Glassware pieces are more than aesthetically pleasing. They are quite complex when it comes to materials and composition. Some are more prevalent than others when shopping for housewares. Let’s get to know the different types of glass that you may encounter, each with its unique set of properties.
Accounting for 90 percent of all glass made, this is the most common type of glass used in homewares. Soda-lime glass is relatively inexpensive to make. It can be re-softened multiple times. Due to its soft nature, soda-lime glass is less scratch-resistant. It is not as strong as some other types of glass and can break if dropped or subjected to extreme pressure.
Borosilicate glass is characterized by its durability and heat resistance, meaning it is less likely to crack with fluctuations in temperature and is more resilient when cleaned. This material is commonly used for scientific, medical, and culinary purposes. It is a harder material that is more costly to make than other forms of glass. That said, it is also much more durable than traditional glass—when it does break, it rarely shatters and is more resilient.
Lead Glass / Crystal
As the name suggests, this glass contains a high percentage of lead oxide. It’s also known as crystal, as it is thought to resemble quartz crystal. It is denser and heavier than soda-lime glass but is considered a soft glass, making it easier to cut and shape into designs. This type of glass is no longer widely used for decorative purposes due to well-known risks of ingesting lead. Additionally, the production and disposal of this type of glass may produce significant pollution. Crystal glass is relatively heavy and can be more fragile than other types as it does not withstand high temperatures and temperature fluctuations.
This glass contains aluminum oxide in composition. It is characterized by great chemical durability and has comparable properties to borosilicate glass. Aluminosilicate glass is difficult to fabricate due to its high heat resistance. As a hard glass, it may be used in touch displays or solar cell cover glass.
High Silica Glass
This is a type of borosilicate glass processed to remove non-silicate elements. It is reheated to 1,200 degrees Celsius resulting in thermal resistance up to 900 degrees Celsius. High silica glass is extremely hard to melt which makes production and application limiting. This glass is used in the semiconductor industry and for fiber optics.
Fused Silica Glass
This glass is silicon dioxide in a non-crystalline state. It is the most expensive glass to make as fusion occurs at extremely high temperatures. Due to this process, it can sustain temperatures of up to 1200 degrees Celsius. Also known as fused quartz glass, fused silica glass is used in spacecraft and aerospace applications.
Tempered glass is heated and then rapidly cooled to create a stronger, more durable glass. It is five times stronger than soda-lime glass and often used to strengthen items that may be prone to breakage such as in drinkware and cookware. If tempered glass does break, it shatters into small blunt pieces rather than sharp shards.
Frosted glass is made by etching the surface of glass to create a rough, matte finish. It is often used for decorative purposes, such as with glass lampshades and vases. While the texture may be beautiful, frosted glass is more fragile than other types of glass because of the etching process.
The type of glass used will depend on the specific item and intended use. When selecting glassware, it is important to consider its durability, heat resistance, and other properties to ensure it meets your needs. Further, getting to know the glass you encounter when shopping for housewares can determine their use, how to take care of them, and how to prolong their life.