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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Pattern Glass School
Clubs & Associations
- Vaseline Glass Collectors, Inc.
- Early American Pattern Glass Society
- National Cambridge Collectors, Inc.
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Vaseline Glass
Source: Google News
Auction watch: Sales slow for summer, but values remain plentifulTribune-Review, July 26th
This night and day affair opens with a 5 p.m. sale loaded with collections of collectibles on the evening of July 31 and hits a high note the next morning with an auction packed with antique musicboxes, clocks and glassware. The July 31 sale features...Read more
New AGO exhibit Camera Atomica surveys the nuclear ageThe Globe and Mail, July 10th
This curiosity, created by Japanese-Australian artists Ken and Julia Yonetani in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, is one of 31 antique chandelier frames refitted with uranium glass beads and UV bulbs for a 2012 installation called Crystal Palace...Read more
Marty's Carriage Barn is a premiere antique destinationYucaipa/Calimesa News Mirror, July 10th
The store also boasts more traditional offerings such as 1950s kitchenware, uranium glass, historic dish collections, books, fabrics, beautiful antique furniture, dolls, records, radios and record players. Williamson knows the history behind nearly...Read more
Glow-in-the-dark barware, whiskey library, in new downtown galleryLos Angeles Times, July 7th
Throughout the bar, behind the counter or high up on the walls are more vitrines; several hold vintage glassware. The flat green coupes are made of what's called “vaseline glass.” Made with uranium, they actually glow in the dark, says Keeper. The...Read more
Latté Da plans ambitious season; 'Music Man' to open at the GuthrieMinnPost, June 24th
Furniture, glassware, jewelry, silver, toys, whole sets of china – almost anything you can imagine, as long as it's old and collectible. This show is a time machine, and who knows? You might discover a passion for Vaseline glass. In the Education Building...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
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