URANIUM, Vaseline & Depression Glasses…What’s the Difference?

We all know about Depression Glass, right? Our grandmother’s had it. Depression glass is a clear or colored translucent glass that was given away free, or at a low cost, during the Great Depression (primarily the 1930’s).  Movie theaters would give it away as a premium for coming to the pictures. Food companies, like Quaker Oats, might have placed it in a box of food as a gift for buying their item.  Common colors included pink, green and amber. Certain patterns are less common today and may sell for hundreds of dollars while other patterns are more prevalent and inexpensive to collect.

Sometimes while antiquing, you may come across a canary yellow or yellow-green colored depression glass.  This glassware is likely Vaseline Glass.  Vaseline glass’ name came about because it resembled the color of a petroleum jelly being sold at the time.

vaseline glass


Vaseline glass was primarily made from the 1840’s up to the middle of WWII, with its heyday from the 1880’s to the 1920’s. (During WWII, the U.S. confiscated all uranium supplies, hence the cessation of manufacture. Production began again in 1958, but most production had ceased in 1970.)  There is only one way to verify that the yellow glass you have is Vaseline glass. Vaseline glass will fluoresce under ultraviolet light (black light).

Often, people use the term Vaseline glass synonymously with Uranium Glass.  The truth is that Vaseline glass is uranium glass, but uranium glass is not necessarily Vaseline glass.  Are you confused yet?

Uranium glass is an older term used to indicate glassware that was actually made with uranium oxide.  The normal color of uranium glass ranges from yellow to green depending upon oxidation state of the glass. The use of uranium in the manufacture of glass dates as far back as 79AD, and has been found in glass tiles used in mosaic by the Romans.  Here is an item we listed on eBay just this week. It is a uranium glass light shade. We have photographed it in natural and in ultraviolet light.

uranium light1 uranium light


You can see how the green glass is really florescent under a black light.  Although many, many types of pieces are made with uranium, and react to Geiger counters, uranium glass is considered relatively harmless and is only negligibly radio active.  So, yes, you are safe.

Below is a great example of a lot we have available where, under normal light, the items look plain green with the same items under ultraviolet light.

uranium lot uranium lot1 uranium lot2 uranium lot3 uranium lot4http://www.ebay.com/itm/Uranium-Vaseline-Glass-Five-Piece-Mixed-Lot-Cake-Plate-Flower-Frog-/360535074750?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item53f190a7be

So, when you are shopping for antique or vintage glassware, keep your eyes peeled for  that light yellow glass. You may want to pickup a small black light torch (flashlight) so that you can test your glass for florescence.  They are inexpensive and worth the $5.00 or so you would be paying. Here is an example of a source: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Black-Mini-Aluminum-UV-ULTRA-VIOLET-9-LED-FLASHLIGHT-BLACKLIGHT-Torch-Light-Lamp-/181370698449?pt=US_Flashlights&hash=item2a3a893ad1

Uranium and Vaseline glass will cost you a bit more, but the color is worth the expense.





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LITHOPHANES: Images Revealed by Light

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Right now, in our eBay store, http://stores.ebay.com/Studio-Antiques, you will find quite a few examples of a fairly difficult item to find, lithophanes.  When I speak with customers in the shop, most have never heard of the term lithophane, so I thought … Continue reading

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Walter Plunkett & Katherine Hepburn: Original Costume Design for the film “Song of Love” 1947

We bought our shop almost 27 years ago from a man named Walter Kell. Walter had opened our shop 27 years earlier as an art studio. He had studied painting and drawing not only in the USA, but in Paris as well. He was well known in the Southern California community and had made many, many friends among local artists.  Eventually, the Walt Kell Studio Art Shop morphed into a framing store and antique shop. Our name, Studio Antiques, came from the fact that Walt answered the telephone with “Studio”. It is our way of continuing his legacy.

We had the opportunity to sell the items in his personal estate in 2013 via an estate sale that took place over 13 selling days. The house was packed from floor to ceiling with antiques, collectibles, art and artifacts. Of course, we moved some of the more interesting things to our shop to sell at a later date in order to maximize the incoming revenue.  It only took 548 days for us to pull this particular item out and start figuring out what to do with it. I KNEW it was good, but who is this Plunkett guy and who is that a picture of?


First stop, Google. I know about Edith Head, of course. Walter Plunkett was a California native as was Edith. He was born in Oakland in 1902 and passed away in Santa Monica in 1982. I am certain both Walters, Kell and Plunkett, were friends.  Although he started out studying law, he quickly found himself more interested in theatrical endeavors, including acting, costume and set design.  In the 1920s, he made a permanent career move to costume and wardrobe.

Plunkett’s first credited work as a costume designer was for RKO’s film, “Hard-Boiled Haggerty”. From that, he was given free-reign at the studio and set about creating costumes that rivaled those of his better known contemporaries.  His best known work can be seen in the films “Singing in the Rain” and “Gone With the Wind”….oh, yeah.  I guess I really do know who that Plunkett guy is! For example:


Oh, how we wished the costume design we had our hands on was from “Gone With the Wind”.  No matter how much we searched, or tried to find which film this was from, we just couldn’t figure it out. We posted on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WalterPlunkett?ref=br_tf and on a variety of antiques/collectibles discussion board. We were without luck until someone came our way to help.

The costume, as it is written in the upper right hand corner, is from the courtroom scene in “Song of Love”. We can see by the note that it was reviewed and was determined that the red jacket would be black in the final version.  Just below Plunkett’s signature are the initials, CB.  We presume these are the initials of the producer/director, Clarence Brown, showing his approval of the design.  Fabric swatches can be found in the upper left hand corner of the drawing.

So, although it took time, we finally figured out just WHAT we had and HOW to price it for sale. You can find the item here, in our eBay store, STUDIO ANTIQUES.


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