Some love the nostalgia it inspires, bringing back childhood in the 1950s and reminding them of the past. Others still just like how it looks, which is probably why most people collect jadeite. There’s just something so attractive about its milky green color, whether used to serve food or set off as home decor. Sneath Glass was another early American company making jadeite, as seen in this rare Sneath jadeite water dispenser.
The McKee pinch bottle to the right is another rare find collectors consider drool-worthy. Several collectors get a kick out of (and long to return to) vintage jadeite’s clever marketing tactics. To spread the word and get housewives who did the grocery shopping to buy their products, household companies would stick a piece of jadeite in their packaging to offer an incentive to buy it again. For example, one measuring cup might be inside a bag of flour, enticing someone to complete the whole set. While promotional pieces were given away for free, these days they’re highly collectible and can go for thousands of dollars, depending on the price, maker, and overall condition. The deeper you delve into jadeite collecting culture, the more you’ll start to hear about fake or faux, as well as “fantasy” jadeite, a term some collectors find condescending. While neither fake nor fantasy are considered authentic vintage jadeite (from a purist’s standpoint), there are key differences among them. Fake or “faux” is what some collectors call reproduced or “repro,” anything made in 2000 or newer, whether in the U.S.A. Companies like Martha by Mail (by Martha Stewart) and Cracker Barrel make contemporary jadeite that can look quite similar to the older stuff.
These Martha by Mail jadeite cake stands look great, which makes some collectors scoff at the idea of only acquiring vintage. The rest of the dishes are Restaurantware by Anchor Hocking Fire-King. Photo by David who runs the American Jadeite Collectors Facebook Group. Fantasy jadeite, on the other hand, is made to look like specific vintage pieces and is often cast from the same molds used in the past. Mosser is one such company making really nice reproductions. Target also makes reproductions, like their reproduction of the famous ball jug. Any jadeite cake stands are new, as they weren’t made during the mid-century. The more familiar you are with vintage jadeite the more easily you’ll be able to spot these variations. Clambroth is a more translucent green glass found in both vintage and contemporary designs. Some collectors consider it jadeite, while others say no way. Clearly it looks different from the opaque look of milk glass made by McKee, Jeannette or Anchor Hocking. But if you just love the look of green glass, clambroth makes an interesting addition. Here is an assortment of jadeite pieces, including the coveted bubble bowl. The middle star-shaped piece is clambroth, which you can tell is more transluscent than the others. Clambroth glass doesn’t have the opaque milkiness genuine jadeite is known for, but as green glass goes, it’s a close cousin and complementary to both old and new pieces. It’s easy to care for jadeite, although you can’t just stick it in the microwave. But they’re dishwasher safe (at your own risk), and most of it doesn’t crack easily. Beware when using the vintage stuff every day, however, if only because you might break pieces that can’t be replaced. Some collectors prefer to display their vintage stuff while using the newer, replaceable pieces. Others use their vintage jadeite daily without worrying or thinking twice. Fire King jadeite “in action” to serve coffee with vintage Jeannette shakers in the background – and inside that darling pink hutch!
Knowing the jadeite glass makers’ marks is helpful. McKee is marked with McK, Jeannette with a J in a triangle, and Anchor Hocking is marked with their signature Fire-King Oven Ware logo. However, you can’t always rely on branding since not all the pieces were marked, especially promo pieces. This is why studying and basic knowledge can help with discernment. Also, go beyond the Internet to really feel the weight of different pieces. You’ll find older pieces were heavier and more compact. Prior to World War II it wasn’t unusual to use uranium in dishware and other household items.
When the war started they needed uranium for weaponry, so companies that came later, like Anchor Hocking, couldn’t use it. Uranium glows, which is one way to discern pre-WWII pieces from the rest. One way to spot an authentic McKee or Jeannette is to shine a black light on it. Photo by Laurie, who shared this neat radiocative trick.