What is Vaseline Glass?
The term “Vaseline glass” was first coined in the early twentieth century and refers to the pale yellow color of Uranium glass (similar to Petroleum jelly). Many pieces today are mislabeled as uranium glass when they are actually a pale yellow (to green) Depression glass. This distinction is extremely important to glass collectors however and when purchasing new or antique tableware items the generalization of this term can lead to problems.
Vaseline glass is a very specific type of tableware that is yellow in color and contains trace amounts of Uranium dioxide. This addition of Uranium (prior to melting the glass) will cause this style of glass to have a fluorescent green glow when exposed to a black light. This is the easiest way to determine if a piece can be considered Uranium glass or Depression glass. The amount of Uranium used has varied over time from negligible amounts (2%) to larger quantities up to 25%. The use of Uranium in the glass is considered harmless however.
Vaseline Production in the United States
The collecting of Vaseline glass items has been extremely popular since it was first mass produced. During the Victorian era especially it was an exciting way to bring color into the large and dark rooms of most houses. The intense color not only stood out against its austere surroundings but created a focal point in design as well.
In the early nineteenth century Vaseline glass was created in mass quantities but it waned in popularity by the early to mid twentieth century. There were a variety of reasons for the decrease in production including financial difficulties faced by the glass making industry, changes in public taste, the need for Uranium supplies in the war effort and the use of electricity in homes which changed the appearance of Vaseline glass from vibrant to a dull yellow hue.
Purchasing and Displaying Vaseline Glass
Antique and reproduction Vaseline glass pieces are readily available today for collectors. Determining if a piece is genuine Vaseline glass (meaning produced with Uranium not if it is an antique) or merely Depression glass is important prior to making any purchase. The use of the term Vaseline can range in different regions of the country and especially internationally so search specifically for “Uranium glass”.
Glass can be displayed in a variety of ways from small tables to cabinets. Since the glowing quality of Uranium glass is one of its most popular features it is a great idea to have a black light installed behind the glass to show this off. Care for your glass collection by storing it carefully on level surfaces when not in use or on display. Wrap pieces separately to avoid scratches and avoid breaks by keeping items level in strong boxes during transportation.
Building a glass collection is a wonderful and lifelong hobby that can provide years of enjoyment for several generations. Seek out high quality pieces and do your research – ask questions and remember that glass comes in a variety of forms and colors. Expand your Uranium glass collection further with of colors and styles of glassware as well.
Kohn Coleman born in Michigan – received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University in 2000 – currently leads several online companies and ventures.
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