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

Home » Blog » 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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