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.