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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Depression Glass

Jun 14, 2017

by Katie Hawley

It’s official—pale pink is the color du jour. Ever since Pantone named Rose Quartz a 2016 Color of The Year, barely-there pinks ranging from blush to bubblegum have been popping up everywhere from the runway to the restaurant counterAs far as we’re concerned, there’s no wrong place to splash it, but these days we’re especially smitten by vintage glassware in this soft, unapologetically feminine hue. If you’re in the market for dainty blush glassware brimming with old-school, romantic charm, look no further than Depression glass.

Made in the United States in the 1920s and ‘30s, Depression glass was a mass-produced, low-cost style of molded glassware. Pressed by machines in staggering quantities, Depression glass provided an affordable alternative to the more expensive hand-cut glass that preceded it, allowing cost-conscious consumers to add some much-needed cheer to their homes (without breaking the bank). While Depression glass was available in most colors of the rainbow, one of the most popular colors, then as now, was pink.

We sat down with Etsy seller, Antiques Roadshow appraiser, and all-around vintage expert Jeni Sandberg for a crash course in sourcing and collecting. Read on for Jeni’s top four beginner-friendly tips.

Vintage pink Depression glass from Jeni Sandberg Vintage, $25. Shop similar. 

Tip 1: Know your history

With more than 20 manufacturers across the US producing nearly 100 distinct patterns, Depression glass pieces run the gamut, but a few identifying characteristics shine through across the category. “Depression glass tends to be very thin,” says Jeni. “And there are lots of typical Depression-era patterns: the wheel-cut decoration was very typical of Depression—where you get these little wheel-cut flowers etched into the glass—and you also get very lacy patterns.”

In the ‘70s, Depression glass enjoyed a resurgence in popularity with collectors, prompting companies to begin churning out copies. When it comes to telling the newer pink stuff from the older pink stuff, color and feel can provide helpful clues. “That warm, blush-champagne color was a big deal in the ‘30s,” says Jeni. “If you think about the clothes of that era—all those silk bias-cut dresses and ruffles—everything was soft and feminine. Later pieces from the ‘70s will veer more towards a purpley-pink.” The feel of a piece of glass can also be telling: reproductions tend to be thicker and heavier, while glass from the ‘20s and ‘30s is usually thinner and softer, and more susceptible to chipping.

Vintage Anchor Hocking Depression glass plate from 1350 Northvintage, $38. Shop similar. 

Tip 2: Check for quality

No matter what kind of glassware you’re shopping for, condition should be your guide for purchasing. Because many vintage items were used daily in the homes of their original owners, wear and tear is to be expected. The degree of damage can vary drastically, though, so it’s a good idea to give everything a careful inspection before taking it home. Run your finger around the edges of a piece to feel for chips, and hold each piece up to the light to check for cracks. If you’re purchasing online, be sure to inspect the photos carefully, and don’t be afraid to request additional shots if something seems suspect.

Keep in mind that some kinds of wear may be more acceptable than others. “A cake plate is going to have utensil marks,” explains Jeni, “but if I have a wine glass that has weird bubbles or a scratch or a chip, I’m not going to be as okay with that.” While some pieces may just need a good scrub, other damage can’t be undone. Permanently cloudy glass (also called “sick” glass) is best avoided, along with anything chipped. “Cracks are a serious problem,” warns Jeni—when in doubt, it’s best to steer clear.

Chelsea Cavanaugh

Shop pink Depression glass

Tip 3: Do your homework

Whether you’re chasing down a rare Depression-era butter dish or browsing the racks at IKEA, when it comes to purchasing glassware, a little research goes a long way. For starters, understanding how common a piece is will help you gauge how much you should be willing to shell out. Rare color-pattern combinations or limited-run pieces, for example, are worth more than their more manifold counterparts.

And with Depression glass, it’s important to know what you’re looking at, as later-twentieth-century reproductions run rampant. Before you whip out your credit card, turn to the internet—or dare we say, crack open a book—to ensure you’re paying a fair price and making an informed purchase. (Gene Florence’s Collector’s Encyclopedia of Depression Glass is a widely-used resource.) It may seem tedious, but by cross-checking the identifying attributes of a piece with known patterns, makers, and dates of manufacture, you can definitively weed out the fakes. Remember: Information is power, especially for a new collector.

Vintage Depression glass goblets from Jeni Sandberg Vintage, $75 for set of 4. Shop similar. 

Tip 4: Follow your heart

Ultimately, when shopping for glassware, what matters most is what you think. “Flaws” can add character to a piece and reproductions can be beautiful—as the buyer, you get final say. By doing a little pre-purchase homework, you can ensure you’re paying a fair price and making an informed decision, but the rest is entirely up to you.

“If it’s in good condition, and you like it, buy it,” says Jeni. “Enjoy it! Buy what you like, buy what’s pretty, buy what serves your purposes.” After all, at the end of the day, you’re the one taking it home.

12 vintage Depression glass champagne glasses from Copper and Tin, $138. Shop similar.

Cheat sheet

Terms to search

If you’re kicking off an online search, these terms will steer you well.

