What Is Custard Glass?

Light Yellow Opaque Glassware Originally Called Queen's Ivory Ware

French Custard Glass Jack in the Pulpit Vase.

Morphy Auctions

While many collectors call this light yellow opaque glassware "custard glass," it became popular in the United States in the 1890s after being introduced abroad more than a decade prior to that.

It was originally made in England by Sowerby and marketed as “Queen’s Ivory Ware,” according to James Measell in the "Antique Trader" magazine. Custard glass, like the French jack in the pulpit vase (pictured), was made in other European countries in the late 1800s as well.

Pressed Glass

This interesting glassware is most often of the pressed variety. It varies in color from almost ivory or cream, genuinely bringing to mind the pudding-like dessert called custard. It can also have a vivid yellow or greenish tinge.

This type of glass got its yellow tint from varying amounts of uranium oxide being added to the molten glass mixture during production, much like transparent uranium glass and green Depression glass. That means most custard glass will also fluoresce under a black light, including newer reproductions. Custard glass also varies in appearance from thick and chunky and completely opaque to more delicate in nature with a bit of translucency about it.

Many companies competed in the custard glass arena back in the early 1900s. Northwood is said to be the key producer and the first to have made a complete set of tableware in this color. But Heisey Glass Co., Jefferson Glass Co., Tarentum Glass Co., and Fenton Art Glass Co. were all known to have made custard glassware along with a number of other manufacturers.

Some pieces were fancily molded like Libbey’s corn-shaped “maize” pattern. Northwood and Heisey were also known to market many pieces with painted gold accents. Souvenir glass commemorating travel destinations and historically significant dates or events were also made of custard glass around the turn of the 20th century. By and large, original custard glass was made up through the 1920s, but rarely thereafter. After that, transparent glass became more favored by consumers.

Custard Glass Reproductions

Custard glass has many reproductions. The new pieces look a lot like some of the old ones, so if you are only interested in adding antique and vintage pieces to your collection, be aware of reproductions that flooded the market at one point.

The easiest field test you can use to determine if a piece is old or not is to hold it to the light while you are out shopping. According to Ruby Lane’s Real or Repro online resource, all old pieces will have a fiery red opalescence when viewed against a light source. “It is usually the strongest and easiest to see at the rims, and less obvious where the glass is thickest. None of the reproductions, regardless of manufacturer, have ever shown the slightest trace of any opalescence.”

Also, be aware that custard glass made since the 1960s was made with uranium oxide as a component so it does fluoresce under a black light. Unfortunately, you cannot use a blacklight test for verification purposes. The fact that it "glows" does not verify age, but it might help you determine whether or not what you have is indeed custard glass.

L.G. Wright Glass Company also used a mark on its pieces that are problematically similar to the old, original Northwood mark. The only difference is a little “tail” on the left side of the mark that connects the underscored "N" to the circle surrounding it. Not all of this glass is marked, so sometimes you have to look for other differences between new and old pieces such as size or shape in comparison to originals.

Summit Art Glass also made reproduction custard glass, and some pieces are decorated with gold detailing very similar to the original pieces. The most common repro custard glass items are toothpick holders, according to Real or Repro, but bowls, covered jars, shoe whimsies, and patterned tumblers were also fabricated.