Collecting: Milk Glass

I have Martha Stewart to blame for my interest in collecting milk glass. Well, Martha, and the fact that milk glass is plentiful and easy to collect, and you don’t have to put a lot of money into building a collection.

Of course, I’m not focused too much on age or rarity. I simply buy a milk glass item if I like the shape or size of it. For my purposes, our local resale shops, eBay, and Etsy are all good places to get my hands on milk glass pieces I love.

A Quick History of Milk Glass

Milk glass has been around since the 16th century and was produced in Venice in a variety of colors. The white milk glass that many of us think of when we hear the term “milk glass” became popular during the Victorian era. It gained popularity in Victorian times because it looked almost like porcelain, allowing people to purchase dinnerware that resembled the more expensive, traditional porcelain, even if they were on a budget.

Popularity of milk glass fell off a bit until around World War II. In the 1950s and 1960s, many companies in the U.S. started mass-producing milk glass, which is why we’re lucky to have so many pieces available to us today. Some companies still make milk glass, so when you see it in a resale shop, it’s very possible that you’re seeing a fairly new piece, rather than an antique.

How to Tell If Your Milk Glass is Antique

It’s not easy. Most milk glass wasn’t marked, and patterns stayed fairly similar throughout production. Older milk glass often contained lead, and, if you hold these items up to bright, natural light, you’ll be able to see a sort of “rainbow” effect at the edges of the glass. Other than that, you’ll have to look up your item on sites such as Kovel’s or in books such as The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Milk Glass. The National Milk Glass Collector’s Society also has a helpful FAQ on their website about collecting milk glass.

As for me, I’ll continue to collect for fun, based on what strikes my fancy when I see it. Here’s a look at some of the items in my little collection:

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