What is Dichroic Glass?
by Jamie Smedley, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®
Dichroic glass is a fascinating product that is both ancient and modern. Dichroic (pronounced "dye-CROW-ick") glass means "two colors" in Greek. The name is fitting because it appears to have more than one color, especially when viewed under different types of light.
This reflective phenomenon is known as thin-film physics. It's the reason you see swirling rainbow patterns in a soap bubble, floating colors in oil on water and the dramatic colors of dragonfly wings.
A Brief History
Dichroic glass has been around since the time of the Roman Empire. The Lycurgus Cup from the fourth century appears green or red, depending on the light. The effect was achieved by using trace amounts of gold and silver in just the right measurements.
NASA helped to popularize dichroic glass in the 1950s and 1960s. Metals were vaporized with electron beams and then applied to surfaces in ultra-thin layers transparent to the human eye. This coating was used to protect spacecraft technology from harmful radiation.
Dichroic glass is now most often used to make jewelry components, like colorful beads, pendants and more. The right mix of metal oxides is applied to a glass surface and then fired in a kiln at high temperatures to fuse the oxides to the glass.
How to Use It
The beautiful, iridescent colors of dichroic glass suit a wide variety of tastes. Use a clear dichroic glass cabochon for a soft, delicate look reminiscent of spring, or choose a dark-colored glass for a more futuristic look. Dark dichroic glass pieces look especially breathtaking when used with sterling silver. No matter what look you prefer, dichroic design elements add interest to your jewelry.
If you have a kiln and knowledge of glasswork, you can create dichroic glass. If that's not an option, make faux dichroic glass effects using Apoxie® Sculpt and craft foils like Lisa Pavelka does in her video tutorial.
Dichroic glass is a flexible medium that can be used to create many different looks. Why not give it a try and see what it can bring to your jewelry designs?
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