Start general:

Get specific:
Try searching for well-known manufacturers (Jeannette, Anchor Hocking, Indiana Glass Company) and patterns (Mayfair, American Sweetheart, Royal Lace).

Styling tips

Keep it simple: If you’re looking to add vintage glassware to your collection but aren’t sure where to start, consider a simple pair of wine glasses. “Pretty stemware is always fun,” says Jeni. “You can use it every day, or just on special occasions—I never fail to amaze people with my rotating collection of unusual wine glasses.”

Mix and match: When it comes to purchasing vintage glassware, buying larger quantities can be tough, and you’ll pay a premium for it. If you’re having trouble finding a complete set—or want a more unique look—try buying one or two pieces at a time, building up a mismatched set all your own. “If it’s all the same color, it’ll look great together,” says Jeni.

What to pay

The good news? Vintage glassware tends to be pretty affordable. Reproductions from the ‘70s and ‘80s will typically cost much less than their earlier counterparts, but you can usually find even the best, most fabulous Depression glasses from the ‘30s for $20 to $25 a stem. “For not a ton of money, you can buy beautiful glasses that will be lovely forever,” says Jeni.

Shop Depression glass

44 comments

  • ponyhoney

    Debi from MadGirlRetro said 125 days ago

    Darn it! I passed up a pink Depression glass relish dish at an estate sale last weekend. I love pink Depression and sell it but I was thinking, ah, my retro customers are wanting orange and green and yellow. Rule of thumb--don't pass up ANY colored glass! Great article. Thanks.

  • GTDesigns

    renee and gerardo from GTDesigns said 125 days ago

    Oh how divine!!! I wouldn't usually leave shop references in a comment but Gem2theivintage has a gorgeous, very very old pristine Jeanette bowl in her shop. I have eyeballed it for a while. Love this pink glass write up and the glorious ideas....the mix match is my favorite....great for summertime weddings or just for show, tell, and look decor!! TFS!!! Great post!!

  • gardenmis

    Priscilla from Gardenmis said 125 days ago

    Love Depression glass! Thanks for sharing these great tips :)

  • TreasuredMemoryLane

    TreasuredMemoryLane from TreasuredMemoryLane said 125 days ago

    What a beautiful color for depression glass! Thank you sharing awesome tips.

  • evolvewithmary

    evolvewithmary from evolvewithmarycrafts said 125 days ago

    Love this color! What an awesome way to celebrate this color through the art of displaying these vintage pieces!

  • joannedfrank

    Joanne Frank from TennisWearByJDFrank said 124 days ago

    I am glad that the pink depression glass is well liked by others. I have been collecting some odd pieces: candy dishes, small divided ones for veggies, small bowls etc. I love to use them for ladies lunches but haven't had a ladies lunch in quite a while. Guess I should have a luncheon and share my pinkness..

  • VenerablePastiche

    Meredith from VenerablePastiche said 124 days ago

    Thank you for informative, vintage-centered posts like this. More, more!

  • cardurban

    Heidi Bondarenko from thecleverclove said 124 days ago

    I love that a product that brought cheer in a dark time is bringing joy to us again!

  • lavendergardencottag

    lavendergardencottag from LavenderGardenCottag said 124 days ago

    Wonderful article on collecting and buying pink depression glass! I buy and sell pink depression glass....and a lot of the other colors too! It's so nice to get tips from a pro!

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 124 days ago

    Absolutely beautiful!

  • JewelMeShop

    Georgia from JewelMeShop said 124 days ago

    Thanks for sharing these great tips!

  • thriftyvicki

    Vicki A from thriftyvicki said 124 days ago

    Nice article. I knew more than I thought about it, but still learned some things :).

  • Gem2thei

    Helen from Gem2theiVintage said 124 days ago

    As a lover of depression glass this has to be a treasure shop for someone like me. Beautiful!!!!!

  • BlendedSplendid

    Sarah Keim from BlendedSplendid said 123 days ago

    I inituitively bought some pink depression pressed glass parfait glasses but could not list theme cause my daughter claimed them for her ice cream eating pleasure!

  • RandMhandmade

    Renee from RandMhandmade said 123 days ago

    Thank you for sharing..love it!!

  • stephaniewoerfel2

    Stephanie Woerfel from BroochandPinVintage said 123 days ago

    I fell in love with depression glass. Love the pink. I have stemmed pink sherbet glasses. They look superb with my green uranium glass plates. So summery.

  • skirtingthetissue

    Dig Deep Vintage from digdeepvintage said 122 days ago

    beautiful article-those photographs are stunning!

  • 1225vintagestreet

    Debra Gilstrap from 1225VintageStreet said 122 days ago

    I have always loved depression glass. My aunt has always collected depression glass and she has some beautiful pieces. Great article it's so informative!

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 122 days ago

    Wonderful article!

  • meriliin

    Merilin Põld from MerilinsRetro said 122 days ago

    Beautiful photos! Makes me want to buy... :)

  • infinitlit

    Farideh Nouri from FlairPaintings said 121 days ago

    Thank you for sharing!!!

