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Uranium Glass (wikipedia.org)
97 points by EndXA on Feb 19, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 42 comments

A really neat video by a Youtuber I follow - NileRed, who creates a lot of interesting chemistry content - was released a few days ago where he produces Uranium glass from scratch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGw6fXprV9U

If you're interested in the process and chemistry behind it, it's a very informative and entertaining watch.

Came here to say this. Nile’s videos are pure gold, figuratively speaking.

Wait, should I stop trying to transmute bytes into.. Nevermind

Yeah... you have to start with music, not bytes.

Saw that a few days ago, it's amazing how much it glows from such a small concentration of uranium.

> it's amazing how much it glows

It doesn't glow by itself, and it is unrelated to radioactivity. It's just fluorescence under a blacklight.

Fortunate, since you wouldn't want a really large concentration laying about.

Seriously. I was surprised at how much the glass was emitting. I should perhaps have a word with my mother, who not only uses uranium glass pitchers, drinking glasses and serving bowls day to day, but also eats off vintage fiestaware. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiesta_(dinnerware)#Radioactiv...

It’s not emitting the light on its own, and the fluorescence is unrelated to its radioactive nature. Uranium glass is generally considered harmless to keep around on display as long as you’re not keeping it close to your body for long durations.

That being said, you shouldn’t be eating or drinking from it. If pieces chip off and get inside your body, that can be bad.

The colour under UV immediately brought to mind the space LEGO sets I enjoyed as a kid in the early 90s: https://lego.fandom.com/wiki/6923_Particle_Ionizer

I wonder if uranium glass was actually the inspiration for the neon green elements in these pieces?

Yes! I thought the exact same thing. I used to love that color.

Thanks for resurfacing my childhood disappointment; I had one of those sets, but no black light.

> space LEGO sets I enjoyed as a kid

As a kid? Now as an adult with disposable income, I can get really awesome LEGO sets, sets I really enjoy building. I prefer Technics, but also have several star wars sets, including the model death star (not the one with the minifigs) and the original 32" star deatroyer. Post Christmas this year was spent building a lot of LEGO City sets.

I also have the Saturn V and ISS sets, both of which are awesome.

You may be interested in this https://www.vonado.com/NASA-Saturn-V-Launch-Umbilical-Tower-.... I am thinking about it....

Sharp catch! I also played with "space" Lego from around that time (including with that colour). I always found it more greenish yellow rather than yellowish green. I guess because I liked to combine it with yellow, rather than green. YMMV, obviously, but I do find the colour rather different than the one in this article.

Other interesting radioactive glass variant: thoriated glass, which has been used in photography lenses:



Those lenses have good metal encasing and the radiation is so small that there’s no real problem except the lenses start to turn to yellow with age.

My understanding is that exposing yellowed lenses to UV light will return help it un-yellow.

That type of glass was mostly only used in older lenses - which with the right adapter they still work great on modern cameras!

My mom and aunt have both collected vintage uranium glass for years and years. (I wish they didn't have so many tchotchkes though.) Honestly, two bananas a day would give you more radiation... it's not something to worry about.

Using uranium class or ceramics for eating is not recommended.

Not because the radiation it emits while intact. Alpha radiation is the primary form of U238 and it does not penetrate skin. But the chip and wear in everyday use means that you get particles inside your body. Alpha radiation inside body is bigger risk and uranium is also toxic and reproductive toxicant.

The largest radiation hazard in home is radon gas in indoor air. If you live in an area with lots of radon emissions it's good idea to have ventilated crawl space under the house.


> Do not use ceramics like antique orange-red Fiestaware or Vaseline glass to hold food or drink. They can chip, and you can ingest particles of uranium with your food or drink.

>Dispose of any broken radioactive antiques. For instructions on proper disposal, contact your state or local radiation control program.

My chem lab in college had some Fiestaware, which was similar in that it had uranium glazed ceramic.

They stopped making it in the 1970s but you can still find it floating around somewhere online.


Oh god I used to have some of these!!

I inherited them from my grandmother. Should I be worried about having used them for years?

If you used that dinnerware every day, you've received about as much radiation from the dinnerware as you have from the potassium in your body (about 400µSv/year).

You'd need about 100,000 µSv/year to get heightened cancer risks.

I think Uranium has low bio-availability a high clearance rate and not particularly toxic. So likely not.

Uranium is also everywhere in ppm quantities.

Upthread people are saying is not recommended. Not because of the radiation when eating off it, but if there's any chips or anything you should end up with uranium inside of you, which is significantly worse.

But as long as it's intact, no big deal. (I guess, I'm not an expert, why are you listening to me?)

Fun fact that isn't on its Wikipedia page: Uranium glass is particularly impermeable to helium, making it less depolarizing to helium-3 than borosilicate or even pure silica glass.

For anyone wondering, it seems like it's (usually?) safe to eat/drink from uranium glassware.


I have heard that acidic foods and drinks can leak the uranium from the glass like any heavy metal.

Tangentially, the tomato was thought to be poisonous by Europeans because the acid would leech lead from pewter plates.

Here's an article, though I heard about this from the Hawaiian Pizza episode of The Anthropocene Reviewed.


Edit: Acid leaches lead, not acid. Misuse of 'leech' preserved for posterity.

Split the difference and you get leach, the actual word y'all are looking for.

English is such a trip!

I had always heard the tomato was thought to be poisonous because it's part of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae), many of which are poisonous.


This seems unlikely since many are edible and some (e.g. potato, eggplant, tobacco) were eaten concurrently with the tomato confusion in Europe.

Tomatoes themselves were being eaten concurrently with tomato confusion in Europe. Tomatoes were from South America; entirely unknown to Europe until the Spanish introduced them. The Spanish brought them back to Europe with the intent of eating them. The Spanish, Italians, many in France, etc were happily eating tomatoes when people in Britain decided they were poisonous.

As far as I know tomatoes can actually be slightly irritating to the intestines and some people should actually avoid them.

I believe that is an issue with radioactive glazing, but glass is extremely corrosion resistive. Glass is regularly used to store much more potent acids than any food we eat.

Lead can leach out of lead glass: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_glass#Safety. I don't think it's that much of a reach that this could happen with another heavy metal? (Disclaimer: as I mentioned above, this might be hearsay. I am not a materials scientist.)

Lead glass is about 18-40% lead compared to uraniam glass containing .1-2% uranium, and even those aren't considered a significant health problem. I wouldn't advise buying new ones for regular use, but I also wouldn't worry about any you have or will encounter either.

I once had some lead glazed plates that I only discovered when I microwaved one with crack halfway through. It heated up blazing hot and the food remained frozen. That was the last time I ate off those plates.

You're thinking about lead in crystal, not uranium in glass.

No, not really. I'm saying uranium can leach too.

I collect a lot of vintage glass, Vaseline/Uranium glass is still for the most part in a less desirable category namely many who collect look for pieces that look good in natural light. For the most part its comes down to, it is neat to show to friends once.

There were so many glass companies from Virginia to Ohio and most dabbled in this for a run or two so good examples are easy to find on ebay cheaply. I found the more solid pieces to be best for the light effect.

Whats the coolest vintage glass?

It’s popular on our vintage/artisan search engine: https://attic-dc.com/search/uranium

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