Dichroic Glass: A History and How it is Made Today

Dichroic Glass: A History and How it is Made Today

Dichroic glass was discovered by ancient Romans and is best exemplified by the Lycurgus Cup, a 4th-century artifact that exhibits different colors when lit from different angles. The unique properties of dichroic glass were likely stumbled upon accidentally during the glass-making process, as artisans experimented with adding metallic salts and oxides to molten glass. This discovery was largely forgotten until the technology was revived and further developed by NASA in the 20th century for use in aerospace applications, leading to its modern artistic and commercial use.

NASA developed modern dichroic glass in the 1950s and 1960s as part of its research into materials for aerospace applications. The primary motivation was to create materials that could filter and reflect specific wavelengths of light, essential for protecting sensitive equipment and improving visibility in the harsh conditions of space. By employing advanced thin-film deposition techniques, NASA was able to produce glass with precise optical properties, enabling it to reflect infrared and ultraviolet light while allowing visible light to pass through. This technology not only advanced aerospace engineering but also found applications in telecommunications, lasers, and eventually, the arts and decorative industries.

Today dichroic glass is made by artisans by depositing thin layers of metallic oxides, such as titanium, chromium, and aluminum, onto clear glass in a high-temperature vacuum chamber. This process, known as thin-film deposition, involves vaporizing the metals and allowing them to condense on the glass surface in layers that can range from 30 to 50 layers thick. The resulting material exhibits unique optical properties, reflecting certain wavelengths of light while transmitting others, which gives dichroic glass its characteristic color-shifting appearance.

Our collection of dichroic glass jewelry is handmade here in the United States and is hand cut with diamond cutting saws into shapes and then filed and wire wrapped to be made into earrings and pendants. Each color combination is unique and no two pieces are exactly alike. Our jewelry is photographed with each new order to unsure you get the best idea of what your order with look like.

Shop our collection of Art Glass Jewelry.

Back to blog