One of the most frequent questions I get asked is: "How do I start a milk glass collection?"
So many people love the look of milk glass, but are intimidated because they don't know "what's what."
Let me alleviate your fears right now. It's really pretty simple...
If you are collecting for value, it gets a bit more complicated. But if you are like me, and the mere vision of milk glass makes your heart skip a beat...the rules go out the window.
Let's start here: Milk glass is milk glass is milk glass.
Milk glass, by definition, is milky colored glass. (So complicated right?)
Here's some background: Opaque glass was developed in the Victorian Era, and was made in many colors. The Victorians nicknamed the white opaque glass "milk glass" for its milky texture. But it was mostly sought after because of its likeness to its more expensive counterpart: porcelain.
The popularity of milk glass has fluctuated since then, with a huge incline happening post WWII. It was then that companies like Fenton and Westmoreland started manufacturing pattern after pattern...allowing milk glass to become readily available, and very affordable.
All of that to say, there's all different kinds (and ages) of milk glass...and there are ways to tell the difference. But is either one more valuable than the other? Sometimes, yes. But not always.
My rule of thumb is this: if you love the way it looks, then it's meant to be in your collection.
Value-schmalue. Afterall, it's YOUR collection.
But if you're wanting a little more guidance on age or the company of origin...here's a few tips:
1. How old is it? 19th century milk glass tends to be extremely opaque with less shine. Milk glass dating from the 20th century (through the 1950's) has an iridescent look to it, and it's slightly less milky. Before 1960, milk glass was iridized, which produces a subtle rainbow effect on the surface. A quick test is to hold the piece up in natural light. If you see an iridescent rainbow in the rim of the piece (you'll know it when you see it) it's authentic antique milk glass. That being said, some prefer the look of mid-century milk glass (post 1960) because of its bright white color and shine. Personally, I don't discriminate. If it's milk glass, I love it.
2. Who made it? If you're wanting to identify who made a milk glass piece, check the pattern. Certain companies (Fenton, Westmoreland) made certain patterns. And that's the quickest way to identify who made it. There are all sorts of websites that help with this (ex. milkglass.org). Some (but not all) will have company markings on the bottom to give you a clue.
3. How valuable is it? Certain patterns and pieces are much more valuable than others. The patterns can be clues to when the pieces were made (significant age always adds value). For example...Hobnail (which happens to be my favorite) wasn't introduced until the 1960's. Pieces that command higher prices are cake stands, large vases or compotes, and pitchers/glasses. As for valuable patterns? The most rare are usually the most sought after. And if you are really looking for value...keep an eye out for patterns with stars and a president's likeness (like Washington or Lincoln). Although you many not place that front and center in your china cabinet, they are extremely valuable (and hard to find!)
There's lots of variables when it comes to milk glass. So if you are collecting for value rather than fun, your best bet is to involve an appraiser. When in doubt, check it out.
But bottom line, it can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it. All in all, look for what you love. If it speaks to your heart, I promise it will never lose its value.