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What Exactly Is Mercury Glass?

Christmas decoration made in mercury glass.

What Exactly is Mercury Glass?

If you’re attracted to stylish things, you might adore the look of mercury glass. This type of finish is more prevalent than you might expect. You’re especially likely to find mercury glass in the form of holiday decorations, but these can be a bit expensive. Learn more about mercury glass, how to make your DIY glass ornaments, and tips for cleaning mercury glass to keep it looking merry and bright for many holiday seasons to come.

What is Mercury Glass?

Mercury glass dates back to around 1840. The original purpose was to provide a reflective coating for mirrors. Back then, elemental mercury was used in the process, though it isn’t today for safety reasons. Mercury glass is also known as silvered glass because the effect can be achieved by using silver nitrate. This technique was used to create budget-friendly tableware in the 19th century for commoners who couldn’t afford real silver. However, the fad didn’t last long because of the crumbly appearance that mercury glass develops over time. Regardless, mercury glass made a comeback around 1900 as a festive form of glassware to use around the holidays. It fell out of style over the decades, but now, mercury glass has made yet another comeback, especially among antique enthusiasts. Today’s version isn’t made with mercury or silver. Instead, a silvering formula applied between double-walled glass creates a dull mirror finish.

How to Make Mercury Glass from Scratch

If you’re nostalgic for the look of molten, silvered glass, you’ll find no shortage of it on store shelves today. However, to save money, you may be interested in making your own. DIY mercury glass ornaments, vases, candle holders, cup sets, and other decorations can add vintage flair to your Christmas tree, dinner table, or mantelpiece this holiday season. Here’s how easy it is to make mercury glass from scratch:

Gather Your Materials

  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Protective gloves
  • Decorative glass item
  • Mirror finish spray paint
  • Cloth or paper towel

Make DIY Mercury Glass

  • Prepare a place to work outside or in a well-ventilated space.
  • Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
  • Don protective gloves and lightly spray your glass item with mirror finish spray paint. Then, immediately spray with the vinegar and water solution.
  • Blot the glass with a dry cloth or paper towel to create a mottled look. Let the glass dry for about 30 seconds.
  • Repeat this process five more times, or until you achieve the desired look. Let the glass dry completely before putting it on display.

How to Clean Mercury Glass

Your mercury glass decorations look great, but you need to clean them if they start to gather dust. The problem is that the silvery finish could wipe off the glass if it comes in contact with glass cleaner, ammonia, or even plain water. Feel free to clean any non-finished surfaces, such as the inside of vases or jars, with window cleaner. As for cleaning the finished surface, stick to dusting with a dry microfiber cloth.

Make the Holidays Special with Mercury Glass Decorations

Now that you know how to make DIY mercury glass, you can dress up your home with these beautiful, vintage decorations to your heart’s content! 

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