The History and Origin of Milk Glass

Milk glass is a popular type of glass collector’s item made into dishes and cups, vases and figurines and anything in between. But do you know when and where milk glass comes from? Is it a European tradition? Does it come from the ancient Chinese? Or is it a recent collectable?

The Beginning of Milk Glass

Milk glass originated in Venice in the 16th century. However, back then milk glass came in all different colours including yellow, brown, black, pink and blue. All of these colours still project a ‘milky’ color as the tone is thick and coated. Some of these colours still exist in milk glass, especially blue, but the opaque color remains the most popular.

Since the 16th century, milk glass has remained a popular collector’s item as well as a useful item around the house. However, most of the collectable milk glass of today dates back to the 1700’s or newer.

Although milk glass came from the 1500’s, the term ‘milk glass’ did not actually come into play until relatively recently. During the 19th century glass makers referred to milk glass as ‘opaque glass’ and was still considered a luxury item and a great collectable.

The Turn of the Milk Glass

Milk glass became popular during the end of the 19th century in France. Often considered a product of the ‘fin de siecle’, the milk glass goes hand in hand with French cultural awareness and symbolists that paved the way for modernism and expressionism.

During the early 20th century, also known as the American Gilded Age, milk glass was synonymous with the cultural prosperity of the wealthy American culture. Milk glass made in the Gilded Age still remains some of the best ever made. It is known for the delicacy and elegance and were often seen on dressers and shelf tops in upper-class American homes.

However, during the 1930’s, milk glass made during the Depression was considered less elegant and delicate and more a production of the harsh times. Because of this, milk glass made during the 1930’s and 1940’s is often considered of lesser quality.

Milk Glass Nowadays

These days, milk glass still remains a popular collectable for around the home. Although it is not as expensive as porcelain, it makes a beautiful alternative for all sorts of decorations and decor items. These include cups, dishes, plates, vases, figurines, boxes, perfume bottles, glass holders, lanterns and much more. Milk glass can also be used for entire pieces such as dresser sets or salt and pepper shakers. Milk glass also makes its way into themed occasions with some Christmas bulbs and Christmas decorations made from milk glass as well.

Milk glass is now manufactured by several prestigious glass companies including Atterbury Glass Company, Fenton Glass Company and Fostoria Glass Company. Other retail and speciality stores that carry milk glass figurines and other accessories include Hobbs, Brockunier and Co, Imperial Glass Company, Jeannette Glass Company and Kanawha Glass Co.  Regardless of the time, place and price of milk glass, make sure you check the quality for marks, cracks and discoloration.