Vaseline Glass Buyers Guide

In this buying guide we’ll be looking at Vaseline glass and the various bits of glassware made from it, especially those made during the depression glass era. We’ll do a quick overview and look at some buying tips for this unique kind of vintage glassware.

Guide Continued Below…

Vaseline glass is also sometimes known as uranium glass since it contains uranium oxide. European glassmakers began using this compound in glass making in the early to mid 18th century. This name fell out of favor though in the 1950’s after the invention of the atomic bomb. The Vaseline name came about because the pale, transparent to semi-transparent, yellow-green color the glassware has resembled the way the petroleum jelly product of the same name looked in it’s packaging in the 1920’s. While there are different shades of uranium glass, collectors only apply the Vaseline glass identification to this particular shade.

You ask, “Is Vaseline glass radioactive?” Yes, it is. The amount of radiation emitted by the typical piece of depression Vaseline glassware is, however, very small. It isn’t thought to be harmful to be near although one probably shouldn’t drink from it or use it for food storage just to be on the safe side. With a reasonably good Geiger counter you can obtain a reading from this glassware if it is truly uranium glass. It is estimated that year of regular exposure to Vaseline glassware would results in an exposure of 4 mrem. This comes out to about 1 to 2 percent of the average annual natural radiation exposure by the average American.

Another common characteristic of Vaseline glass is that it will fluoresce a brilliant green color under ultraviolet light, aka a blacklight. This is perhaps the best way to authenticate that a piece of depression glass is actual authentic Vaseline glass. If it glows a different color under the blacklight it may be a form of uranium glass but not Vaseline glass.

Sometimes people accidentally or purposely mislabel them simply due to the yellow-green color. Watch out for backlighting tricks that might try to pass off a piece of modern glassware for something older. Always check with the seller to confirm an ultraviolet light test before committing to purchase a Vaseline glass piece.

As you might guess, Vaseline glass is no longer produced only produced in very small quantities today because of manufacturing safety concerns, legal concerns and the tight government controls on uranium oxide. This rarity, along with the beautiful color produced by this glassware under ultraviolet light, makes it a popular choice for depression glass collectors.

 


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9 Comments »

Comment by trade show booths
2008-08-04 14:10:45

hi Frank, interesting article. The things that are collectable always amaze me. I’m confused on this one though. Is it called Vaseline glass because the lubricant Vaseline used to be sold in jars made of this glass? You wrote: “The Vaseline name came about because the pale, transparent to semi-transparent, yellow-green color resembled that product’s packaging in the same era.” I’m not sure what you mean by that product’s packaging? Was it Vaseline lubricant, and how was that packaged (what was the packaging)? Am I making sense? ~ Steve

Comment by jfc
2008-08-04 14:40:15

Hi Steve,

I didn’t word that well. In the 1920’s Vaseline was sold in a yellowish/greenish glass container and the way the product looked in that container under natural lighting resembled the way the glassware looked. I’ll have to go back and edit the article.

I also found out that there is some new production Vaseline glassware being created today under very limited circumstances due to the strict regulations and the potential for health hazards and lawsuits.

 
 
2008-08-04 15:33:57

I’d never heard of Vaseline glass before, although I’m familiar with Depression glass. There are some very beautiful examples being shown by the eBay widget … thanks for introducing me to this.

 
Comment by Beryl Cook Prints
2008-08-04 16:07:06

I love the sherbet glasses in one of the eBay listings … very cool. Vaseline glass is quite hard to come by; my grandmother had a couple of Vaseline glass bowls, but sadly they’ve disappeared like so many other things over the years.

 
2008-08-05 19:20:57

I never heard of vaseline glassware either: and if anyone had told me that they made glass from uranium oxide I would have said they were nuts! I guess it would be a bit problematic flying home with it too - depending on how sensitive the airport detectors are to radioactivity!

 
2008-08-07 14:34:45

I think I may have heard the term somewhere before, but never knew anything about this. Amazing to think that people would use something like this and not think it dangerous at one time.

 
2008-08-08 00:32:27

When I first heard the term Depression Glassware I was a young child and thought it is was glassware to take out of the cabinet when feeling sad. I have never heard of Vaseline glassware. I can only remember blue glass Vaseline jars, not the green. Some of the auction items are very beautiful.

 
Comment by Luxury Paris Hotels
2008-08-09 07:48:52

I love glass: anything coloured really depression glass is a favourite of mine though I don’t think we have the radioactive vaseline glassware here - its certainly appeals to me

 
Comment by sylvia
2008-12-31 23:34:58

i have some vaseline glass and it is yellow in color. is this actually vaseline glass?

 
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