How Is Glitter Made?

    CRAFTS CLASSES
    TO INSPIRE CREATIVITY
    by Carolyn Simpkins

    About the Author

    Carolyn Simpkins is a freelance writer and editor specializing in food, history, health, pet care and gardening articles. She currently works as a writing center coordinator and tutor at a small liberal arts college in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and women's studies from Agnes Scott College.

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    According to "Glitter: A Brief History" in New York Magazine, glitter originated from flaked mica, which was used to decorate prehistoric cave paintings as well as art by many ancient cultures. Absolute Astronomy's history of mica notes that it first appeared in cave paintings dated to 40,000 to 10,000 B.C., where mica was used for its reflective qualities as well as its white hue. Ground mica was also used in the powders that were thrown in the Hindi festival Holi, decorating fellow participants in colorful glitter to usher in the spring season. The July 23, 1932, edition of the Science News Letter noted that women in ancient Greece powdered their faces with glittering white powder ground from lead, which often caused death through lead poisoning. The use of ground white lead powder for a glittering face was echoed in Ancient Rome and Ancient China, and the practice continued into Renaissance England.

    Ancient Uses of Glitter

    According to "Glitter: A Brief History" in New York Magazine, glitter originated from flaked mica, which was used to decorate prehistoric cave paintings as well as art by many ancient cultures. Absolute Astronomy's history of mica notes that it first appeared in cave paintings dated to 40,000 to 10,000 B.C., where mica was used for its reflective qualities as well as its white hue. Ground mica was also used in the powders that were thrown in the Hindi festival Holi, decorating fellow participants in colorful glitter to usher in the spring season. The July 23, 1932, edition of the Science News Letter noted that women in ancient Greece powdered their faces with glittering white powder ground from lead, which often caused death through lead poisoning. The use of ground white lead powder for a glittering face was echoed in Ancient Rome and Ancient China, and the practice continued into Renaissance England.

    Modern Glitter Production

    In 1934, Henry Ruschmann discovered a way to grind plastics that created mass quantities of glitter. Ruschmann founded Meadowbrook Inventions in Bernardsville, N.J. To this day, Meadowbrook Glitter is the world's leading supplier of glitter. Meadowbrook Glitter makes glitter by cutting sheets of plastic or metallic foils into fine pieces. These tiny flecks of plastic or foil reflect light brilliantly as it shines off of myriad surfaces rather than the one sheet that the glitter originated from. Cut this way, glitter yields around 60 to 200 square feet per pound of the material from which it is produced. Meadowbrook Glitter makes a wide assortment of glitter varieties -- thin sheets of aluminum copolymer particles make up the Alpha Jewels product, for example, while the iridescent glitter Crystalina is made from polyester and acrylic. High Chroma Silver, a 98-percent reflective glitter, is made from polyethylene naphthalate and polymethyl methacrylate. The ingredients of glitter are not as simple as they seem.

    Uses of Glitter

    Glitter is used for much more than arts and crafts. Many different industries rely on glitter for sparkle and glam. Glue manufacturers add glitter to clear glue to create glitter glue, which can be used for crafts as well as fashion. Cosmetics manufacturers use glitter for nail polishes, eye shadow and in many other products, mirroring how glitter was used in the ancient world. The fashion industry flocks glitter into fabric for shimmering fabrics for glamorous accessories and garments, and glitter is added to jewelry, home decor, tile and other decorative objects.

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