Radioactive Glass?

 Radioactive glass?
Antique Uranium glass pieces are both unusual and fascinating, and when displayed under an
ultraviolet light, causes people both young and old to stop and stare. Uranium is most often
associated with atomic bombs and nuclear disasters, so it is hard to think of something that can
be used to cause destruction, and then think of it being used to make decorative and delicate
glassware. Yet that is exactly what happened when a German chemist named Martin Heinrich
Klaproth discovered the element Uranium in 1789 and began using it as a coloring agent. Using
uranium oxide in glassmaking gives the glass a beautiful decorative appearance and a unique
fluorescent effect. Uranium glass will glow a stunning bright green when placed under a black
light, and this is one of the best ways to identify authentic uranium glass.
In the early 1900’s people began calling uranium glass “Vaseline glass” as its appearance was
like a well-known product made by the Vaseline company. Uranium glass was used to produce
a variety of items such as: bottles, figurines, jewelry, vases, mugs, pitchers, chandeliers, and
dishware. There are three sub-types of uranium glass which all glow when placed under a black
light; Vaseline glass is yellowish green & transparent, Custard glass is semi-opaque & pale
yellow, and Jadeite glass which is pale green in color and can be opaque in appearance.
Uranium glass is highly collectible and the more common glassware pieces are in the $20 and
up range, with the rarer items being thousands of dollars and up.
Popularity of uranium glass peaked between 1880 and 1920, with many homes having multiple
pieces of the beautiful glassware. Production of new uranium pieces ceased when it became
difficult for glassmakers to get uranium. As World War I ended, the cold war began, and would
last for nearly 50 years. The United States government confiscated uranium, for use in the
Manhattan project. For nearly 15 years uranium was not used in glassmaking, until the use of
uranium was deregulated in 1959. Glassmakers then began using depleted uranium, and while
the glassware still glowed brightly, the glass was not quite the same as the before.
Yes, Uranium glass is radioactive, although level of radiation is low and considered safe. You
may be surprised to know that the U.S. Nuclear Regulation Commission has said in a report
published in 2001, that Uranium glass is considered safer than most household electronics! It is
perfectly ok to touch and display the unique glassware, but it is not safe to ingest uranium. It
may be tempting to use the vintage uranium dishware; however it is not advised to eat or drink
from them. Best practice is to simply display the uranium glass pieces and watch the surprise
your friends faces when you turn on a black light.

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