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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Chinese vase sells for £2800 at auctionDriffield Today, December 4th
It was a modern silver mounted decanter and set of tumblers at £280 which topped the glass section followed by a Loetz iridescent vase at £130 and a Victorian vaseline glass epergne at £110. The objets d'art section contained a French bronze group of ...Read more
Hooking a find that's anything but fishyPalm Beach Post, November 29th
Why it's special: Each time I go to an antiques show, I cast about hoping to hook a great find. I knew this recent catch, a 15-inch fish bowl in the shape of a fish, was a keeper the moment I saw it. It's in Vaseline, or uranium, glass, so it glows...Read more
Hundreds of antiques under one roof at Fall Antique Showwlfi.com, October 20th
Antique coordinator John Wanat visited the News 18 This Morning set to talk about some of the most sought after items that will appear at the show this year, including something called vaseline glass. “In the 1800s, it was made because it was such a...Read more
Antiques expert: It pays to knowJournal and Courier, October 17th
Somehow, Wanat spotted Bakelite — an early plastic resin now-turned-collectible costume jewelry that peaked in popularity during the 1930s and '40s — in a locked glass case near a fur-trimmed vintage jacket that had the jaunty '60s imprint of former...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-knownThe 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
THE SHINING | Vaseline glass from the Hawley Antique Exchange in Hawley, Pa. (vaselineglasstosee.com). Owners Erich and Ida Martin estimate that their collection includes approximately 6,000 pieces. F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal...Read more