Radioactive glassware and the collectors who love it



What I am wondering is do collectors of such glassware glow in the dark.

1 Like

We used to use old ceramics with the uranium orange glaze as radiation sources in physics lab. I find that putting one of them an appropriate distance from a geiger counter produced a very soothing series of random clicks. I’d like to get one, and a geiger counter, some day so I can put them in my room and let the random clicking lull me to sleep.


Nice. Now I can add these to the list of items I will fill my black-light man-cave with.


Oh hell, who cares if it’s safe. I would happily brave a mild cancer for dishes that awesome.

I’d like to have a piece or two. I like to find rocks that glow under black light. If you look around people who have mixed landscaping rocks at night with an UV light you can usually find a couple rocks with something glowing in them. I think a lot of what I find is probably calcite, but I am not sure. I also have some amber an crinoid fossils that glow. Nothing awesome like the expensive stuff you see in museums etc, but it’s still fun to find.


I have a fairly large collection of vasaline and depresion glass. (Both glow, but the vasaline glass has a milky finish to it.) The largest piece is a large glass pitcher that I use to use to serve absinthe at parties. (It holds about a gallon. That tells you what those parties were like.)

My favorite piece is a vasaline glass flower vase from about 1910. I found it at a garage sale for $8. This is why I carry a black light with me to garage sales and antique shops.


I don’t actively seek the stuff out but have picked up a few pieces over the years. I collected fluorescent minerals when I was a kid, and got my first black light back in the '60s before the cheap incandescent bulbs were available to shine on posters.

1 Like

I have a huge collection of uranium glasswear that I inherited.

My ex used to be terrified of the whole collection. I would always tell him that if he continued to act like a jerk, I would take one of the plates and put it between the mattress and box spring on his side of the bed. That way he would be shooting blanks for life. Not actually true, but it made a good threat when he was in rare form.

It needs black light to glow.


It is pretty safe. The radiation is weak and can be considered negligible, the chemical toxicity of uranium roughly matches lead, and the atoms are secured in the glass structure of the glaze. So as long as you don’t actually eat acidic food from the glassware/dishes (or at least don’t do it too often) the risk you get exposed to sinks way below the noise level.

HEEEE :smiley:

I have a piece of such thing. Orange-glazed motifs on a black ceramic vessel. Sings nicely.

I have to try it, find out how the soothing effect would work.

Also, you can look here:
There is a link to a MP3 of a Geiger counter recording of cosmic radiation obtained during a flight. Try it out and let me know.

On a side note, if you have a kiln/furnace, sometimes you can luck out and get uranium glass cullet online. Could be handy for glass/ceramics artists here.


Interesting. Looks like you get way higher counts from being up that high than you’d get even just a few inches from one of those ceramic glazed radiation sources.

1 Like

Okay. I officially have a new obsession. Thanks BoingBoing.

1 Like

Pretty much yes.

I intend to repeat the experiment, and get not only the pulse count but also the event energies (for a nice 3D graph) once I finally get around to rig up a gamma spectrometer. Got delayed because of the sharp hike in NaI:Tl crystals prices after Fuckupshima. Grumble,


I lived just south of the reactor until shortly before the tsunami,and I was trying to think of what I could send my friends back there in a care package that would be useful, and it occurred to me to send them some geiger counters and iodine pills. When I went online to try to find some, I found that they were all sold out, and my initial assumption was that they had all already been bought by aid organizations, and would make their way to where they were needed anyway. When I found out that they were bought by idiots in the US who were worried about the radioactivity reaching them here, I felt more hatred for stupid people than I have before or since.


Iodine pills won’t help much if taken too late after the I-131 release. (A good trick is to be stocked up with potassium iodide, from which you can prepare saturated solution easily, and from the temperature-concentration table calculate the number of drops for a dose.)

Stupid is a natural state of the universe.

Todo: try jury-rigging a ionization chamber from junk laying around (high-gain op-amp, coffee can…) and testing it with a weak gamma source. I think there are designs on the Net to knock off, err, to be inspired with.

And that’s said to reassure me?

Yes. You won’t grind it to powder and eat it, anyway. And while uranium has some mystical aura of danger around it, in the mind of way too many people, lead is… lead. And lead glass is lead glass and nobody will freak about having some in their cabinet or all over that sparkly chandelier.

1 Like

Yeah, well, if you’re particularly unlucky, you can sometimes find pottery coated with lead glaze. If you ever make a salad in said bowl, between the tomatoes and the vinegar, you get a healthy bonus of lead acetate.


But does it taste as good?


Cadmium is worse (beware of those pretty bright yellows-oranges-reds). Lead is a garden variety poison that won’t harm you much in low and occasional doses. A salad in that bowl wouldn’t leach that much at short dwell time, but I wouldn’t recommend leaving it there overnight.

Most likely no. In low concentrations in water it has no taste, and at higher concentrations the uranium laced food in animal studies is reported to taste unpleasant.

Also, from here: “The salts of uranium have a yellow colour and an astringent metallic taste.”

1 Like