Depression Glass Is The Colorful Collectible We'll Always Love

Necessity is the mother of invention and affordable glassware.

If you've ever spotted amber tumblers or rosy saucers in your mother or grandmother's china cabinet, it's likely Depression glass. This tabletop accessory secured its place in homes during the 1920s, continuing to be produced through the 1950s, and is still much-loved today.

Pink Depression Glass

The History of Depression Glass

During the Great Depression, unemployment soared, and family finances tumbled, so little luxuries like fine china and expensive home goods took a backseat to the necessities.

Glass manufacturers, who had long stayed in the black thanks to expensive cut crystal glass that they peddled to the affluent, could no longer count on such sales. To stay afloat and to keep employees working, they began mass-producing colorful glassware that cost far less to make, which became more accessible to struggling families (think $2 for a 12-piece set of dinnerware).

What Is Depression Glass?

Unlike its more refined crystal counterparts, which were cut and often hand-finished, Depression glass pieces were molded and featured raised patterns (of which there were more than 100). The inexpensive glassware was further distinguishable by the rainbow of colors it was available in, ranging from grassy greens to glowing ambers and petal pinks. Depression glass is also marked by imperfections, like air bubbles and uneven saturation in color, because of the quick manufacturing speed.

Unique Collectible Characteristics

These days, the imperfections of Depression glass often contribute to its collectible charm and may reveal that a piece is authentic, as opposed to a reproduction.

Widely produced patterns and colors during its 30 years of production may not fetch much at the market, such as Anchor Hocking Glass Company's green Cameo pattern. The designs manufactured in smaller quantities, such as Hazel-Atlas Glass Company's blue Royal Lace, may sell for hundreds—a bit of poetic justice for the cheaply made (but beloved) glassware.

The colors range from yellow, amber, blue, green, pink, and crystal. The more unique or less produced color, the more valuable it is to today's collectors. Since manufactured widely produced yellow and amber tableware, these colors are not considered as valuable as other colors.

Of course, if the Depression glass you're most familiar with is part of your family's collection, it's priceless. The best things in life—and the china cabinet—usually are.

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