What makes uranium glass collectibles glow?


Although uranium is often associated with atomic bombs and nuclear disasters, for much of its history, it was just another colouring agent. German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth discovered the element in 1789, and glassmakers later began using it to colour glass in shades ranging from bright green to pale yellow.

The term “uranium glass” generally describes glass with uranium oxide, which glows under a black light. Other terms — Vaseline glass and Depression glass, for example — came later and apply more specifically to lighter yellow glass and glass made during the Great Depression, respectively. By any name, though, it’s experiencing a renewed popularity among collectors who are drawn to its eerie glow and perceived danger.

Franz Anton Riedel is cited as one of the first to add uranium to glass, using it in the 1830s in the modern-day Czech Republic, but similar work was going on simultaneously […]

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