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Are you looking for some of the most unique and beautiful pieces of glass available anywhere? You may be looking for what's called “Vaseline Glass” or Uranium glass as it's officially called. The name Vaseline glass came to be back in the 1920's when Uranium glass was noted to have a color similar to that of the petroleum jelly that was being sold at the time and it appeared to be fairly transparent. Often people use the term Uranium glass and Vaseline glass interchangeably however among serious antique collectors, the note that Vaseline glass has a slightly more yellow-green transparent color which Uranium glass is more on the green end of the color spectrum.
In order to produce Vaseline glass, Uranium in the forum of oxide diurnate was inserted into the glass mixture prior to melting the glass. Usually the level of Uranium added was very small, around the 2% range however some pieces do have as much as 25%.
Even though Vaseline glass only got it's name in the 20's, Uranium glass can be traced back almost 2000 years in the Roman empire. Even though Uranium wasn't officially discovered until the 1700's and 1800's, the Roman's knew that Uranium could be used to color glass. Unfortunately the technique was somehow lost for almost 1700 years until the discovery of Uranium.
This glass is unique because it appears fluorescent under black light and if tested for radiation, will show trace amounts. If you're concerned about radiation though, don't worry; Vaseline glass registers only a small amount of radiation that would not have any effect on anyone. The Industrial Revolution helped to bring Uranium glass into widespread production through the glass press and other mechanical innovations. One of the downfalls of Vaseline glass is that it doesn't look very good under the light from incandescent light bulbs so it's beauty was diminished around the turn of the century when electricity started to become available. Most people just felt that it didn't look very nice in their homes any longer, but it still continued to be produced.
Vaseline glass enjoyed relative success throughout the late 1800's and onward until the 1950's when as a result of the Cold War, production of vaseline glass had to cease. For many years these colorful pieces of glassware were used extensively throughout the world, but saw a steep decline during the Cold War years because of it's uranium which was now needed for the war effort.
Today uranium glass production is mostly limited to small items like marbles and bead, but in the past it was popular to make vaseline glass tableware like platters and cake plates which today are sought after antiques. If you choose to collect vaseline glass, just watch out for fakes. As new advancements like dyes became available, some chose to make yellow colored glass and try to pass it off as official vaseline glass, which it certainly is not. If you own a nice piece of antique vaseline glass, set it near a window so that you can enjoy it's beauty through natural light, which will enhance it's unique color properties.
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