How to Make Purple Glass

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UV rays can turn antique glass purple.
UV rays can turn antique glass purple. (Image: Old miniature bottle image by Susanne Karlsson from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

American glass manufactured between 1860 and 1915 was made with manganese, which imbued the glass with an interesting trait; the glass turned purple when submitted to prolonged exposure to UV rays. Using sunlight to turn antique glass purple can be time-consuming, but you can speed the process up by using special UV lamps. While making purple glass may seem like a good idea, doing so can severely reduce the value of antique glassware or bottles.

Things You'll Need

  • Antique glassware, manufactured from 1885 to 1915
  • UV lamp
  • UV filtering goggles

Visit an antiques store and buy glassware or bottles that were manufactured between 1885 and 1915. Choose carefully; some pieces can be quite expensive, and this process will substantially diminish their value because it is irreversible. Select common, inexpensive pieces. Of course, if you'd like to turn a unique, expensive piece purple, you can; just remember that you may not be able to sell it back to a dealer.

Set the glassware or bottles in a spot that gets lots of direct sunshine. This method can take months, possibly years, to produce a purple tint, depending on where you live. You can speed up the process by using a UV lamp on your bottle.

Place the bottle under a powerful UV lamp. If you have access to a UV cabinet, the kind used to sanitize things, place the bottle in it for a few days or weeks to turn it purple. Use caution when working with UV light, and wear UV filtering goggles to protect your eyes; depending on the strength of the lamps, even a brief moment of exposure can damage your eyes. Inspect the bottle daily until it reaches the desired shade.

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