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The normal color of uranium glass ranges from yellow to green depending on the oxidation state and concentration of the metal ions, although this may be altered by the addition of other elements as glass colorants. Uranium glass also fluoresces bright green under ultraviolet light and can register above background radiation on a sufficiently sensitive Geiger counter, although most pieces of uranium glass are considered to be harmless and only negligibly radioactive.
The most typical color of uranium glass is pale yellowish-green, which in the 1920s led to the nickname vaseline glass based on a perceived resemblance to the appearance of petroleum jelly as formulated and commercially sold at that time. Specialized collectors still define vaseline glass as transparent or semi-transparent uranium glass in this specific color.
Vaseline glass is now used as a synonym for any uranium glass, especially in the United States, but this usage is not universal. The term is sometimes carelessly applied to other types of glass based on certain aspects of their superficial appearance in normal light, regardless of actual uranium content which requires a blacklight test to verify the characteristic green fluorescence.