Radioactive Antiques

2021.01.29 | Yuki Rea

This is a table containing uSv/hr and CPM readings of various antiques taken with my Geiger counter. Some glassware, electronics, clocks, and other antiques were made using materials such as uranium and radium for their interesting visual properties. These items were mostly produced before the general population knew the dangers of radiation. This page is meant to be a curiosity into the dangers of common household objects of years passed, and as a warning to anyone who may own some of the hotter pieces on this list.

Test Methodology

Each piece is tested with a NetIO GC10 Geiger counter utilizing the Russian SMB-20 Geiger tube. The tube itself is housed in a custom plastic enclosure that holds the tube about 2mm above the surface of the item under test. The Geiger tube remains unshielded for all tests. Readings are taken over a 2 minute period, the fist minute is to let the CPM value stabilize. The second minute I begin taking 3 readings each 30 seconds apart, the 3 readings are then averaged. The background radiation level of the test area is measured at 0.194 uSv/hr or 32 CPM. Any reading below 40 CPM can be considered negligible over background radiation levels and within margin of error. While great accuracy is not necessary for these test, I like to standardize the process as much as possible. Please note that these readings are not a definitive measurement. Geiger counters and dosimeters will vary from device to device in their construction and calibration. Different individual samples of the same product can also have varying levels of radioactivity.

For more information about my Geiger counter, please go here: Custom 3D Printed NetIO GC10 Geiger Counter Case

Antique Radioactivity Table

Sorted Most > Least Radioactive
Click to enlarge images
Westclox Home-N-Away Travel Clock63.63 uSv/hr10500 CPM
Frosted Yellow Tiffin Spiral Pedestal Bowl19.47 uSv/hr3213 CPM
Green Etched Grape and Wheat Pattern Juice Cup11.153 uSv/hr1841 CPM
Small Green Ridged Bowl10.45 uSv/hr1725 CPM
Green Etched Grape and Wheat Pattern Stemware10.22 uSv/hr1687 CPM
Green Ovaloid Serving Dish4.955 uSv/hr818 CPM
Green Embossed Royal Pattern Serving Plate4.521 uSv/hr746 CPM
Green Drinking Glass3.618 uSv/hr597 CPM
Green Federal Sherbet Cup3.529 uSv/hr582 CPM
Green Anchor Hocking Spiral Creamer2.373 uSv/hr392 CPM
Green Chip and Dip Bowl2.345 uSv/hr387 CPM
Small Teal Ridged Bowl1.709 uSv/hr282 CPM
Green Hazel Atlas 2-Cup Measuring Container1.35 uSv/hr220 CPM
Green Hazel Atlas Mixing Bowl0.991 uSv/hr164 CPM
Green Anchor Hocking Block Optic Sherbet Cup0.923 uSv/hr152 CPM
Westclox Floral Baby Ben0.289 uSv/hr48 CPM
Westclox Green and Gold Germany0.216 uSv/hr36 CPM