The flash of opaque pastel green that Jadeite glass provides when sitting on a shelf or table can break up any dull space. It's an unexpected color that almost always stands out from the everyday glassware found in most homes. Plus, with the help of a UV light (black light), some even glow in the dark. Aside from the sea foam green color and unique design characteristics—as well as interesting textures like undulating hobnails, smooth arches, or ribbed rings—these pieces also come with stories and history that modern decor items lack.
Antique glassware has made more of an appearance recently in homes courtesy of the cuts, colors, and designs they come in, and as mentioned, one type that's really seen a flux and flow of popularity is milk glass, particularly Jadeite. The name comes from its color, which resembles the gemstone jade and its green tone has been adding a playful touch of color to homes for decades.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Lori Verderame (Dr. Lori) is the director of the art & antiques resource Dr. Lori V in historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
The History of Milk Glass and Jadeite
There is a long-running history of this glass category and a few interesting details about the Jadeite variation specifically. "Milk glass dates back to the 1500s and originated in the famous glass furnaces of Venice, Italy," explains Dr. Lori Verderame, a Ph.D-holding antiques appraiser. "Milk glass, for its white color, was a cheaper alternative to ceramic porcelain offering a similar look. Porcelain was a highly regarded import product during the Renaissance era and Europeans wanted it badly."
She notes that famous and wealthy American faces, such as President George Washington and First Lady Martha Washington, were collectors of porcelain but it wasn't accessible to everyone. Fortunately, she notes that milk glass served as an "inexpensive and handsome lookalike" of porcelain, making it "a perfect alternative." If people couldn't afford the real thing, milk glass was an ideal dupe, allowing anyone to add this popular look to their homes.
Jadeite in particular came about in the 1930s. Its bold green color differs from other types of milk glass and you'll find that most authentic pieces come from McKee, Jeannette, or Anchor Hocking and its Fire-King range—three companies that are famously known for creating this type of glass. Prior to World War II, you'll find that Jadeite (along with other types of glass) will glow in the dark because of the uranium mixed in while creating the glass.
It experienced a revival during the 1990s due to Martha Stewart's love for the glass. Featured in her own home, and in turn on the cover of her magazine, people began seeking out the green glass once more. Now, as designers and design enthusiasts are beginning to find ways of adding original touches to a space and making monochromatic rooms stand out, Jadeite and other vintage glassware have proven to be the perfect solution.
How to Find Jadeite and Milk Glass
Vintage glassware like Jadeite can't be found at just any store, of course, though there are plenty of copycat designs and even DIY methods created for achieving a similar finish. That being said, nothing beats the original, and it takes a little more research and discovery to truly find pieces that are both authentic and match the look you're going for in your own home.
Dr. Lori has a few pointers about where to look: "Searching for milk glass online and offline at auctions, yard sales, estate sales, selling websites like eBay, Ruby Lane, Etsy, and others is a great option for many collectors and resellers."
Determining What's Valuable
Speaking with a professional is the best way to figure out what's valuable and if the Jadeite or milk glass you're purchasing or already own is worth a pretty penny. There are also numerous resources online created by official organizations and expert appraisers that can help determine value.
In general, Dr. Lori explains that there are a few things to look out for in milk glass. "Certain patterns, shapes, and styles are highly sought after such as pedestal planters, embossed pitchers with fruit, particularly grapes, and flower motifs, chalice cups, tapered bud vases, and candlestick pairs etc.," she says.
Incorporating Milk Glass and Jadeite as Decor
"For home decor, milk glass offers versatility and a timeless look has helped the vintage objects retain popularity over the centuries," explains Dr. Lori. "Planters and vases are the most popular types of milk glass objects."
She adds that when early summer rolls around, milk glass sees a rise in popularity. Milk glass bud vases emerge in wedding and garden decor and given its color makes it malleable for a wide range of themes and styles. "White goes with anything and gives a fresh, clean look to any space," she says.
Jadeite, and other hues of milk glass—like blue or pink—are equally as powerful design-wise, adding pops of color in all types of homes. Today, even sleek, modern spaces do well with a splash of green Jadeite. It can be styled in a variety of ways, either serving as the center of attention or complemented among other antiques.
Shelves housing a large collection of glassware, including pops of green Jadeite, works as a stunning accent wall in living or dining rooms. Jadeite works great in table centerpieces or styled in vignettes on top of side tables or mantels. Get creative and Jadeite will add oomph that basic glassware might be missing.