VASELINE GLASS OR URANIUM GLASS
Uranium oxide glass is glass which has had uranium, usually in oxide diuranate form, added to a glass mix prior to melting. The proportion usually varies from trace levels to about 2% by weight uranium, although some 19th-century pieces were made with up to 25% uranium
Uranium oxide glass was once made into tableware and household items, but fell out of widespread use when the availability of uranium to most industries was sharply curtailed during the Cold War. Most such objects are now considered antiques or retro-era collectibles, although there has been a minor revival in art glassware. Otherwise, modern uranium glass is now mainly limited to small objects like beads or marbles as scientific or decorative novelties.
APPEARANCE OF VASELINE AND URANIUM GLASS
The normal color of uranium oxide glass ranges from yellow to green depending on the oxidation state and concentration of the metal ions, although this may be altered by the addition of other elements as glass colorants. Uranium glass also fluoresces bright green under ultraviolet light and can register above background radiation on a sufficiently sensitive geiger counter, although most pieces of uranium glass are considered to be harmless and only negligibly radioactive.
The most typical color of uranium glass is pale yellowish-green, which in the 1920s led to the nickname vaseline glass based on a perceived resemblance to the appearance of petroleum jelly as formulated and commercially sold at that time. Specialized collectors still define “vaseline glass” as transparent or semitransparent uranium glass in this specific color.
“Vaseline glass” is now frequently used as a synonym for any uranium glass, especially in the United States, but this usage is not universal. The term is sometimes carelessly applied to other types of glass based on certain aspects of their superficial appearance in normal light, regardless of actual uranium content which requires a blacklight test to verify the characteristic green fluorescence.
In England and Australia, the term “vaseline glass” can be used to refer to any type of translucent glass. Even within the United States, the “vaseline” description is sometimes applied to any type of translucent glass with a greasy surface lustre.
Several other common subtypes of uranium oxide glass have their own nicknames: custard glass (opaque or semiopaque pale yellow), jadite glass (opaque or semiopaque pale green; initially, the name was trademarked as “Jadite”, although this is sometimes overcorrected in modern usage to “jadeite”), and Depression glass (transparent or semitransparent pale green).
However, like “vaseline”, the terms “custard” and “jad(e)ite” are often applied on the basis of superficial appearance rather than uranium content. Similarly, Depression glass is also a general description for any piece of glassware manufactured during the Great Depression regardless of appearance or formula.
HISTORY OF THE GLASS
The use of uranium oxide glass dates back to at least 79 AD, the date of a mosaic containing yellow glass with 1% uranium oxide found in a Roman villa on Cape Posillipo in the Bay of Naples, Italy by R. T. Gunther of the University of Oxford in 1912. Starting in the late Middle Ages, pitchblende was extracted from the Habsburg silver mines in Joachimsthal, Bohemia (now Jáchymov in the Czech Republic) and was used as a coloring agent in the local glassmaking industry.
Uranium glass became popular in the mid 19th century, with its period of greatest popularity being from the 1880s to the 1920s. By the 1840s many other European glassworks began to produce uranium glass items and developed new varieties of uranium glass. The Baccarat glassworks of France created an opaque green uranium glass which they named chrysoprase from its similarity to that green form of chalcedony.
At the end of the 19th century, glassmakers discovered that uranium glass with certain mineral additions could be tempered at high temperatures, inducing varying degrees of microcrystallisation. This produced a range of increasingly opaque glasses from the traditional transparent yellow or yellow-green to an opaque white. During the Depression years, more iron oxide was added to the mixture to match popular preferences for a greener glass. This material, technically a glass-ceramic, acquired the name “vaseline glass” because of its supposedly similar appearance to petroleum jelly.
Today a few manufacturers continue the vaseline glass tradition: Fenton Glass, Mosser Glass, Gibson Glass, LookInTheAttic & Company.
Kohn Coleman born in Michigan – received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University in 2000. He is president of LookInTheAttic & Company online at http://www.LookInTheAttic.com and authors numerous articles and publications on historical architecture.
pair of metal shot glass shaped brass or some yellow gold metal 1803 date;east Indian tapped by a sharp point?
they look like a brass; have different leaves etched in the metal. I just checked again the bottom of the (shot glass says India 1803-not East India.)
they are in excellent shape, I have not tried to polish to brighten up cause I am not sure of the metal.
Almost certainly brass.
If you want to know for sure, take to a jeweler.
If you have a vat of molten lead around, drop one in there. Brass will float, gold will sink. (Sorry, answered another question about that).
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