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In the 1940s and 1950s, jadeite -- a stain- and heat-resistant, milky-green glassware -- was quite common and sold in hardware stores and five-and-tens. Sometimes a piece of jadeite would be included in a bag of flour or a box of oatmeal as an inducement to the consumer to buy the rest of the set. Today, jadeite is a popular -- and valuable -- collectible. A ball jug that once sold for $5 could sell for as much as $5,000 today.

McKee was the first company to mass-produce jadeite dinnerware in the '30s. The company's only complete dinnerware line is also the least popular today: the delicate and frilly patterned Laurel. You can identify McKee jadeite by the letters "McK" in a small circle on the back. The Jeannette Glass Company, however, actually coined the term jadeite. Most Jeannette jadeite is unmarked, except for some of the earlier pieces, which have the letter "J" in a triangle, followed by the mold number.

The Anchor Hocking Company produced Fire-King, a type of glassware that could withstand the high temperatures of ovens and stoves. "Jade-ite" was one of their most popular colors. Martha and her daughter, Alexis, both collect Fire-King Restaurantware, a very popular and increasingly hard-to-find pattern. As the name suggests, it was made for institutional use in restaurants, hotels, and hospitals, and so is heavier than other makes, and much harder to break.

If you're interested in collecting jadeite, David Ross, a dealer of 20th-century glassware and coauthor of "Jadeite: An Identification and Price Guide," recommends examining each piece thoroughly for chips and cracks. Because jadeite was meant to be inexpensive glassware, there was no quality control. So you may notice that there are different shades of green, making it difficult to find matching sets. The good thing about jadeite is that it's very durable. You can wash it as you do any dish; keep it out of the microwave, though, as jadeite was produced before microwaves existed and is not meant to withstand that kind of heat.

Comments (9)

  • PaintedShovel 11 Mar, 2015

    @SarahRobertson Are you still looking for jadeite dinnerware? A friend of mine has six pieces settings, all from the 1940s.

  • mrsbegier 19 Apr, 2015

    Jadeite lover...

  • Roxanna Webster 4 Apr, 2014

    Why is it so hard to find info or pictures of the jadite that martha made years ago?

  • Natalie Venuto 12 Jul, 2012

    @ Sarah Robertson: I'm interested in buying if you're selling!

  • Sarah Robertson 28 May, 2012

    My Mother started collecting Jadeite for me when I was born in 1981 - I am sitting here looking at least 20 pieces - all in good to really good condition but I just don't like that shade of green :( I have some from the 1940's through late 1960's - any suggestions for how I can implement them in my home because I don't like the color or should I find a buyer/collector?

  • Paela 24 Nov, 2014

    So sweet of her; try using it at Christmas, with red teacups; vh4 xcedar boughs, maybe some red gingham etc

  • PaintedShovel 11 Mar, 2015

    @sarahrobinson Are you still looking for jadeite dinnerware? A friend of mine has six pieces settings, all from the 1940s.

  • SarahG310 19 Oct, 2010

    Alexis is hoarding and it's not fair!! Just kidding, I LOVE her collection.

  • FireKingJadite 3 Nov, 2009

    If you count yourself among the growing number of collectors who just love the milky-green color of vintage Jadite (Jadeite) as I do then you might just find the perfect piece for your collection at which helped me search by item type and manufacturer, i.e. Fire King Mugs or Fire King Jadite Dishes