America’s love affair with all things vintage is predicted to continue strong for 2018, and topping the “what to watch for” list is that wonderful green milk glass from the mid-20th Century that we refer to collectively as Jadeite.
Jadeite originated in the U.S during the Depression years as factories attempted to lift the spirits of the housewife by introducing affordable (often cheap) kitchen wares for the home.
It was first produced by the Pennsylvania-based McKee Glass Company in 1931, when workers found that by adding scraps of green glass to their popular milk glass formula the results were a beautiful shade of “jade” green. By the early 1940s Jeanette Glass Company had introduced their own line of Jadeite and the Fire King division of Anchor Hocking followed suit in 1945. Of the three it would be Anchor Hocking that would become the most prolific. In fact, of all their many patterns of glass, Jadeite would prove to be the most successful line in the company’s long history.
Jadeite was never intended to be fine china. It was made of low expansion borosilicate, a heat- and stain- resistant material, and offered in the form of table service and popular kitchen items. It sold for pennies at the hardware store and the local five-and-dime, or was often given away as a part of special promotions at pharmacies and department stores. As a result, tens of thousands of pieces were placed in circulation, making the bulk of it an easy find for today’s collector.
In addition to their line for the home, Anchor Hocking also produced a heavy commercial grade line of Jadeite from which they fittingly named Restaurant Ware. This line, originally used in restaurants, hotels and hospitals, is harder to find than regular Jadeite and rising prices are an indication that it has caught the attention of collectors.
Knowing your marks will be helpful as you search for Jadeite. McKee is easily identified by the letters McK in a small circle on the bottom. Anchor Hocking pieces will carry the Fire King logo. For the most part Jeanette didn’t mark their Jadeite. Those that were marked were from their very early years and will have a “J” inside a square or triangle and a series of mold numbers
Plates, cups and saucers are a fairly easy find at estate sales and flea markets in the $2-$4 range. As you advance your collection you might want to watch for some of the more rare pieces. Items of note include the Jadeite canister set (1931-1938) from McKee and also their “splash proof” mixing bowls. The coffee mugs from Anchor Hocking’s Restaurant Ware line with the “C” handle are currently bringing $75-$90 each online. One of the most challenging finds is the 4 piece bathroom set from the Jeanette Glass Company. They are marked BORIC ACID, MOUTHWASH, BI-CARBONATE and EPSOM SALTS in bold block letters and will sometimes be decorated with a floral motif. These have been bringing in excess of $1,000 online.
With no intent at misrepresentation, avid Jadeite collector, Martha Stewart started her own line of the popular green glass in the 1990s. While considered of little interest by serious collectors when they were first issued, these pieces designed as a tribute to the Jadeite of the 1940s, are fast approaching the status of vintage themselves and have attracted their own following of collectors. They are clearly marked on the bottom.
Both Target and Cracker Barrel are currently selling new Jadeite imported from China. While this reproduction green milk glass is attractive and serviceable, it is of no interest to collectors.
Linda Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-258-7835 or email@example.com