Mercury Glass

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Mercury Glass
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Historically mercury was used to create the reflective surface of mirrors but, misleadingly, mercury glass does not actually contain mercury. It is debated whether the element was ever used to make tableware or decorative vases like this one, but modern mercury glass is unquestionably silvered using a much less toxic solution of silver nitrate. Because this vase has been smashed, you can see how it was made. The silver nitrate coating that gives the objects its mercury-like appearance is poured into the inner chamber of this double-layered glass vessel through a hole in the bottom of the vase, and allowed to dry. The useable internal cavity of this vase is actually very small, as most of the internal space of the object is meant to be closed off from the outside world so the silver doesn’t tarnish. You can see the yellowing and browning of the internal coating where this vase has been exposed to the air.

Sample ID: 84


Glass | Metal
Coated | Decorative | Double-layered | Glass | Reflective | Silver | Silver-nitrate | Silvered | Vase

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