For many collectors, both novice and experienced, determining the value of antique milk glass is often confusing and difficult.
Very Early Milk Glass
Produced since the time of ancient Egyptians, the striking translucent or opaque glass in various depths of white and beautiful creamy colors is highly desired by collectors. The first pieces of milky white glass date to approximately 1500 B.C. when Egyptians used it for ointment jars and drinking cups. Throughout the following centuries archeologists and historians have dated milk glass:
- Snuff bottles from China from approximately 140 B.C.
- Medicine and spice jars from Persia from the 700s
- Pieces made by Venetian glass blowers in the 1500s
- Beads from the 1600s were used for trade in the New World
Naturally, milk glass pieces from these very early times are not those collected by the average glass collector.
Milk Glass of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
The popularity of the milk glass continued to grow, both in the colonies and throughout Europe. By the middle of the 1800s large glass companies produced milk glass, generally referred to as opal glass at the time, in areas that included:
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Portiux, France
- London, England
Milk glass pieces dating from the mid 1800s through the beginning of the 1900s are highly sought after by collectors and are generally considered the most valuable, as are the pieces made during the second World War. However, all milk glass made during the early to mid twentieth century are popular collectible antiques.
Determining the Value of Antique Milk Glass
The value of these highly collectible antiques varies greatly depending on a number of different variables including:
- Age of the piece
- Type of piece
- Supply and demand
There are a great many pieces of milk glass that do not have makers' marks or have lost their original labels which were attached with glue, making it difficult to identify the age and manufacturer of the piece. Several helpful clues to use when trying to identify, evaluate and value a piece of milk glass are its:
- Composition - Milk glass is made of a mixture of fifty percent silica, or sand, and various alkaline solvents, chemical compounds and minerals. In newer pieces, potash was typically used. In older pieces bone ash and arsenic were commonly used giving the pieces a gorgeous off-white color.
- Look - Older pieces usually have a opalescence that seems to have a shimmering effect caused by the ingredients used at the time.
- Mold - Older pieces typically have mold lines that are defined and sharp.
Popular Manufacturers of Milk Glass
Although there were dozens of milk glass manufacturers, the following are a few of the companies that are notable:
- Westmorland Glass Company
- Fenton Glass Company
- Kanawha Glass Company
- Fosteria Glass Company
- Mosser Glass
- Imperial Glass Company
- Hazel Atlas
- Federal Glass
- United States Glass Company
- Duncan Glass
- L.E. Smith Glass Company
Resources for Valuing Antique Milk Glass
Important resources for determining the value of antique milk glass are price and identification guides. The following guides are available from Amazon:
- Collectors Encyclopedia Of Milk Glass Identification/Values by Bill and Betty Newbound
- The Milk Glass Book by James Alexander Slater and Frank Chiarenza
- Milk Glass Price Guide by Edwin G. Warman
- Milk Glass: Imperial Glass Corporation by Bob and Myrna Garrison
- Westmoreland Glass: Identification and Value Guide by Charles West Wilson
- Fenton Glass: The Third 25 Years by William Heacock
- Fenton Glass: The 1980s Decade by James Measell
- Kemple Glass: 1945-1970 by D. Thomas O'Connor and John Burkholder
A Word of Caution
There are many antique reproductions and replications of antique and vintage milk glass pieces. Many of these pieces look like genuine antiques. Some are made using original molds, and are perfectly beautiful replicas of the originals. However, be aware that there are unscrupulous people that try to pass new replicas off as original antiques. If you are new to the world of collecting antique milk glass, take the time to educate yourself as to how to properly identify original pieces of milk glass.