Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What is Dichroic Glass?

dichrotic...dichronic...dichro...dichroic glass...

People are fascinated by sparkly, and if it's glass, then dichroic is your mega sparkle!
But, there's a lot of confusion about what dichroic glass is...

Some pins I have created with dichroic accents.

My first encounter with dichro was on Telegraph Ave in Berkeley. Small town girl from Nebraska visiting the craziness of Berkeley in the mid-90s. There was so much to see, but I was transfixed when my eyes caught the reflections off of some glittering dichroic rings. I carefully chose two, a green and orange combo and a blue and pink combo. When I asked what is was, I was given two answers..."It depends on what you want to believe. It's either the fire from a dragon's eye, or the metallic coating they use on spaceships."
Those rings are no longer with me. (Did I tell you that people are fascinated with sparkly?) During a summer at one of my most eclectic friends house, a dance troupe from Benin, West Africa visited. While discussing food, music, and then jewelry (in snippets of the French I learned in high school) with the two women dancers that had made the trek to Middle America, we decided to trade baubles. I gave them each one of the rings that sparkled; they had never seen anything like it before. I, in turn, received beads from Africa that I've incorporated into several of my jewelry designs.
But, back to dichro... What is it exactly?Cabinet hardware with dichroic accents.

SAVOY dichroic has a nice little blurb about it...

Dichroic is a high-tech optical coating that selectively reflects certain wavelengths (colors) of light and allows the remaining wavelengths to transmit through. This same effect is seen in nature in peacock feathers and opals. The word "dichroic" means two colors, which refers to transmitted color and reflected color. The coating process is done in a high vacuum chamber that has several pieces of specialized equipment to control and monitor the coating process.
Coatings by Sandberg elaborates a bit more about the process...
Dichroic Glass is a multi layer coating placed on glass by using a highly technical vacuum deposition process. Quartz Crystal and Metal Oxides are Vaporized with an electron beam gun in an airless vacuum chamber and the vapor then floats upward and attaches then condenses on the surface of the glass in the form of a crystal structure. Our colors have as many as 30 layers of these materials yet the thickness of the total coating is approximately 35 millionths of an inch. The coating that is created is very similar to a gemstone and by careful control in thickness, different colors are obtained. Thus, all our coatings are created using the same exact materials. Originally created for the Aerospace industry, Dichroic Glass is now made available to the artist community through Coatings By Sandberg, Inc. CBS Dichroic Glass is specifically designed to be hotworked in any way but can also be used in its raw form. The main characteristic of Dichroic Glass is that it has a transmitted color and a completely different reflective color. Furthermore, these two colors shift depending on angle of view. With the play of light together with its vibrant color, Dichroic Glass is a prime tool used to add interest to any piece of work or project.
I also discovered here that the "spaceship theory" from Telegraph Ave. was a bit closer to the truth. CBS talks about the more technical uses of dichroic, "Dichroic Glass was originally created for the Aerospace industry for Satellite mirrors, but it now has many technical uses including: Lighting, Fiber Optics, Infrared Lazers, Motion Picture Equipment, Sun Glasses, and more."

Any glass artist who has tried to photograph their pieces, especially dichroic pieces, knows that it is incredibly difficult to catch the nuances and beauty of dichroic glass. But, CBS has some beautiful close up shots of dichroic glass on their home page.

Disclaimer....I get NO compensation for linking to any outside sites. Though, wouldn't that be nice?!?


Margaret Almon said...

Thank you for this exploration of dichroic glass! I have several kinds of glass tiles that are sparkly and people ask if they are dichroic, but they aren't, and now I know more about dichroic actually is. Your cabinet hardware is cool1

Calyx Ann said...

Thanks, Margaret!
I love your work, but I don't recall seeing sparkly tiles...hmmm...now I want to go find them!


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