Pyrex remains popular after more than a century

 Vintage PyrexIf you live in the United States, chances are good that you have a piece of vintage Pyrex or two somewhere in your kitchen collection. The heavy glass product, created over 100 years ago, has endured through the decades. NPR's The Salt takes a look at Pyrex's continued popularity, especially among mid-century modern collectors.

The story of the glassware's origins shows that Pyrex was both developed for and designed by women. Although a male scientist at New York based Corning developed the technology, it was his wife - Bessie Littleton - who thought of applying it to kitchenware. To prove her point, she baked a cake in a sawed off glass jar. Early versions of Pyrex, which debuted in 1915, were clear, but after World War II color was added and the product became even more popular. 

Although the heavy bowls and baking dishes can withstand extreme temperature change from cold to hot (they truly are freezer to oven), Pyrex is (to my surprise) not considered dishwasher safe. Still, the pieces are durable and nearly shatterproof. One advertisement in the early years showed someone dropping a piece of Pyrex from atop a ladder without it breaking. 

As collectors become more interested in the kitschy glassware, prices are rising. A few rare pieces can fetch as much as $3,000, although most of it costs much less. Some avid fans have thousands of pieces in their collections, like Michael Barber, author of the Pyrex Passion blog, who estimates he has nearly 4,000 pieces. Do you have any vintage Pyrex? If so, do you use it often?

Photo courtesy of Pyrex collector Jessica Kutchma

5 Comments

  • Maefleur  on  7/25/2017 at 9:05 PM

    I have several pieces that were my mothers, and I use daily. I recently dropped a casserole on my tile floor and broke it. I was crushed, but that sometimes happens when you don't leave them on a shelf to admire, and use and enjoy them daily. I have a few left and hopefully they'll remain with me with good care.

  • laureljean  on  7/26/2017 at 9:35 AM

    I love Pyrex and Fire King.

  • ellabee  on  7/26/2017 at 7:28 PM

    One other caution about early-era Pyrex: don't assume it's safe for the microwave. I have a small casserole from my grandmother's house that was made in the 1930s; it's clear, but with a yellowish tint that some glass enthusiasts tell me may indicate trace metals that could react badly in a microwave. Pyrex from the years when microwaves came in is fine for sure.

  • hillsboroks  on  7/27/2017 at 5:02 PM

    I guess I am becoming vintage just like my Pyrex! I am still using the set of Pyrex mixing bowls I got as a premium from my bank for putting money into my savings account from my summer job while I was going to college. You know that had to be ages ago because I also earned 5% interest on my account! Besides that set I still use the set of Pyrex bowls we received as a wedding gift in 1974. The casseroles have gradually wandered off with my children to their kitchens and are still in use there. How many other products would still be going strong nearly 50 years later?

  • Nancith  on  7/27/2017 at 7:12 PM

    I, too, have the Pyrex mixing bowls received as a wedding gift in 1977, except for the one dropped a few years ago. They are used all the time. Many more pieces were in my kitchen before we downsized; I was prepared to give them to the thrift shop (too old-fashioned looking!)when one of my daughters desperately wanted to add them to her collection. So she is carrying on the Pyrex tradition,.

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