Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Glass Colours

Glass normally has little or no colour because the electrons in the material are tightly bonded so no electronic movement in the energy range of visible light is possible. Glass is given colour by addition of various materials to selectively absorb light in the visible spectrum.
There are three processes: addition of ions of transitional metals; addition of colloidal particles; and addition of coloured crystals.

Ions of transition metals provide electronic excitations in the visible light range. Some of the common ions are:
  • Chromium with two positive ions gives a blue, but
  • Chromium with three positive ions gives a green.
  • Cobalt with two positive ions gives pink.
  • Manganese with two positive ions gives an orange.
  • Iron with two positive ions gives a blue-green, as can be seen by looking at the edge of much of modern window glass.


Addition of colloidal particles of various sizes causes absorption of some parts of the visible spectrum and reflects the complimentary colours. These are very small particles ranging from 4 to 170 nanometers. For example,
  • Gold of 4-10 nanometers will give a pink.
  • Changing the size to the range of 10-75 nanometers will produce a ruby.
  • As the size of the gold increases to the range 75-110 nanometers a green is produced.
  • Between 110 and 170 nanometers browns are produced.


The addition of very small coloured crystals that are dispersed throughout the glass will produce coloured glass.
  • The Egyptians made scarlet glass by the addition of red copper oxide. Other examples are
  • Lead hexachrome (Pb2CrO6)which produces red, and
  • Green is produced with chromium (III) oxide (Cr2O3) crystals, often called viridian.



Based on MIT Solid State Chemistry Notes, p.15-16