moonstruck

glass that glows without a candle

Posted on Categories craft

did you know that you can use earth to make moonlight? 

about as often as we see a supermoon, the glassybaby r&d team gets an opportunity to use the madrona hot shop to make something other than glassybaby drinkers and votives. the other day, the team was using one of these opportunities to make some phosphorescent color bar.

color bar is used in every glassybaby. usually, we don’t make them; we source them instead from old, family operations that have recipes of minerals and metals, recipes that have been honed for generations to consistently create a certain gorgeous color. 

but there is one sort of color bar that nobody else makes: the color for the new, super-limited and rare ‘moonstruck’ glassybaby. this glass votive glows in the dark like a full moon at midnight. those who stare at it for too long may undergo curious transformations, or suddenly shout unreasonable expressions of love. to make a glassybaby glow without a candle inside, you need phosphorescence: “light emitted by a substance without combustion or perceptible heat.” very, very few materials are phosphorescent. for ‘moonstruck,’ we use a little ingredient called “alkaline rare earth metal silicate aluminate oxide.” since that name sounds like a tongue twister invented by a wicked chemist, we’ll just call it “phosphorescent rare earth.”

now, just like the moon never thought that a human would walk on it, this phosphorescent rare earth never expected to be part of a glass object. on a chemical level, it just doesn’t get along with glass. to force it to bond with glass, we’d have to heat it up to over 2,000 degrees, a temperature which would destroy its phosphorescent properties. so instead of just melting the rare earth and the glass together, we have to knead it into the glass, until its powder is uniformly mixed around.

you should be wondering: how does one “knead” glass? the answer is exactly what you’d expect: it’s hard. it takes plenty of time and plenty of upper-body strength. first, you make a little cup-shaped piece of glass on the end of a metal punty pipe, into which you drop some rare earth powder, as in the video above. then, you seal it in with the other blob as a lid, and begin to roll the whole thing around, as in the vide below: 

so you knead it around itself, between the end of a metal punty pipe and a metal marvering table, and then you bring it back to the furnace to make it malleable, and then you roll it some more, and repeat and repeat, until finally, the rare earth is distributed evenly throughout the glass. then, and only then, you can use this color bar to produce a glassybaby that glows without a candle. 

given all the rare earth and midnight oil that goes into the production of ‘moonstruck’ color bar, it makes sense that these glassybaby votives are about as rare as a lunar eclipse. unlike eclipses, though, we can’t even predict when they’re going to be available, after this week. you never know when you’ll be moonstruck. 

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