Depression Glass: A Rainbow of Colored Glass!

First, let’s discuss what Depression Glass is, what defines it and what characteristics it can have. According to the National Depression Glass Association, Depression glass refers to American-manufactured glassware that was first produced in the mid-1920s through the end of the 1940s, as glassware manufacturers developed the ability to produce inexpensive luncheon and dinner glass. Most often, Depression glass was transparent with colored tints that gave the pieces a bright quality; however, occasionally, manufacturers would create opaque collections, like the milk-white vases, teacups, and pitchers that are popular today. The most common colors that were produced were amber, canary yellow, pink, and green. Less common colors include red, amethyst, jadeite, cobalt, and opaque black.

Multi-Colored Depression Glass Plates

Depression glass was low-to-average quality and was often given to consumers for free as premiums to entice customers to continue shopping during the Great Depression. Customers could get cups and saucers with carnival games at gasoline fill-ups, movie theaters, and as special gifts with the purchase of certain brands or kitchen appliances. This was a tremendous success and consumers began seeking out Depression Glass sets to purchase for their homes. Sets were often sold for $1.72 per set of a dozen. (About $25 – $35 in today’s money).

Lovely Green depression glass setting

Aside from the beautiful rainbow of colors that Depression glass comes in, one of the glassware’s most desirable qualities is the myriad of delicate patterns and motifs that these manufacturers created. Some popular styles include the Hazel Atlas Glass Company’s Royal Lace pattern and Hocking Glass Company’s Cameo and Mayfair patterns. Some popular and common patterns include:
American Sweetheart by MacBeth-Evans
Aurora by Hazel Atlas Glass Co.
Cherry Blossom by Jeannette Glass Co.
Doric Pattern by Jeannette Glass Co.
Holiday Pattern by Jeannette Glass Co.
Horseshoe Pattern by Indiana Glass Co.
Iris & Herringbone Pattern by Jeannette Glass Co.
Old Colony by Hocking Glass Co.
“Spoke” or Patrician Pattern by Federal

Depression Glass Pattern Sample

Of the various types of Depression Glass, the more desirable and unique pieces are those that are UV light reactant. Glass that illuminates or has “Fluorescence” when lit with a black light has been treated with various elements. These elements produce a glow when their atoms absorb the UV energy of a black light. The color the glass reflects will indicate what type of element and therefore, type of glass is present. The term “Vaseline” refers specifically to pieces of glass that fluoresce a bright green or greenish-yellow color, depending on the glass color. Vaseline Green and Yellow glass is most commonly treated with Uranium but will also contain compounds of copper and chromium.

Uranium Glass Figure

Other types of UV Reactant glass include:
Potash (potassium) Glass – appears green in the sun but will fluoresce bluish-green under UV
Blue (Manganese) Glass – appears blue in the sun and will glow a bluish-green under UV
Teal Green/Blue Uranium Glass – appears mostly blue with a slight green tint in the sun and will fluoresce green under UV
Opaque Light Blue (Uranium) Glass – appears light blue in the sun and will glow green under UV
Orange (cadmium sulfate) Glass – appears orange in the sun and will fluoresce orange under UV
Burmese (Uranium) Glass – appears yellowish color with pink hues and will fluoresce green under UV
Custard (Uranium) Glass – Milky whitish-cream colored and will fluoresce green under UV
Alabaster (Uranium) Glass – Opaque Whitish-green in the sun and will glow green under UV
Violet Glass – light purple, violet color in the sun and will fluoresce bluish-green under UV
Red (Manganese) Glass – appears red in the sun and will fluoresce reddish-orange under UV

multi-colored UV reactant glass.

Knowing these differences and being able to correctly attribute a maker can greatly increase the value of the piece in question or at least, more accurately place a value on that item. As collectors have a tendency to go for particular patterns or colors to complete a collection, having this information available will allow the seller to ask for or bring top dollar for an item.