Uranium glass (more commonly referred to as Vaseline glass* in America) is a type of glassware that has had uranium added it to. The glass varies from transparent to semi-transparent and has a bright green or sometimes yellow tinge to it. In daylight the glass has a neon tone to it, but this tone really comes to life when viewed with ultra-violet light. Uranium glass was common between 1900's - 1940's and both tableware and other decorative glassware were produced in this glass. Uranium is of course radioactive but the radiation given off by these pieces is tiny and they are general not considered a risk (although you might want to refrain from grinding the glass down!).
To properly identify uranium glass you will need a source of ultraviolet light and/or a Geiger counter, although the latter would need to be pretty sensitive and probably isn't something your average person has lying around. A simple Ultraviolet torch or detector pen can be bought pretty cheaply on line to help with the identification process. Due to the nature of uranium the glass will fluoresce nicely under the ultra violet light. Normal glass, crystal and ordinary pressed glass will not fluoresce as the picture below illustrates. A Geiger counter could also be used to measure the radiation from the glass but as stated it would need to be a pretty sensitive counter.
from left to right in the picture
pressed glass candle holder, ordinary household glass, uranium glass, crystal wine glass
To Photograph Uranium Glass
To photograph uranium glass you will need a source of ultraviolet light, what type you select is up to you. The photos taken here were lit with an ordinary UV pen torch (which was a bit of a pain as I had to hold the button on the torch down while trying to operate the camera - something for your consideration when purchasing). All the photos on this page were taken with a standard digital camera, no fancy equipment needed.
1. Ultraviolet light source
2. Digital Camera (preferably with a timer)
3. Darkened area
4. Tripod - optional according to set up
5. Dark background
To achieve these photos I set up in ordinary light. Due to the depth of my counter I was able to just set my camera down on the counter with the items still being within the frame of the camera, this also provided the camera with stable surface while photographing. I then used the timer setting to help prevent camera shake, this also gave me time to turn the lights off and operate the torch (10 secs was sufficient). If you do not have a timer on your camera or the space to set your camera down on a solid surface I would recommend using tripod. I would also recommend that you experiment with your camera settings, mine has a low light and a twilight setting which seem to yield good results. However, in my experience every camera performs a little differently so it's best to experiment with yours to see what works. One of the harder problems to navigate when taking photos in low light is the production of 'noise', this is the fuzzy look that some low light photos have. Avoiding this is slightly harder than eliminating camera shake, the volume of 'noise' you get seems to differ from camera to camera but again sometimes if you have the patience to play with your cameras settings you can get better results. All the photos below were taken with the same method.
*The term Vaseline glass can be used to describe a wide range of glass, and is often used to describe various types of translucent glass especially by the British and Australians.
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