Buyer & User Guide to Depression Glass & Jadeite–Fabulous Collectibles & Functional Glassware
Depression Glass would be more aptly named happy glass because its bright colors and pretty patterns will surely bring a smile to your face. This colorful and intricate glassware is not only a collectible vintage treasure, but also functional glassware that will add vintage flair, color and style to your home.
American Sweetheart Monax cups and plates by MacBeth Evans Glass Company
Brief History of Depression Glass
Depression Glass is so called because of the era in which it was produced, the Great Depression, but it was actually produced from the mid-1920's through WWII. During that time, this machine-made glassware was produced in the Ohio River Valley by numerous manufacturers, such as Hazel-Atlas Glass Company, Anchor Hocking Glass Company, Federal Glass Company, Hocking Glass Company, and MacBeth-Evans Glass Company to name a few. Depression Glass is highly collectible today and can sell for $9 a piece to hundreds of dollars per piece depending on pattern and color, so it is hard to believe that it was originally given away for free or at very low prices, sometimes being sold with boxes of food as an incentive to purchase those goods or given to patrons by movie theaters or other businesses.
Depression Glass Colors
Depression Glass came in a rainbow of colors, but amber and yellow were most popular during the Great Depression. However, today the most popular colors are pink, green, and blue, making those colors more valuable because of increased demand for them. You may associate Depression Glass with translucent colorful glass, but there were also opaque colors as well. You have probably heard of Jadeite, popularized by Martha Stewart, but what you may not know is that this milky green glass is an example of opaque Depression Glass. Another opaque or semi-opaque example is Monax, which is white partially-opaque glass. Though it is often confused with milk glass, it differs in its slightly transparent appearance.
Yellow Candy Dish (Cameo by Hocking Glass Company), Pink Dessert Bowl (Cherry Blossom by Jeannette Glass Company), Pink Teacup (American Sweetheart by MacBeth Evans Glass Company), Green Footed Glasses (Princess by Anchor Hocking Glass Company), Pour Spout Mixing Bowl and Mixing Bowl Set (Jadeite Fire King by Anchor Hocking Glass Company), White Teacups (American Sweetheart by MacBeth Evans Glass Company), Pink Clover Teacups (Cloverleaf by Hazel Atlas Glass Company)
Identifying Depression Glass
Depression Glass is most readily identified by its bright colors and intricate raised patterns, but there are other markers that help identify Depression Glass and distinguish it from other types of glass and modern reproductions. Depression Glass was produced quickly and without additional treatments to finish pieces after they were taken from their molds. Because of the techniques used to make this glass, some collectors view it as lessor in quality than other types of vintage glass, as pieces of Depression Glass have telltale markers of the manufacturing techniques used to make them such as mold marks, bubbles, and raised rough spots. However, what some consider defects, are now marks of authenticity that can be used to identify true Depression Glass. Identification has become important, as reproductions have since been made that are heavier and lacking these markers of Depression Era manufacturing. Recognizing reproductions can be tricky for a new collector, but once you become familiar with popular patterns and the typical make and look of Depression Glass, it will become apparent if a piece is a reproduction. Reproductions do not replicate original Depression Glass patterns exactly and they are often less detailed, so a practiced eye will be able to distinguish a reproduction from an original piece. A great resource to identify patterns, see what colors patterns came in, and become familiar with Depression Glass pieces generally is this database created by Kejaba Treasure Store. The database allows you to search by color, pattern attribute, or maker and includes lots of pictures! A quick search will allow you to find a pattern by searching for the attributes in it and compare the pictures provided to the piece you are looking at to determine whether it is the real deal or a reproduction. Link to the database: http://www.kejabatreasures.com/kejaba-depressionglass.php
Markers of Authentic Depression Glass
A Cautionary Note on Jadeite:
If you are interested in collecting vintage Jadeite and it matters to you that the Jadeite is actually vintage, then this information is important to note. Jadeite is very expensive, and as such Jadeite pieces really are investment pieces, so it is crucial that you are certain the Jadeite you want to buy is actually vintage and not a reproduction. You do not want to unknowingly purchase modern Jadeite at vintage Jadeite prices as modern Jadeite is much less expensive and readily available at places like Crate & Barrel and One Kings Lane who both carry a line of modern Jadeite by Mosser Glass. Mosser Glass Jadeite is a very convincing reproduction and can easily fool an excited collector. Even the Mosser Glass makers mark at the bottom the company's Jadeite line resembles the makers mark of McKee Glass Company, which is McK in a circle. The other makers of vintage Jadeite were Jeanette Glass Company and Anchor Hocking Fire King.
