Friday, 30 October 2009


Old glass can show changes in colour as evidenced by the different colour of the glass under the lead came where the light cannot reach the glass.

Drew Anderson has provided the explanation.

This change in color of some glass is known as solarisation.

The main ingredient of most glasses is silica, which is usually introduced as a raw material in the form of sand. Silica itself is colorless in glass form but most sands contain iron as an impurity, and this gives a greenish tint to glass. By adding certain other ingredients to a molten glass, it is possible to change the greenish color and produce colorless glass.

These ingredients are known as decolorizers, and one of the most common is manganese dioxide (MnO2). In chemical terms, the manganese acts as an oxidizing agent and converts the iron from its reduced state - which is a strong greenish blue colorant - to an oxidized state which has a yellowish, but much less intense, color. In the course of the chemical reaction, the manganese goes into a chemically reduced state, which is virtually colorless.

When pieces of decolorized glass containing reduced manganese are exposed to ultraviolet radiation for long periods of time, the manganese may become photo-oxidized. This converts it back into an oxidized form. Even in low concentrations this imparts a pink or purplish color to glass. The ultraviolet rays of the sun can promote this process over a matter of a few years or decades.

Selenium and cerium have also occasionally been used as a decoloriser and can produce solarisation colors, just as manganese does. The colors developed by these two elements are said to range from yellow to amber.