  • TropicalGarden

    TropicalGarden from TropicalGarden said 121 days ago

    Beautiful pink depression glass! Thanks for sharing!

  • FieldsOfVintage

    Fields Of Vintage from FieldsOfVintage said 121 days ago

    Great article! Very informative. Thank you

  • BarnshopAntiques

    Carol Bender from BarnshopAntiques said 120 days ago

    Great article. We love depression glass. We not only have a personal collection of green Georgian lovebirds in our hutch but also use gold depression glass in our windows, instead of curtains, and have sold quite a bit too.

  • foofoogal54

    foofoogal54 from GracefulVtgClothing said 120 days ago

    I started out in 1996 as a seller of glass and dolls. I have every color of glass one would want. Including pink. Glad to see some spotlight shining on Vintage glass. One must study to know the original. Love it.

  • joshualee255

    joshua lee said 120 days ago

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  • CheyAnneSexton

    CheyAnne Sexton from CheyAnneSexton said 119 days ago

    This is some great info. My stepMother used to talk about depression glass and how to tell by the seem on the underside, but I can't remember if she said ti was better to have a single one seem or to have seems that branched into 3 or 4. Are you familiar with this at all?

  • CheyAnneSexton

    CheyAnne Sexton from CheyAnneSexton said 119 days ago

    I also want to ad that I painted a watercolour of a vintage green decanter and it's been very popular

  • 1StopSteampunkShoppe

    One Stop Steampunk Shoppe from OneStopSteamShoppe said 118 days ago

    Great article and tips for buying/selling pink depression glass.

  • treasuresfromtheuk

    Cat from treasuresfromtheuk said 117 days ago

    One of the things we struggle most with is identifying depression glass! This was a cool post - thanks!

  • maryjanemontemuro

    Mary Jane from BlueRoosterDesigns said 117 days ago

    Very informative!

  • Pysar

    Yuri Pysar from Pysar said 112 days ago

    just wow. I use Depression glass that for the still life compositions for my oil paintings. The way they play with the light is very unique. Thank you for the awesome post.

  • SallysVintageKitchen

    Sally from SallysVintageKitchen said 111 days ago

    Wonderful article! Thank you for sharing!

  • NeatoKeen

    NeatoKeen from NeatoKeen said 109 days ago

    Excellent information! I will now be a more informed shopper.

  • elizabethbuckles

    Elizabeth Buckles from EruvandiCrafts said 109 days ago

    How pretty! Especially those glasses with the flowers etched on them. I wants them, my preciouss, yes, yes. ;)

  • FreshRetroGallery

    Elizabeth Knaus from FreshRetroGallery said 109 days ago

    I inherited a set of pink depression glass candlestick holders—simply elegant and serve to provide a warm, romantic glow. I think antiques and vintage pieces can serve beautifully as gifts.

  • bargraphx

    Barbara Russo from BarGraphxDesigns said 109 days ago

    Thanks for all the information. I see a lot of depression glass in the antique shops near me, now I know what to look for. 👍🏼

  • TheraK9

    MuchAdoAboutJunkin from MuchAdoAboutJunkin said 108 days ago

    I strive to learn something new each day, especially about vintage anything. This article did not disappoint! A great refreshing article with such useful information. I've never been a pink depression glass fan, but my mother recently gave me a pink blush scalloped bowl to put in shop, which I haven't done yet. Guess I'll do some research on it and not pooh-pooh pink glass ever again 😏. Thank you Ms. Hawley and Ms. Sandberg @JeniSandbergVintage. Keep this style of articles coming!

  • KaoriPearlRose

    Olga from KaoriPearlRose said 108 days ago

    Nice! Love this color and article:)

  • nowvintage

    Bobbie from nowvintage said 108 days ago

    Great article!! I have not tended to sell depression glass but it is so beautiful! :)

  • ccr31775

    Claire Craig from curvaciousyouclaire said 107 days ago

    I love my pink glassware. Have been collecting it for probably 40 years. I have quite a range including large bowls, a large pink jug, a large vase and several smaller bowls. I could find these in country second hand shops (I live in Australia). I also have new pink glass including storage canisters, drinking glasses, vases and small dishes. You can tell the old stuff from the newer stuff, but in my opinion it is all gorgeous, and lucky for me, pink is my favourite colour.

  • BlingThings

    Ellie Page from BlingThings said 106 days ago

    I love the info. If anyone wants a detailed information and drawings of hundreds of depression old glass in a book form. In my Etsy shop I sell the vintage appraisal guide book that contains a huge section on vintage glass. Ellie

  • Recyclemetoo

    Katy Galbraith from RecycleMeMosaics said 103 days ago

    beautiful colours - I always wonder what gems I am about to cut up for my mosaics. i bet that one day, I will break a valuable piece of glass or china!

  • maryyovkovich

    Mary from HollybrookLane said 98 days ago

    I love the peach colors of depression glass and collect pieces wherever I can. They are lovely and will never go out of style. Informative article. Buy it when you see it or it will be gone the next time you look!!!!!

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