproduct Materials.” This report agreed largely with what collectors had been saying all along—radiation from the glass was equally (or, in some cases, even less) harmful than the background radiation levels we are exposed to every day.
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Recent News: Vaseline Glass
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Early Pittsburgh (Pa.) district double eagle historical pint flask sells for ...ArtfixDaily, April 4th
Today it is the foremost auction house in the U.S. for antique glass. In Oct. 2010, the firm set a record for an antique glass bottle at auction when a General Jackson eagle portrait flask went for $176,670. In addition to bottles and glass, the firm...Read more
Where Every Day It's 1893Tufts Now, March 26th
A hatchet made of so-called Vaseline glass that shimmers in the dark because of the uranium oxide added during manufacture. ... He would arrive before dawn at the giant Brimfield, Massachusetts, antique shows, racing from booth to booth with a flashlight...Read more
Singerly's 30th antiques show draws 40-plus vendorsCecil Whig, February 15th
“It's fun, and like seeing old friends,” she said. Among the items she displayed were pieces of Vaseline glass, which is made with uranium, and casts a glow when backlit with a black light. “It's from the 1940s,” she said. The fall antiques show will...Read more
Antiques & Collectibles: 'Mantiques,' Asian art will be hot collectibles in 2015Post-Bulletin, January 16th
As an example, 'mantiques,' or antiques for men, dominated the landscape. Ranging from rusty oil cans and beat-up motorcycles to racy pin-up calendars and vintage barware, these items defy the traditional rules of antique collecting and make a 'man...Read more
Heart of America Carnival Glass Association AuctionMaine Antique Digest, August 14th
A glass bell made as a 1912 souvenir for the Portland, Oregon, convention of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE)was the key item at the Heart of America Carnival Glass Association convention sale on May 3, selling for $11,000 (no buyer's ...Read more
The Victorians Used To Use Uranium To Make Glowing Glasswareio9, June 25th
We love artwork made with innovative materials — but sometimes, it can go too far. This Victorian-era glassware, made with uranium to make it glow, is definitely in that category. Today, the glow of uranium glass, which you can still find in antique...Read more
Vaseline glass is a little-known treasureThe Pike County Courier, February 17th
“You didn't have to become an expert to know Vaseline glass," said Eric Martin, who with his wife, Ida, owns the Hawley Antiques Exchange on Route 6 in Hawley. "All you had to do was take a portable pocket-sized black light, and if it glowed the unique ...Read more
A Quick Guide to Vaseline GlassWall Street Journal, August 9th
WHILE VASELINE GLASS may have a rather unappealing name, the antique tableware—distinguished by its radiant yellow-green hue—is anything but. Typically seen in the form of Victorian-style bowls, pitchers, plates and candlesticks, the glass can look ...Read more