Kermit the Frog once famously lamented that iI's not easy being green. Sorry, Kermie - we love you, but we have to disagree; we think it's actually pretty easy to be green, at least if you are a particular hue known as jadeite green. This enduring, soothing color has been a mainstay in kitchens for decades, and it's still just as home in today's modern kitchens as it was in the country kitchens of our mothers and grandmothers.
Let's explore the origins of this lovely glassware, and what is - and isn't - jadeite.
For starters, is it jadeite, jade-ice, or jadite? The answer is yes. It is all three. For simplicity's sake we will refer to it as jadeite, but you'll find all three spellings online and in reference guides.
Often associated with Depression-era glassware, jadeite has been around since Victorian era. But its heyday was in the 1930s and '40s.
Basically a happy, spring-green colored version of milk glass, it was produced by several American manufacturers including McKee (who was perhaps first to produce it), Anchor Hocking/Fireking and Jeanette, who dubbed it "Jadite".
Anchor-Hocking called theirs "Jade-it" and manufactured it under their Fire-King name in the 1940s. Most of the pieces produced were utilitarian and sturdy dishware: mugs, mixing bowls, canisters, juice reamers, and salt and pepper shakers are commonly found in various shades of green. Some were giveaways in cereal, and many were mass-produced for commercial diners. They were quite literally a dime a dozen.
Fenton also produced jadeite vases, plates and other pieces with hobnail and other intricate and whimsical designs.
Like most things, jadeite has gone in and out of style over the years. It has enjoyed a renewed and sustained popularity thanks in large part to Martha Stewart's collection, pictured here. The Martha Stewart brand sells its own line of reproduction jadeite for those who just can't get enough of the green stuff.
If you love jadeite, brace yourself. You're likely to turn green with envy when you spot your first farmhouse sink in jadeite green. Chances are good you'll only see it in a photo unless you frequent architectural salvage stores like I do. Old farmhouse sinks typically command a high price anyway, and the green ones are among the most prized and coveted. There are also jadeite green bathroom fixtures - sinks, tubs and even toilets.
If your heart loves these green pieces of the past, be certain you know your new jadeite from the old before you start collecting. Many shops, including ours, carry reproduction jadeite in some of the traditional patterns. Reputable sellers will never try to pass off their new stock as vintage, but it pays to know how to tell the differences for your own piece of mind. Here's a great tutorial from The Tattered Pew that will help you learn to spot the differences between old and new.
Once you're armed with enough knowledge to know your way around the various pieces, patterns and shades of green, happy hunting. You'll find vintage jadeite in estate sales, on eBay and Etsy sellers, and antique stores. If you have specific pieces you want to collect, be prepared to be patient or pay a premium for your coveted pieces. Or you can sometimes shortcut the process and find reproduction pieces that fit the bill.
While these pieces were intended to be used for everyday dishes, your collection should be treated with care. Hand wash your pieces and don't place them in the microwave or oven. Make sure any reproduction pieces in your collection are food safe before using them for more than stylish centerpieces.
As spring gives way to summer, we hope you enjoy all the fresh greens. As Martin Luther once said, "For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver."
Note: All photos are courtesy of Pinterest. This article was originally shared with our friends at the Busy Bee Trader in their April 2021 issue. We are proud to create articles and advertise in this long-running guide to antiques and boutique stores in the mid-south.
WHO WRITES THIS STUFF?
I'm Terry Lea, owner of Re-Invintage Home, a vintage home goods shop just south of Nashville in Murfreesboro, TN. A lifelong passion for vintage picking led me to open a shop with my picking pal, Sherri in 2017. Come see us!