Mosser Glass makers mark that resembles that of McKee Glass Company, an original Jadeite manufacturer. (below)
Original Jadeite manufacturer, Anchor Hocking, Fire King makers mark. (below)
Can you tell which of these pieces are vintage and which are new? Mosser Glass is very convincing!
Pour Spout Mixing Bowl (Fire King Jadeite), Mortar and Pestle (Mosser Glass), Mixing Bowl Set (Mosser Glass), Cake Stand (Mosser Glass)
Pricing of Depression Glass
Pricing of Depression Glass varies greatly and is really dependent on a variety of factors such as the pattern and color of the piece, and the piece itself as some pieces were produced in limited quantities. The region you are buying in can also affect pricing because of supply and demand, meaning if you are in a region with a lot of Depression Glass then prices may be lower versus if you are in a region where less Depression Glass is available.
Buying Depression Glass
What is important when purchasing Depression Glass depends on your intent in buying it. If you are a really serious collector or want to become one, then you are probably looking for the rarest patterns and colors that were produced in limited quantities because they are investment pieces. If you just enjoy collecting Depression Glass to use it, then buying is probably more about aesthetics and usefulness. I like to choose pieces that I enjoy looking at and know that I will use. Whether you are a serious collector or just a hobbyist like me, you will want to make sure that you thoroughly look over whatever pieces you want to buy. Avoid scratches or cracks. Run your fingers over the pieces you want to buy to look for chips, which can be tiny and you may not notice them in your initial excitement. But take a moment and look closely because you do not want to get home and find chips in your pieces. Many a time I have brought a piece to the register and then disappointedly put it back after doing a final inspection and finding a tiny chip. Make sure that the piece isn't "sick glass," meaning that the glass looks cloudy because someone put it in the dishwasher. Of course, as I addressed above, make sure that the pieces you found are not reproductions. If you are unsure look up the pattern and compare the piece you found to patterns with similar attributes in the database.
Depression Glass in Everyday Use
Depression Glass came in unique raised patterns and in a rainbow of translucent and opaque pastel colors and styles, making it desirable at the time of the Great Depression and just as much and maybe even more so today. Women during the Great Depression enjoyed using Depression Glass on an everyday basis in their kitchens, and I am a firm believer that it should be purchased to be loved and used today. Aside from being beautiful, Depression Glass is functional, which is what has always drawn me to it. I love beautiful things, and have also collected porcelain dinnerware, but I have always found myself afraid to use it for fear of chipping or breaking it. I have no such fears with my depression glass because it is clearly made for everyday use, as it is relatively thick and durable glass, but yet it looks so elegant and delicate. I really enjoy Depression Glass because it helps me to make everyday dining feel special because the pieces fuse beauty and function in a way that encourages frequent use. This functionality allows a Depression Glass collection to go from being a pretty display to a glassware set for daily use.
Depression Glass Care
I know that I just said Depression Glass is functional, and it is! But it is vintage and because of that it requires some care. Do NOT put your Depression Glass in the dishwasher. I know that it can be a detracting factor for some people when dishes are not dishwasher safe, but there are plenty of modern pieces of glassware that are also not dishwasher safe. That's it, all the care that's required is hand-washing.
I hope you found this article helpful and that you will go armed with knowledge to start hunting for your own Depression Glass collection that will brighten your kitchen and your day!
Adams, David. “What Is Depression Glass ?”National Depression Glass Association, www.ndga.net/articles/whatisdg.php?utm_medium=google. Accessed 9 July 2020.