This 1930s Kitchen Staple is Making a Comeback
If you’ve been paying attention to tabletop trends these days, it seems like jadeite is experiencing something of a renaissance. I mean, if Joanna Gaines is putting this finish in her Hearth & Hand With Magnolia line for Target, then it’s probably going to be a thing again, right? But where did this green milky glass come from, where did it go for so many years, and what can be done design-wise with jadeite today? So glad you asked—I was just wondering the same thing myself.
According to the internet—and my time spent working at This Old House magazine—jadeite (seen above in the Target line as well as in an enviable display from At Home Arkansas) first came to be in the early 1930s. The Pennsylvania-based McKee Glass Company mixed green scrap glass with its opaque formula, which led to pretty but inexpensive dishware perfect for the post-Depression kitchen—hence the nickname “depression glass.” Other glassmakers began copying McKee’s style throughout the ’30s, ’40s and early ’50s, including Jeanette Glass, which called its version of the material Jadite, and Anchor Hocking, which called theirs Jade-ite.
My guess is demand (and production) for these pieces started slowing down when the economy began booming after World War II—why would you settle for green milky glass anymore when you can get something crystal clear and sparkly again, right? And so the 20-some-odd year period of jadeite’s popularly (rather small in the grand scheme of things) gave rise to the somewhat pricey vintage collector’s market today. You can find jadeite at pretty much any flea market or antique store, which is undoubtedly where people like Joanna Gaines and other home goods designers sourced inspiration for the reproduction pieces they are making these days.
Clearly, the most obvious way to use jadeite is in the kitchen or dining room as dishware—plates, cake stands, cups—you name it. Jadeite items look particularly nice grouped or clustered on display, as well, whether behind glass cabinet doors or on open shelving, as seen here from Country Living.
And it’s worth noting that jadeite dishes can be mounted, too. I love how these green guys are framing out the mirror on this wall in a room designed by Tobi Fairley.
And then there are jadeite canisters, which are great for a pop of color on countertops. You can also find mini versions for spices, as shown here from The Shabby Mommy Instagram, and the occasional creamer and sugar set.
Glass hexagonal knobs and pulls were big in the early 20th century as well, so it’s no wonder jadeite versions were made for practical, cost-cutting reasons back then, too. They certainly work with the whole farmhouse look that’s still so popular (take a look at some in this catalog shot from Rejuvenation), if that’s what you’re going for in your cookspace.
Just imagine if you could find yourself a jadeite sink. I think the finish became so popular that the color itself outweighed the composition of the actual piece (in other words—I highly doubtful these sinks, like the one here featured on The Selby, are jadeite glass). But nonetheless, if you like the old house retro look, a jadeite-colored sink is one way to do it. This kind of a fixture would certainly play nicely with a collection of jadeite dishware.
Though pieces can look quite similar, there are ways to differentiate between real old school jadeite (logo markings, size, etc.) versus the new new (read more about how to spot the real stuff over on The Tattered Pew, who styled the image above). I’m generally of the camp that vintage is always better than repro, but it’s not always affordable or available.
If you want to score this look on a budget, give some of these green guys a look. Anything by Mosser Glass, a family-run company out of Ohio, is a quality modern-made option that’s been in the glass-making business for years.
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