Defect of the Month

June, 2018
Alchemy in the Glass Plant
Did you know that furnaces in a glass plant can also make rubies? Due to its high melting point and chemical durability, alumina (Al2O3) is a common component of refractories. When alumina comes into contact with chromium, either from colorant or chromite refractories, it can be transformed into the red-colored variety of alumina – ruby. This particular stone originated from a chromite refractory in the throat of a furnace, and a fuzzy rind of chromic oxide (Cr2O3) is still clinging to the grain of alumina/ruby. Don’t plan on making a ring out of this gem any time soon – the grain is only 1 millimeter wide!
January, 2018
Damascus Dagger
Damascus steel blades are known for their extreme resilience and swirling two-toned bands. The method by which historical Damascus steel was produced is hotly debated, but high-quality knives made via a similar process are still available for the discerning aficionado. The banded inclusion draped over the finish of this container is also made of iron, but unlike Damascus steel, it would not make a very good sword. Most of the metal has reacted with sulfur in the glass melt to create iron sulfide. The iron sulfide blister was then elongated during the forming process into the blade-like inclusion shown here.
December, 2017
December Snowflake
We hope you enjoy these pristine snowflake-shaped crystals as much as we do. Unlike their meteorological doppelgangers, though, these snowflakes don’t melt – and that’s just the problem. In a glass furnace, erosion from refractory sidewalls creates a viscous zirconia-rich drip that doesn’t dissolve in the glass melt. As the glass moves into cooler parts of the furnace, the zirconia crystallizes into the dendrites that you see here.
November, 2017
Swimming Seahorses
These colorful “sea-horses” are actually crystals of tin oxide embedded on the surface of a piece of flat glass. In float glass production, molten tin on the top of the tin bath can oxidize to form crystals of tin oxide (SnO2), also referred to as cassiterite. The tin oxide can then become embedded in the hot glass ribbon as it floats over the bath. Usually, the tin oxide grows in white clumps of very small nodules, but occasionally larger lath-shaped crystals can form. The crystals’ characteristic “knee-bend” twinning, as well as high birefringence and refractive index, is indicative of tin oxide.
October, 2017
Galileo’s Saturn
In 1610, Galileo became the first person to observe the rings of Saturn. His small, home-made telescope made it difficult to fully resolve the rings and consequently some of his drawings showed ambiguous lobes extending from a central sphere. Today, we have high resolution optics that allow us to magnify small nearby objects, such as inclusions in glass. This copper stone, with its brownish extensions, resembles Galileo’s early Saturn drawings. Copper stones in glass are caused by cullet contaminated with copper wire or coins.