Sunday, May 31, 2009

Glass 101: What is Dichroic Glass?

What is Dichroic Glass?

What is Dichroic Glass?

Fusing glass - getting it so hot it melts together and thus fuses - is an art with a long tradition. In my studio, I use art glass specifically designed for kiln fusing. Many of the "special effects" are created through the use of dichroic glass. It's visually beautiful, mesmerizing, and depending upon the angle you look at it, you see a different color.

But what on Earth is it?

Dichroic glass is the result of placing a multi-layered coating on glass using a highly technical vacuum deposition process. Quartz crystal and metal oxides are vaporized (zap!) with an electron beam gun in an airless vacuum chamber. The substance then floats upward and first attaches and then settles on the surface of the glass in the form of a crystal structure. The glass has many layers of these materials, yet the thickness of the total coating is very, very thin. The coating that is created is very similar to some gemstones, and careful control of the thickness creates different colors.

While originally created for the aerospace industry, dichroic glass is available to the artist community through several specialty manufacturers. Dichroic glass is specifically designed to be hotworked, but it is just as beautiful in its original form.

The main characteristic of dichroic glass is that it has a transmitted color and a completely different reflective color (di=two, chroic = colors, dichroic = two colors!). Light passing through dichroic glass transmits one color, while light bouncing off dichroic reflects another color. And to make it even more amazing, these two colors shift depending upon the angle they're viewed at.

One special way to work with dichroic glass is by etching a design onto it before firing. A special acid is used to burn away part of the colored dichroic glass (leaving it as a black base). When it's clear capped with a thin layer of clear art glass, the design really pops!

When you combine the play of light with the vibrant colors of dichroic glass, the visual beauty will delight you! Pictured are exposed dichroic earrings, an acid etched pin and also a pendant with a fully fused topcoat of clear. I'm sure you'll agree that all ways are beautiful!

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