Some might call them crazy. Believe it or not, some collectors collect – wait for it – radioactive glass.
Now, it’s not exactly dangerous. Vaseline glass, often called uranium glass for its uranium content, won’t kill you. The radiation they emit comes out in very tiny amounts, less radiation than people typically expose themselves to in a single day.
However, some early 20th century pieces have up to 25% uranium, not a number to scoff at.
The best part is that Vaseline glass glows in the dark. There’s a kind of novelty in owning glass that glows (think of all the neat party tricks). The glow comes not from its radioactivity, but from uranium’s own chemistry.
The 1830’s first saw uranium oxide used for coloring glass, and Vaseline glass continued to be made through the 19th century, reaching its popularity in the 1880’s.
(Carnival glass also came in Vaseline glass shades.)
The glass has never quite been able to drop its sketchy reputation. Adding that to claims connecting Vaseline glass to lung cancer in glassblowers, the glass definitely lost its popularity over time.
In the 1940’s, the U.S. government began severely regulating the use of the substance uranium. Only later in the century did Vaseline glass come back, this time made from depleted uranium. These new, depleted uranium glass pieces are still made in small amounts today.
So how do you know if you have a glass piece containing uranium? If it’s a green or canary yellow color, expose the piece to a black (or another kind of ultraviolet) light. If it glows bright green, it has uranium.
Do you own any Vaseline glass?