BUiness

What Actually Is Glitter?

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Each December, surrounded by wonderlands of white paper snowflakes, vibrant red winterberries, and forests of green conifers reclaiming their ancestral territory from inside the nation’s dwelling rooms and hotel lobbies, children and adults delight to see the true harbinger of the vacations: aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate.

Aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate settles over store windows like dazzling frost. It flashes like scorching, molten gold throughout the nail plates of younger women. It sparkles like pure precision-lower starlight on an ornament of a North American brown bear driving a automotive towing a camper van. Indeed, in Clement Clarke Moore’s seminal Christmas Eve poem, the eyes of Saint Nicholas himself are said to twinkle like aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate (I’m paraphrasing). In houses and malls and schools and synagogues and banks and hospitals and fire stations and hardware stores and breweries and car dealerships, and every type of office — and outside these places, too — it shines. It glitters. It is glitter.

What’s glitter? The simplest answer is one that will leave you slightly unsatisfied, however at the very least together with your confidence in comprehending primary physical properties intact. Glitter is made from glitter. Big glitter begets smaller glitter; smaller glitter gets in every single place, all glitter is not possible to remove; now by no means ask this question again.

Ah, but in case you, like an impertinent child searching for a logistical timetable of Santa Claus’ nocturnal intercontinental journey, demand a more detailed definition — a word of warning: The path to enlightenment is littered with trade secrets and techniques, vapors, aluminum ingots, C.I.A. levels of obfuscation, the invisible areas of the visible spectrum, a unit of measurement expressed as “10-6 m” and in addition New Jersey.

Humans, even people who don’t like glitter, like glitter. We are drawn to shiny things in the identical wild manner our ancestors were overcome by a compulsion to forage for honey. A idea that has discovered favor amongst research psychologists (supported, partially, by a examine that monitored babies’ enthusiasm for licking plates with shiny finishes) is that our attraction to glitter is derived from an innate need to hunt out recent water.

Glitter as a contactable product — or more accurately, an assemblage of touchable merchandise (“glitter” is a mass noun; specifically, it is a granular mixture, like “rice”) — is an invention so current it’s barely defined. The Oxford English Dictionary principally considerations itself with explaining glitter as an intangible type of sparkly light. Till the invention within the twentieth century of the fashionable craft substance, one could either observe something’s glitter (the glitter of glass), or hold something that glittered (like, say, ground up glass). Tinsel, which has existed for centuries, doesn’t grow to be glitter when lower into small pieces. It becomes “bits of tinsel.” The tiny, shiny, ornamental particles of glitter we’re aware of today are popularly believed to have originated on a farm in New Jersey in the 1930s, when a German immigrant invented a machine to cut scrap material into extraordinarily small pieces. (Curiously, he did not start filing patents for machines that minimize foil into what he called “slivers” till 1961.) The precise occasions that led to the preliminary dispersal of glitter are nebulous; in true glitter fashion, impulsively, it was merely everywhere.

A December 1942 article in The Times — possibly the first point out in this newspaper of the stuff — advised New York City residents that pitchers of evergreen boughs, placed in their windows for the winter holidays, would supply “additional scintillation” if “sprinkled with dime-store ‘glitter’ or mica.” The pitchers were to switch Christmas candles, which the wartime Military had banned after sunset — along with neon signs in Times Sq. and the light from the Statue of Liberty’s torch — after determining that the nighttime glow threw offshore Allied vessels into silhouette, reworking them into floating U-boat targets.

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