Seven Tips to Make Your Depression Glass Last for Years

by Kathy Eickholt

Vintage glass is more fun when you can use it but who wants chips or a lot scratches? Learn seven tips to care for your depression and elegant glass and keep it looking good for use and display.

Lucky you. You have a few pieces of vintage glass that you want to use, not just look at. These plates and goblets are 50 to 80 years old and they mean something to you because they capture memories. How can you take care of your glassware so it lasts another 80 years and your children and grandchildren can enjoy the wonderful memories?

Tip #1. Store Safely.

Glassware is meant to be used, but let's face it; you need to store it (at least in between meals). Glass gets chipped and scratched when it is stored improperly. Always store pieces right side up, not upside down. The abrasion from sliding goblets or tumblers even across a smooth cupboard shelf will eventually cause pitting and wear in the lip. You may even get chips from this. I have my grandmother's set of Fostoria stemware from 1920 that she never used. It is all chipped from being stored upside down.

Store pieces with enough space between so they won't bang into each other. Our Rose Point is stored in a standing bookcase that moves a little when someone trods heavily. When I hear the goblets clang together it means it's time to move them apart to avoid dings on the side of the lip.

Put paper towels or paper plates between stacks of plates and bowls. This is essential when you have elegant glass which has ground base rims. Those ground rims are sharp and over time will scratch the piece underneath. Patterns with surface designs get wear too on raised portions. Block Optic depression glass plates often have wear on the tops of the blocks around the rim because they rub against the plate above. You can easily avoid this with the paper towel or paper plate trick.

If you need to store your glass in a box then be sure to wrap it well. The simplest storage method is to buy foam or bubble bags and then you don't have to worry about tape or having a bunch of unusable and non-recyclable plastic when you get the glassware back out. If you don't find bubble bags then buy foam or bubble wrap on long rolls to to wrap around and tape.

Wrap glass or china in clean paper - tissue paper or white packing paper work great - before you wrap with bubble wrap if you will store in a hot environment. Otherwise the plastic can melt onto the glass and make a mess.

Tip #2. Wash carefully.

Do not wash vintage glass in the dishwasher. Just don't do it. Yes, it will probably survive many cycles through the dishwasher and yes it's a pain to wash by hand. But dishwashers get hot and that can be a problem.

Painted or metallic trim will not survive modern dishwashers.

The worst problem with using the dishwasher is that your glasses can get hazy. It won't happen over night and it may not ever happen, but if you get haze or water spotting it will not come off easily, if at all.

Instead put a towel or large dishcloth in the bottom of the sink and wash carefully by hand. Lay the glass on a towel or cushioned surface and then dry by hand with a linen towel. I don't recommend air drying since you could get water spotting.

Tip #3. Use with Care.

Glass will get utensil marks if you bang on it with your knife and fork. Short of using your fingers or issuing plastic sporks to your guests what can you do?

Use common sense to select the food you serve on your best dishes. If your guests have to saw at their meat with sharp knives they will scratch the plate. Serve fish or pasta instead of steak. Shred salad greens and chop vegetables so guests don't need to cut them or fruit salads with bite- sized pieces of fruit.

Another tip is to consider using plates that already have some wear. It's much less heartbreaking to have the plate you got at the flea market get a little more scratched than to see the pristine one from your mom get its first scratch.

Be careful serving hot food. Even oven proof glass can shatter if it's subjected to sudden changes or spot heating. You don't need to eat everything lukewarm, just don't put super hot food on cold dishes.

Tip #4. Keep Out of the Microwave

Glass can have small invisible stress points that will shatter with spot heating. If there is even a trace of water in a small crevice it can get over heated in the microwave. Shattered depression glass is not fun to pick up.

Tip #5. Keep Out of the Freezer

This is the same reasoning as the microwave. Minute cracks can hold water, and retained water will expand when it freezes, expanding the crack and destroying your glass.

Tip #6. Educate Family and Friends

You don't want to make everyone hyper vigilant about your special dishes. And you don't want guests to worry about your glassware and not enjoy their meal with you. But you can take steps to highlight your glass and how special it is to you and let people know to take a bit more care than they might if you were using your plastic picnic ware.

Vintage glass is a natural conversation starter. Most people do not use depression glass or even glass from the 1970s or 80s every day, so when you put it out people will notice and talk about it. You can talk about your pattern and how you got it and the people who owned it before you. When you share your memories you make it meaningful to your friends.

When adults know they are using special glass or china they naturally be more aware of how they use it.

What about children? If you have a few pieces that are a bit nicked up that's the perfect way to introduce children to the wonderful world of memories in glass. Kids want to be treated like grown ups so let them know this is special and they need to take care of it.

Tip 7. Consider the Occasion.

You already know this one. Don't use your $100-a-stem goblets for the Super Bowl party.

It's important to use your glass. After all, during the depression for many families the free dishes from the grocery or movie theater were the only spot of color or beauty and the only way to have a matched set of dishes. Other families had special etched stemware or maybe a relish tray that came out every holiday and is a tangible reminder of family memories. Honor that tradition by using your glassware with your family and friends.

The last tip is a bonus. Enjoy your glass. Pass on the memories your glass contains to your family and add new memories by using that special piece at every holiday or family gathering. Let your children have that memory of "Mom's relish tray" or "Grandma's pink dishes". They will thank you for helping them create wonderful memories of family.

Webmaster's NOTE: The NDGA wishes to thank the author for permission to use this article. Kathy is a dealer from Midland, Michigan. Her web site is Cat Lady Kate's Glass.