Uranium/Depression glass came to my attention when I was out exploring in a wonderful antique shop and stumbled across a man shining a black light on the glassware. My curiosity made me abandon my manners and I just had to ask what he was doing. He was very accommodating and told we all about the fascinating and slightly scary uranium glass. Now it is my turn to tell you…..
Depression glass is clear or coloured translucent glassware that was distributed free, or at low cost, in the United States and Canada around the time of the Great Depression. Much depression glass is uranium glass, that is glass which has been actually made with uranium. Uranium glass fell out of widespread use when the availability of uranium to most industries was sharply curtailed during the cold war in the 1940s to 1990s for the production of nuclear weapons.
The normal colour of uranium glass ranges from yellow to green but it distinguishing feature is that it fluoresces bright green under ultra violet /black 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.
Actually my friendly teacher reassured me uranium glass was prefectly safe but what was really dangerous was the early Fiesta ware red/orange dinner plates as they contained radium/uranium in there glaze and that it was not particularly stable. Yikes!
Discovering uranium glass has kind of spooked me and definitely made me think…. what other unknown dangers do we encounter on our Sunday afternoon antique treasure hunts?