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Uranium Glass

Hellloooo glowing green glass! I'd like to introduce you to my newest obsession, uranium glass. You might be thinking, “Uranium? Like, the same uranium that’s used in nuclear weapons?” Yep! This glass contains small amounts of uranium that help to give it its yellow-green hue and also make it glow under a black light.

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I recently saw a post on social media of a china cabinet lit up with a blacklight that was full of glowing green glassware. I loved the look and since we just refinished a china cabinet for our dining room (check out that post below!) we had the PERFECT spot for it.

Now I just had to find uranium glass pieces to fill my china cabinet. While you may find some small batch sellers of uranium glass, for the most part, it's no longer made or mass-produced. EBay, Etsy, and other online marketplaces do have a pretty good selection but a lot of times it's marked up and you have the added cost of shipping. So I decided my best bet was going to be thrift and antique stores.

Here’s the thing about thrift/antique stores, they either know what they have and price accordingly or they have no idea that they have uranium glass and it's hidden in a pile of glassware. My favorite find is the latter. The antique stores that know they have uranium glass usually have it in a case lit up by blacklight. Sometimes you can get it for a reasonable price, especially if you are willing to haggle, but a lot of times they know it's worth and they want to get paid.

Some antique sellers may not know they have uranium. But if they don't know, how will you know? The only way to 100% know for sure if it is uranium glass is to see if it glows under black light. That's why the below keychain black light became my secret weapon! It is super small and can fit on your keychain, in your purse, or just in your pocket! This listing is for 15 keychain black lights, but you can do as I did and gift it to some to friends and family who like to thrift so they can keep a lookout for you as well!

This makes it so easy to identify uranium glass that's just mixed in with other glassware. It also helps identify fake uranium glass. I have unfortunately seen antique stores labeling green glassware as uranium glass, but the pieces didn't glow under black light. So always check to be sure!

After I collected enough uranium glass I just needed to add the black light. I went with the below adhesive black light strip. It was easy to trim to the size I needed and then just peel the backing and stick it on the underside of the shelves. If you want a more intense purple and green glow from the uranium then you might want two strips on each shelf or go with a blacklight bar.

I'm in love with the finished look! Originally I planned to have this display for Halloween, but now I'm not sure if I will want to part with it so soon. During the day the green glassware adds a pop of color to the all-white china cabinet. It's a beautiful color that goes well with my other decor. Let me know if you think we should leave it up!

So I talked a lot about how I was inspired and where I was able to get these uranium glass pieces, but we didn't talk much about the uranium glass itself! Below is all the information I've learned about uranium glass.

What is uranium glass?

Uranium glass, also known as Vaseline glass due to its yellow-green or pale yellow color resembling petroleum jelly, is a type of glassware infused with uranium oxide. This radioactive element gives the glass its distinctive hue and a unique property: it fluoresces under ultraviolet light, emitting a striking greenish glow. Uranium glass was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, primarily for decorative items like tableware, beads, and marbles. While the radioactivity levels in uranium glass are generally low and safe for everyday use, collectors are drawn to its historical significance, aesthetic appeal, and the intriguing connection between art, science, and atomic elements.

When was it made?

Uranium glass was primarily produced during the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Its production spans roughly from the 1880s to the 1940s, with the peak of popularity occurring in the early 20th century.

The use of uranium as a colorant for glass allowed for the creation of the distinctive yellow-green or pale yellow hues that characterize uranium glass. However, as World War II approached, and with concerns about uranium's radioactivity, the production of uranium glass declined. After the war, many manufacturers switched to other colorants and ceased the use of uranium oxide.

While uranium glass was produced during this time frame, it's important to note that not all glassware from this era contains uranium, and not all uranium glass is highly radioactive. Collectors and enthusiasts often appreciate uranium glass for its historical significance, aesthetic appeal, and the unique glow it emits under ultraviolet light.

What glass makers made uranium glass?

Uranium glass was produced by various glassmakers around the world during its heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of the notable glass manufacturers known for producing uranium glass include:

1. Fenton Art Glass Company (USA): Fenton is one of the most famous American producers of uranium glass, particularly during the early 20th century.

