Monday, January 10, 2011

U is for Uranium Glass

Uranium Glass, also known as Vaseline Glass, is the name given glass resembling the color of petroleum jelly at the time of the early 20th C. The glass fluoresces bright green under ultra-violet (black) light due to the addition of uranium salt known as uranium dioxide, which is added during the molten stage. This color is more yellow/green than the green of Depression Glass, which contains iron oxide as its colorant. Depression Glass green does not fluoresce. The use of uranium as a colorant in glass dates back to 79 AD, where it was found to be a part of a yellow mosaic glass tile in a Roman villa, Bay of Naples. It was Martin Klaproth, 1743-1817, who experimented with uranium as a coloring element in glass. By the 1830's, many companies in Europe were producing Vaseline Glass, including Adams & Co., Steuben Glass, Cambridge Glass Co., and Baccarat. The Boston & Sandwich Glass Co. manufactured it in the United States beginning in the 1840's. Names for the color of the glass include: citron, jasmine, golden green, mustard, canary, and Florentine. Uranium glass colors range from yellow to green depending on the oxidation state and concentration of the metal ions present. The higher the uranium dioxide content in the glass, the greater the coloring effect. Ultra violet radiation excites the outer electrons of the uranium atoms, exuding bright green energy which is the fluorescence we see.

In 1943 through the Cold War of the 1950's, the U.S. government halted the production of Vaseline Glass, as uranium became a heavily regulated substance used in missiles and warheads. In 1958, depleted uranium dioxide was allowed to be used in glass once again. The uranium content of Vaseline Glass is estimated to be 2% by weight, with some glass from the early 20th C containing as much as 25%. As a form of Art Glass, Vaseline Glass is considered highly collectible and strikes a very cool statement with its intensity and vibrancy. Keep an eye out for it; I guarantee you will know it when you see it. And, it's always fun to get out the black light, do a little dance, and watch it glow!

(I just realized this post was written at 2:34 on 1:10:11. If I were a gambling gal, I may just play those numbers!)


Carol said...

It certainly is hot! I had forgotten all about this glassware! It would be fun to have a 'black light' dinner instead of black tie! ;>)) I am sure I am being obtuse, but is it radioactive?? ;>)

Maria Wheeler, Simply Cool Stuff said...

Maria Wheeler, Simply Cool Stuff said...
Great question, Carol! What is known is that a Geiger Counter (an alpha and beta particle and gamma ray detector measuring ionizing radiation) does register a radioactive reading on authentic Vaseline Glass that glows under long wave UV (black) light. In the early 2000's, a study was conducted in the UK on many pieces of uranium glass, in order to evaluate safety concerns of radioactive emissions; the conclusion was levels were insignificant - close to the amounts of natural radioactivity all around us. Other than grinding a piece, thus spraying particulates in the air, Vaseline Glass is considered safe. So, I'd say that Black Light dinner would be really COOL - or - hot, considering the color! Thanks for the comment; and enjoy the snow!

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