Last night I was watching the TV show Bones with my adult nephew and sister. How wonderful it was! As Dr. Hodgins reveals that the site of some stolen article contained vitrified clay, some other stuff, and uranium 235, my nephew Wayne said, "It was a gnome!" At the same moment, I cried, "It was Fiestaware!"
My sister looked from one to the other of us as, yes indeed, we both were correct. The item in question was...wait for it...a rare, radioactive Fiestaware gnome.
FiestaŽ, also known as Fiestaware, was (and is again) created by the Homer Laughlin China Company in West Virginia. The early Fiestaware used uranium as a ceramic colorant in the glazes, as did many other ceramic companies at the time. Uranium is best known (among potters) for its yellows, but can also be used to create reds, oranges, and browns. Such early Fiestaware is very collectible.
For those who may wonder if that gnome would really have been radioactive.... Yes. Uranium remains radioactive after firing, and since the glaze may contain up to 15% uranium by weight, the corresponding levels of radioactivity can also be significantly above baseline. Yet another good reason to know your pottery poisons!