Opaque glassware, especially vintage jadeite glass, was a popular mid-century kitchen style. A vast range of items in a matching hue could be displayed and used, similar in concept to fine china sets, but more durable and economically priced for everyday use. Jadeite also included matching bakeware & storage containers, for a practical approach to day-to-day living.
Vintage jadeite glassware was popular through the 1940s and 1950s. The earliest versions were produced in the 1920s, but they didn’t catch on or gain the iconic name until the 1930s. Jadeite retained its popularity through the 1950s, before waning through the 1960s, the last lines were retired in the mid-’70s. A resurgence of interest in Jadeite in the 1990s jump-started the collectors’ interest these pieces attract today and even inspired a brief production revival.
Read on to learn more about the best-known companies producing Jadeite and what caused the interest spike in the 1990s.
When Did Jadeite Come Out?
The earliest jadeite glassware was produced in the 1920s. But the first complete line in the hue that would come to be called “jadeite glass” was released in 1930 by the McKee Glass Company. They produced a range of kitchenware from mixing bowls to shakers to orange juice reamers. This company only ever produced a single line of dinnerware, called the Laurel pattern.
Two years later, Jeanette Glass Company instigated their own opaque glass line in greens and pinks. They were the first to fully automate the production process for glassware, initially for the production of “Depression Glass.” Automated production kept costs low, which allowed the items to sell for lower prices that could still be afforded in the face of Depression-era economics. However, what is frequently termed “Depression glass” was not the full opaque style of Jadite glass. Jeanette produced the two styles simultaneously through the ’30s.
Jeanette was the first to use the term “Jadite,” which later companies would riff off with spellings like “Jade-ite” or “Jad-eite”. This company produced Jadite kitchenware onto the 1940s, but never actually produced a dinnerware line. Their outstanding product was a line of Jadite glass kitchen shakers with a ribbed beehive design.
McKee and Jeanette had an interesting trait in common between their Jadeite glassware. Because they started pre-WWII, their Jadeite glass contained trace amounts of radioactive materials, such as uranium, that were later unavailable to corporations due to war shortages. These early jadeite glass pieces have a slight glow-in-the-dark effect.
Who Made Vintage Jadeite Dishes?
The most notable company in connection to Jadeite glass started a bit later (these pieces never glowed) but lasted longer: Anchor Hocking. The first of their FireKing “Jade-ite” was produced in 1942. By the mid-1940s, they were producing several FireKing dinnerware lines with the “Jade-ite” coloring. Delphite, Cobalt Blue, and Ruby Red were some other color options.
Anchor Hocking had had their headquarters in the small Ohio town of Lancaster since the company was founded as The Hocking Glass Company in 1905. When Anchor Cap and Closure was acquired in 1937, the company re-branded as Anchor Hocking. At this point, the board of the newly-renamed company wanted the headquarters moved to New York. In 1940, as a compromise to keep the headquarters in Lancaster, the company partially sponsored the building of a new local hotel. The point of this backstory?
The hotel hosted a range of civic rooms, including one “Jade-ite Room,” as recorded in the local newspaper on 21st April 1948. Jade-ite had definitely become a major part of Anchor Hocking’s success by the late 1940s.
When Did Jadeite Become Popular?
McKee and Jeanette may have pioneered the jadeite glassware trend, but the innovators and the survivors were not the same. By the late 1940s, and especially into the 1950s, Anchor Hocking had the corner on the market with their FireKing Jade-ite lines. A vast range of products was created:
- Retail dinnerware (the Jane Ray line)
- Commercial dinnerware (the Restaurant line)
- Vases & flowerpots
- Ashtrays & candy dishes
- Decorative bowls
- Pitchers & creamers
- Sugar bowls & butter dishes
- Mugs & cups (+ egg cups!)
- Refrigerator & mixing bowls
- Casserole & baking dishes
The Jane Ray and Restaurant lines were produced en-mass, nowadays the dinner plates and bowls from these lines are some of the easiest pieces to find. (Smaller plates & purpose-specific bowls, like cereal bowls, can prove more challenging.) Ovenware, mixing bowls, and tiger mugs were frequently given out for free or cents as promotions at grocery stores, gas stations, or other small businesses wanting to drum up business—so these items were quite popular as well. The elusive 5” Swirl Mixing Bowl is noted as one of the rarest FireKing pieces now, due to limited production.
Do They Still Make Jadeite Wares?
Jeanette Glass Company retired its jadeite line by the late 1940s. By the mid-1950s, McKee had been sold and re-sold, no longer producing their lines either. However, Anchor Hocking’s FireKing Jadeite was produced consistently until 1976 when the FireKing division was closed down. The colorful opaque baking dishes of the mid-century were replaced by the clear glass bake-ware more familiar today.
A few FireKing pieces were produced in 1992 to commemorate its 50th anniversary. Around the same time, Martha Stewart began her first cooking show. It was filmed in her personal kitchen that had been stocked with FireKing Jade-ite wares. Part of her brand during this era was built around using vintage pieces during cooking and presentation. Antique jadeite began seeing a rise in collector interest and a resurgence in popular culture during this time.
In 2000, Anchor Hocking reintroduced Fire-King Jadeite temporarily, using new molds and a new stamp, “Fire-King 2000”. These centennial pieces were originally sold for reasonable prices in big-box stores, but now, over two decades later, these pieces can go for as much as the rarer originals.
Sadly, jadeite glass is no longer in production—at least currently. Anchor Hocking does still exist as a company, so it may be that we will yet see a revival of this fantastic mid-century kitchenware.