Yellow-Green Vaseline" BAH!!!

by Frank Wollenhaupt Issue No. 441 & 443 - September/November 2010

Webmaster's NOTE: I have combined two months' worth of Frank's column covering this single topic, to make it easy for anyone researching "Vaseline" or "Uranium" glass.

September 2010

I've had it; I am tired of hearing my wife complain about all the glass photos on EBay taken with a black (ultraviolet) light. It's really hard to tell what the color of the glass is. Some of the people don't even take a photo in normal daylight. It's even managed to have crept into the antique malls. How many of you have gone into a booth at an antique mall and have seen a case or a space under the table with glass set up and light provided by an ultraviolet light? ENOUGH!!!!

If you attended the convention this year and heard the program put on by Les Hansen, he mentioned that most of the color formulas had trace amounts of many different chemicals. One of the chemicals that is present in several of the glass formulas is Spent Uranium (Uranium Dioxide). This is the chemical that gives the glass that yellow/greenish glow under black light.

I thought I would go on the web and see what is published about "Vaseline Glass". To my surprise, there appears to be several glass clubs devoted to "Vaseline Glass" and several different reasons for its existence and just what "Vaseline Glass" is. A few examples are listed below:

"No other transparent antique glass will glow thus making Vaseline glass truly unique in the antique world as it can always be verified to be true Vaseline by using a black light. There is no other compound added to glass which will cause this effect except URANIUM. The yellowgreen glow is characteristic of uranium-bearing glass and will also occur with custard and Burmese glass. The latter two glasses, however, are easily distinguished from Vaseline Glass in that they are not transparent.

Vaseline Glass can be difficult to detect by the human eye alone and even the best expert can be fooled. Only by testing with the black light will a piece be verifiable. Vaseline Glass can be yellow, yellow-green, or green. Individual collectors each have their own preference as to the exact color of Vaseline glass collected. However, as glassmakers of the 1920's - 30's added iron to their uranium oxide dyes to put a green tint into their glass and although these pieces will fluoresce under a black light, it is our opinion that Green Vaseline Glass (with no trace of yellow) is only a forerunner of Depression Glass rather than true Vaseline Glass."

And ...

"The history of this glass is rather obscure. Some experts credit Central Europe and Bohemia in particular, as being the point of origin for antique Vaseline glass in the early 1800s. In 1836 a pair of candlesticks made of Vaseline glass by Whitefriars Glass Works in London was given to the Queen of England. During this time period, some glass manufacturers switched from blown glass to pressed glass, a more efficient production method, and continued to use uranium dioxide as a colorant. During the late 1800s some companies added heat-sensitive chemicals to the mix that gave the finished glass an interesting milky-white edge.

The popularity of Vaseline glass continued through the turn of the century and peaked in the 1920s. From the 1920s to the 1930s some glassmakers added iron into their formulas, which changed the color of the glass to a green without any hints of yellow. Thus, another controversy was born. Today there is a debate as to whether this green glass is actually Vaseline or whether it was really a sign of the beginning of Depression-glass production."

And ...

"There is some disagreement among aficionados about what constitutes true "Vaseline glass". Vaseline Glass Collectors, Inc. (, the paramount American Vaseline glass organization, endorses the following definition of Vaseline glass:
1. it must be yellow or greenish-yellow by daylight.
2. it must fluoresce bright green under a black light
3. the glass must contain uranium dioxide (at least 2%).
4. In addition, it is generally accepted that the term "Vaseline glass" excludes opaque types of glass such as custard and Burmese glass."

The above information is used for reference only. I do not stand behind any of the statements that they have made.

Cambridge only made one glass color that is truly considered "Vaseline" and that is TOPAZ. This is the bright yellow/green color that was produced starting 1923. With that said, how many of you have seen pieces of Cambridge Light Emerald Green listed as "Vaseline"? I just saw a swan listed as Vaseline, from a Cambridge dealer. As Cambridge collectors, we need to stand firm about what constitutes the color Vaseline (Topaz).

Cambridge items made in Topaz like items in Smoke are really hard to find today and should command a premium price. By lumping the Topaz with the Lt. Emerald Green, we tend to diminish prices. Stop and think how many items you have in your collections that are Topaz. I would be surprised if any of you can come up with more than a handful.

So I need you all to stand proud and tall and keep TOPAZ strong. Don't let it play with the light green kids. Topaz is Vaseline not Light Emerald Green!

Till next month.

November 2010

I had a reply from one of our Columbus, Ohio members with an interesting slant on "Vaseline" glass. Read it over, he makes some good points.

"Your article last month hit a sore spot as a personal pet peeve of mine in the glass collecting world, the U.S inventive broad use of the term "Vaseline" glass. The European glass collecting community takes a much more sensible approach with their use of the term "Uranium" glass which encompasses reactive glass of all types, transparent & opaques including Custard, Burmese and several other colors found in Bohemian glass from the later 19th century up until WWII.

Personally for me the most objectionable belief the "Vaseline" glass collector community expounds (in most cases) is their definition of what should be considered "Vaseline". For instance with a couple of these collector organizations they use the standard that "Vaseline" glass must contain Uranium Dioxide (at least 2%). This is the very foundation of their belief. Unfortunately in the vast majority of cases they have failed to understand basic glass chemistry when referring to the actual chemical compositions of glass batches.

I'll use Cambridge as an example. Les Hansen in his February 2004 Crystal Ball article titled "Uranium" Glass outlined the chemical makeup from Henry Helmer's batch book which listed seven Cambridge colors where Uranium was used. Now in any batch no matter who/whom the manufacturer is/was numerous chemical are used and by a percentage of Uranium used in Cambridge batch formulas they are as follows:
Gold Krystol 1/10th of 1%
Pistachio 1/10th of 1%
Jade 2/10ths of 1%
Light Emerald 2/10ths of 1%
Ivory 3/10ths of 1%
Topaz 7/10ths of 1%
Primrose 2.9%

Sorry but Topaz doesn't measure up to "Vaseline" definition standards, only Primrose meets the standard. Oh wait I almost forgot, Primrose is an opaque so scratch that one also. Frank you worry too much, not one of Cambridge's colors using Uranium makes the grade as "Vaseline". I'll even take this further, I'll wager that in all probability up to 90% of all "Vaseline" that collectors hold near and dear to their hearts will not measure up to their own collector organizations definition standards. Regardless of who/whom is attributed as the manufacturer.

Your section in the Crystal Ball is titled "Only Questions-No Answers, but I think we may have an answer here. The term "Vaseline" is as phony as the proverbial three dollar bill and collectors who are members of organizations whether it's NCC, HCA, Fostoria, Imperial, etc. should never use the term "Vaseline" when describing any of the colors their respective company produced."