How Is Colored Glass Made?

Colored Glass

You can probably instantly think of a few types of colored glass, from those amber beer bottles to cobalt blue tincture bottles. However, have you ever wondered how it’s made? Are you curious about what other colors are available?

A number of materials are commonly used to color glass, including cobalt, lead, uranium, copper and even gold. Color is the first thing you notice about glass, and it’s usually one of the most beautiful elements.

The color of a glass container alone can dictate how desirable it is—and how much you can upsell just about any product. The exact same essential oil can sell for a premium in a turquoise bottle compared to a clear one.

Today, manufacturers have precise control over the color of glass, but that wasn’t always the case. Centuries ago, glass was colored by accident and by random experiments. “What happens if I add this to this?” was the go-to approach for creating colored glass. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way!

The Early Years

Some of the earliest colored glass relics came from the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians. Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan, an 8th century Persian chemist, crafted scores of recipes for coloring glass. He discovered that oxidizing metal was the catalyst for coloring—and that’s what earned him the moniker Father of Chemistry.

After this discovery, coloring glass became a serious competition.

The first colored glass items were small bottles and ornaments, which are still popular today. Soon, religious groups began clamoring for custom colored glass, and stained glass pieces came to be.

However, there was a problem: Those gorgeous colors didn’t last for very long. Red in particular faded quickly. After a little more experimenting, artists found that adding a little gold to red preserved the color, a method that’s still used today (and why red glass remains more expensive).

The Color Wheel

Today, artists have the recipes down pat. You still have to add metal to get the brightest, longest-lasting color. Sulfide or powdered oxide is most common.

To create yellow, you add cadmium sulfide, red still requires gold (chloride), a blue/violet hue needs cobalt oxide, purple needs manganese dioxide, pure violet requires nickel oxide and emerald green calls for chromic oxide.

These are just a few of the options available. Additional colors can include fluorescent yellows and greens, ambers, whites, yellows and browns.

Choosing the right color requires extensive research. People react differently to different colors, so it depends on the product and the desired outcome. Once you decide on a color, you’re on the fast track to making a big impact.

Protect colored glass that’s a statement piece by keeping Murray Glass’s number on hand for all chip and crack repairs.