Ask any unicorn, fairy or princess and they’ll tell you that anything can be made just a little bit better — and more sparkly — by adding one key ingredient. What is it? Glitter, of course!
Whether it’s a unicorn’s mane, a fairy’s wand or a princess’ slippers, glitter makes the ordinary shine and sparkle. But what exactly is glitter and where did it come from?
Glitter is made up of hundreds — even thousands or tens of thousands! — of tiny pieces of various materials. What types of materials? Some common glitter materials include copolymer plastics, aluminum foil, titanium dioxide and iron oxides.
These materials are usually produced in thin sheets that are painted with bright metallic or iridescent colors that reflect light. The sheets are then cut up into tiny pieces to make glitter that sparkles brightly when its many pieces reflect light in a colorful spectrum!
To keep it from being too messy, glitter makers usually package glitter in small containers that have small holes that help control the flow of glitter. To apply glitter to an object, you will usually use glue or another type of sticky substance that the glitter will stick to.
In addition to arts and crafts projects, glitter can also be used in combination with cosmetics. You may see people wearing glitter make-up or using nail polish that contains glitter. If you want to look sparkly, there’s no better way than adding some glitter to your clothes or body!
So how long has glitter been around? In its present form, glitter has only been around for about 75 years or so. However, scientists have found cave paintings that are over 2,000 years old that include mica flakes that give the paintings a sparkly appearance.
Modern glitter as we know it was invented in 1934 by a New Jersey cattle rancher named Henry Ruschmann. Henry also dabbled as a machinist. His hobby led to the accidental discovery of a process that used a machine to precisely cut plastic films into thousands of tiny pieces.
All those tiny pieces of plastic eventually became the product we now call glitter. Ruschmann started a company called Meadowbrook Inventions to produce glitter in large quantities. His company is still in business today and is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of glitter.