- Written by Dr. Lori Verderame Dr. Lori Verderame
The bright-white milk glass bud vase that stood quietly on your mother’s kitchen shelf since the 1950s is actually an object with a history that dates to the Italian Renaissance era.
In fact, milk glass originated in the famous glass furnaces of Venice, Italy, and was introduced in the 1500s when objects were desired for their color and affordability. Milk glass was a cheaper alternative to porcelain, the highly sought-after ceramic type that people wanted in Europe.
Mainly produced in China, porcelain’s bright-white color and durable nature were all the rage with the Europeans in the 1500s and 1600s. To produce something similar to porcelain’s color and durability, milk glass answered a global need.
Since porcelain was a highly regarded import product that the Europeans wanted badly, milk glass presented a new option for those middle- and lower-class collectors. By the 18th century, Americans collected Chinese porcelain figures, including famous people such as George and Martha Washington, and used it for entertaining.
The widespread interest in porcelain made the inexpensive and handsome lookalike objects a perfect alternative for collectors and salesmen alike.
If you want to start or add to a milk glass collection, check out online and traditional auctions, yard sales, and estate sales. Also, vintage- and antiques-selling websites like eBay, Ruby Lane, Etsy, and others present great options for many collectors and resellers in search of milk glass pieces.
Some pieces of milk glass feature interesting patterns, shapes, sizes, and even nuances of color. My YouTube videos (youtube.com/drloriv) show how to identify valuable milk glass items and what they are worth.
Also, some of the popular patterns and designs of milk glass impact their value. For instance, figural rabbit or hen covered game dishes in milk glass are collectibles that date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
When it comes to milk glass, certain patterns, shapes, and styles are highly sought after, such as pedestal planters, embossed pitchers with fruit (particularly grapes and apples), and flower motifs such as daisies, roses, and leaves, chalice cups, tapered bud vases, and pairs of figural candlesticks.
Milk glass was used in homes since the 20th century in traditional and more recently innovative ways. For home décor, milk glass offers versatility, and the timeless look has helped the vintage objects retain popularity over the centuries. Planters and vases are the most popular types of milk glass objects.
Milk glass pieces can range in value from $15-$25 for a small milk glass vase to hundreds of dollars for a large punchbowl set with matching cups in a highly decorative pattern in excellent condition.
Milk glass is often associated with weddings — white symbolizes purity — and with children. White milk glass items add style to wedding receptions and outdoor parties as well as nurseries and family rooms.
Milk glass often makes an appearance during early summer when parties and specifically weddings require white bud vases for home and garden décor. White goes with anything and gives a fresh, clean look to any space.
Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality Dr. Lori appears on The Curse of Oak Island on History channel. She offers appraisals at public events nationwide and through her website at drloriv.com, on Ask Dr. Lori LIVE on youtube.com/drloriv, or by calling (888) 431-1010.