Hidden dangers in your China Cabinet Part 2: Depression and Vaseline glass; natural Uranium glass and why it glows under black light.

Published May 24, 2015 by AntiqueMystique1

Depression glass was produced and given away sometimes in sacks of flour and other goods during “the dust bowl” as known as, The Great Depression that lasted from 1929 through 1935. It was the longest, darkest and uncertain time for the US and elsewhere from what I’ve read. And some depression glass can be hazardous to your health.


Well, if it glows under a black light, (think in terms of Vaseline glass, for example) it will contain radioactive materials, especially uranium which was procured naturally and in the latter part of making Vaseline pieces in the 50s, ‘depleted’ uranium. Why then did they make glass using radioactive metals back then? Where they crazy? Again, more than likely what we know nowadays wasn’t always taken into serious consideration health-wise until sometimes it was too late. If you ever read of the man who literally killed himself overtime by drinking massive quantities of radium that used to be available to put in your drinking water to cure all ails, then imagine what some exposure to radioactive materials can do your organs and body over time as it leeches into your food and drink from uranium glass?

I’m not writing this blog to give anybody nightmares or turn them away from purchasing that ‘gotta have it’ piece for their Vaseline/ depression glass collection. In fact, most of our ancestors never got cancer from eating and drinking off of depression and Vaseline glass. There are some very gorgeous pieces of depression glass out there. Some of it drastically reduced in price because it’s quite plentiful to turn up.

For a while I collected pink depression glass and one (yikes) yellow depression glass snack plate. After I quickly learned about its natural radioactive history, I parted ways with it. And yes, you can still be exposed to small doses of radiation even when the depression and Vaseline glass is locked up in a China cabinet. I also collected a few pieces of carnival glass too. However, since I’m still doing extensive research on that I like to find stuff out on my own, but the help is greatly appreciated all the same.

I downsized my carnival glass and the only pieces I have are a sherbet cup, Indiana thumb print candy dish, and marigold iridescent candy dish that never sees any use. Why do I allow these pieces of glassware to hang around? They’re pretty. Ah, yes, the depression glass salt and pepper shakers: uranium-laced salt and black pepper, no thanks. I’ll stick with Tupperware. I remember my great grandmother hoarded depression glass, carnival glass and some Vaseline glass like there was no tomorrow. And I remember walking by the card tables she displayed the glassware on and hear the ‘rattling’ and clanks of the dishes resound with a fragile echo. From wall to wall China cabinets were stuffed (and items stacked) neatly with such glassware. A few salt dishes and other glass refrigerator containers took center stage. I let my great grandmother tell me all about the depression era and when a certain piece of glassware was produced. Now my great grandma did go by collector price guides whereas I never rely on them.

I always thought, “It might be worth something to somebody, someday.” I really didn’t care what price to stick on any antique past or present that I’ve sold. As long as it goes to a good home and the buyer is happy, that’s all that matters to me. Thanks for reading and please keep checking back.


4 comments on “Hidden dangers in your China Cabinet Part 2: Depression and Vaseline glass; natural Uranium glass and why it glows under black light.

  • I once bought a gorgeous pair of rich blue glass candlesticks to sell in my Etsy shop and as was always my wont before listing anything made of ceramic or glass, I checked it for repairs or damage via a blacklight. Imagine my surprise when the candlesticks turned bright chartreuse before my very eyes, LOL. That’s how I first learned about uranium glass (and, through trial and error, how to decently photograph same in order to illustrate it properly!). They were pretty but I was still a bit squirrelly about having it around the house until they sold, so I promptly packed them up securely and they sat in their shipping box in a corner of a room that I rarely went into, until someone bought them. 😉

    • I never thought rich blue candlesticks would glow under black light. Whenever I tried selling depression glass a long time ago, I never thought to test it under a black light to find any repairs. I tried to rely heavily on my poor eye sight… lol. However, the pieces that did sell the buyers were very pleased with. Knowing what I know now about depression and uranium glass, I doubt I’ll collect anymore of it that’s for sure. That’s good you promptly packed them and kept them in a room seldom used. Thank you so much for your post. I truly appreciate it. 🙂

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