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The Collectics Antiques Information & Education pages are designed to further knowledge of antiques, collectibles, collecting styles, periods, artists, designers, and manufacturers of fine and decorative arts. To learn more, our Antique Collector Bookstore lists only the best collector books and price guides, complied by surveys of top antique dealers and auction houses. For a different shopping experience, you can also browse our featured selections in a fun new way with the Antique Price Guides Slideshow or see current bestsellers by using Collector Books Topic Search.

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Milk glass takes its name from its "milky white" color and was originally intended to give a look like porcelain and china but not be as expensive or difficult to product. It was originally called Opal Ware by early glassmakers, but the name milk glass soon rose to prominence as an apt description of the genre of glass. The coloring of milk glass is key when looking for an old example versus newer, still reproduced pieces. Milk glass was first produced in the 1500s, but most of what exists today in antique milk glass was made from the 1700s in England and onward around the world. Although most milk glass is associated with the milky white color, milk glass also refers to colored glass which is similarity milky in color. Blue milk glass is particularly desirable, mostly made in France, but you can also find green, pink, yellow, and amethyst. Some antique and vintage milk glass has hand painting on them as was common in dresser sets or salt & pepper shakers. Milk glass was used to make a tremendous variety of everyday and luxury items including glasses, dishes, vases, jars, perfume bottles, figurines, match holders, lanterns, and decorative boxes. Much of the older milk glass incorporates figural design into the production of the piece and would include animals - particularly barnyard animals like cows and roosters - flowers, people, landmarks, and everyday items used around the home. Milk glass is molded, making it particularly well suited to its use in hobnail glass, a raised pattern of small bumps, and lace which simulates in glass the look of fine lace.

There were many manufacturers of milk glass including a number of well known American manufacturers: Fenton, Anchor Hocking, Westmoreland, Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, Fostoria, Atterbury, Vallerysthal, Flaccus, McKee, Belknap, Duncan Glass, Indiana Glass, L. E. Smith, and U.S. Glass Company. Aside from the hobnail pattern, a long popular pattern in milk glass is the paneled grape pattern by Westmoreland Glass, in business from 1889 until 1985. The "hen and nest" pattern is another very popular style today, a covered jar that looks like a hen sitting on a nest and made by a variety of manufacturers in white and other colors. One way to tell the difference between old and new milk glass is by looking at the edges; older milk glass appears almost transparent around the edges, and light can be viewed through the piece. Newer milk glass is more white opaque, and light will not show through the glass even around the perimeter. This is not to say newer pieces cannot be of high quality and decorative, but they do not have the same value and should not be misrepresented by sellers.

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