Monday, July 23, 2007

ANSWER: OLD VS. NEW MILK GLASS

QUESTION: Hi. I was at some yard sales this past weekend and came up with another question for you. How can you tell the difference between authentic milk glass and just plain white glass? I think many floral arrangements used to come with this less expensive white glass. I've also noticed that some milk glass is marked "hoosier glass". Can you tell me which is worth collecting?
Thanks lp

MARYANSWER: Hi LP.
It is hard to say what is considered authentic milk glass. Milk glass is named for its color, made by a process which achieves a milky white glass. Milk glass has actually been around for centuries. It is made from a mixture of over 50% sand or now, silica, with chemicals and minerals being added to the hot glass mixture. Older companies also used bone ash. Most of what is collected today is glass from the late 1800s to the carnival and "newer" milk glass of the 1950s. These milk glass pieces can garner high values, primarily dependent on the pattern and rarity. You will also find some of the Fenton milk glass from the 1970s is already widely collected and demanding high prices.

Basically the differences you will see in older and newer milk glass is the color and transparency of the glass. As different chemicals and minerals became available, the process of making milk glass was modified and so was its look. The older milk glass has a transparency; when held up to a light, it will shine through, while the newer milk glass is opaque. Pure white is the most common type of milk glass but especially in older depression milk glass you will find some tinted with a touch of color, blue being the most popular.

To better explain the differences, I have included some examples from http://www.maryantiques.com/. The plates were made from 1930 - 1936 by MacBeth Evans Glass Company in the American Sweetheart pattern. They called this transparent white milk glass color Monax, one has a blue iridescence. Indiana Glass marketed most of its milk glass in the 1950s. An example is the Orange Blossom Pattern snack set. The Fenton Company, still a popular glass maker, manufactured these hobnail pattern milk glass salt & pepper shakers in the 1970s and they are already highly collectible. Note that this milk glass is opaque.

Though it is rarely marked, some of the other US companies producing milk glass during the depression era through to the 1950s included Duncan Glass, Westmoreland Glass Company, L.E. Smith Glass Company, Fostoria, Hazel Atlas, Federal Glass, Anchor Hocking, Indiana Glass, Fostoria, McKee. In France, Vallerysthal was the most noted manufacturer of older milk glass.

Many companies manufactured milk glass and almost everything was made in milk glass, vases, cups, etc. In fact it is still being manufactured and some of the most collectible pieces are being reproduced today. Some reproductions of older milk glass patterns look convincing. Another way to distinguish older milk glass apart from newer or reproduction milk glass is the mold marks. The mold lines in older glass are usually more defined and sharper than on the reproductions.

When talking about milk glass you will hear other terms mentioned such as Opal Ware, Opal Glass, Opaline Glass, Custard Glass, Lattacino. Opalware is believed to be the term first used to describe milk glass. Some call the blue and colored glass made in France during the late 1800s, colored milk glass, though it most widely known as, Opaline Glass (see the blue egg shape jar). A clearer almost translucent white glass also popular in the Victorian era is called Opal Glass (vase with candelabra). Then there is custard glass, which is actually an opaque custard look glass which is never pure white. Latticino is the term for milk glass threads in blown art glass, most popular in the 1960s.

From the information I gathered, Hoosier Glass is widely mistaken with the Hoosier Manufacturing Company which was founded in 1899. [They were the first to manufacture the popular kitchen cabinets that their competitors soon copied and are almost all now referred to as Hoosier Cabinets. These cabinets were available to buyers with optional glass sets which usually included canisters, spice sets, and sometimes more, though never vases. Most glass for these Hoosier Cabinets was manufactured between the early 1900s and around 1940 by Sneath Manufacturing Company. By the way, a wonderful site to reference this type of glass is www.towbees.com.]

You will find the Hoosier name and a pattern or production number on many vases, as this glass company, similar to the EO Brody company distributed many floral holders to florists. Though, since the late 1950s, EO Brody has been a distributor of vases, etc., while Hoosier was actually a manufacturer of glass vases, floral holders. Hoosier Glass pieces are mainly clear, green, and milk glass, and are not quite as common as those marked, EO Brody. General opinion is that Hoosier glass vases are a bit better quality.

The background on Hoosier Glass is somewhat unclear: Hoosier Glass is owned by Syndicate Sales Inc. (Indiana Corporation), and is a manufacturer of, “holders for flowers; namely, vases for receiving floral arrangements.” The name was first trademarked in 1979. The trademark was renewed in 1993; yet in a quick search, I could find no web based evidence of the Indiana based Glass vase business today. Currently, the market value of Hoosier Glass vases ranges from about $5 - $15 a vase. There is a small society of Hoosier Glass collectors and it is expected to be valued a bit higher in the future.

As far as what is worth collecting ... If you are collecting for investment, look for the older more fragile milk glass by the well-known companies mentioned above. Though, I truly believe its worth collecting any piece ... if you really like it!! Besides, almost anything bought from a garage sale is worth more, or at the least, what you paid! Another collecting trend to note, is that some of the more widely produced items no one thought worth collecting are now some of the rarer antiques.
As a collector of milk glass you may also want to know about the Milk Glass Collectors Society, http://www.nmgcs.org/
Thanks for submitting your question!

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