2. Moser Glass (Czechoslovakia): Moser was a renowned Czech glassmaker known for its high-quality uranium glass production.

3. Davidson Glass (United Kingdom): This British glass manufacturer also created uranium glass items, often featuring intricate patterns and designs.

4. Brockwitz Glass (Germany): German glassmakers like Brockwitz contributed to the production of uranium glass in Europe, known for its rich colors and intricate molds.

5. Bohemian and Czech Glassmakers: Several other glass manufacturers in the Bohemian and Czech regions of Europe were known for their uranium glass production.

These are just a few examples, as uranium glass was a global phenomenon with many manufacturers participating in its production. Today, uranium glass is highly sought after by collectors due to its historical significance and unique characteristics.

How was it used?

Uranium glassware was produced in a wide variety of prints, patterns, and forms, ranging from everyday items to decorative pieces. Here are some common types of prints and patterns that you might find in uranium glass:

1. Depression Glass: Uranium glass was popular during the Great Depression era, and many pieces were made in the Depression glass style. You can find items with popular patterns like “Cubist,” “Patrician,” “Block Optic,” and “American Sweetheart.”

2. Art Deco Designs: The Art Deco movement influenced the design of uranium glass during the 1920s and 1930s, resulting in geometric patterns and bold, stylized designs.

3. Hobnail: Hobnail patterns, characterized by raised, round bumps on the glass’s surface, were commonly used for uranium glass items like vases and bowls.

4. Floral and Nature Motifs: Some uranium glass items featured floral and nature-themed prints, including roses, daisies, and vines, often with intricate details.

5. Uranium Glass Marbles: Uranium glass was also used to create marbles, which sometimes featured swirls, ribbons, or other colorful patterns.

6. Tableware: Uranium glass was used to make various tableware items, including plates, cups, saucers, and pitchers, often with simple or elegant patterns.

7. Uranium Glass Beads: Small beads made from uranium glass were used in jewelry and beadwork, and they could be plain or have unique patterns.

8. Figurines: Some uranium glass figurines, often in the form of animals or decorative pieces, were made with detailed designs.

Remember that the variety of prints and patterns in uranium glass is extensive, and specific designs can vary by manufacturer and time period. Collectors and enthusiasts often appreciate the diversity of uranium glassware and seek out particular patterns or items that align with their interests and style.

Is it safe?

I want to start by saying we are not experts on the safety of uranium glass and this information should not be taken as advice. When it comes to the health and safety of your family you should consult with people who are knowledgeable about it before deciding on purchasing radioactive glassware. We will share below information that is generally available on the internet about how safe uranium glass is.

Uranium glass is generally considered safe for common handling and use because the radioactivity of uranium oxide in the glass is typically quite low. However, there are a few important considerations:

1. Low Radioactivity: The uranium used in uranium glass is in the form of uranium dioxide (UO2), which has relatively low radioactivity. The radiation emitted by uranium glass is usually negligible and not harmful in everyday use.

2. External Radiation: While the radioactivity within uranium glass is low, it’s still a good practice to limit prolonged direct contact with uranium glass items, especially if they are chipped or damaged. The primary concern is external radiation, and keeping a safe distance from the glass is advisable.

3. Ingestion: It’s important not to use uranium glass for food or beverages, as there is a slight risk of uranium leaching into the contents. This risk is minimal with well-preserved glass, but it’s better to be cautious.

4. Display: Many collectors and enthusiasts display uranium glass items as decorative pieces, and this is generally considered safe. The glass does have the unique property of fluorescing under ultraviolet light, which adds to its aesthetic appeal.

In summary, while uranium glass is considered safe for handling and display, it’s important to exercise common-sense precautions. Avoid using it for food or drink, be cautious with damaged pieces, and limit prolonged contact when handling. The radioactivity levels in uranium glass are typically too low to pose health risks under normal circumstances.

Let us know what you think about uranium glass. Are there any pieces you would want to own? Would you use it for halloween decorations only or year round?


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