What is Dichro?


What is Dichro?

So you just bought a Dichro decorated pipe, but it just doesn’t seem to have that sparkly zip you thought you were guaranteed of getting with Dichro. Well, in the never ending downward spiral of who can make the cheapest schwag, a few techniques have evolved to give some companies the license to call some of what they sell a Dichro decorated pipe. And they do not lie, for at one time; Dichro was a raw material prepped for use in the pipe that lacks the sparkle and zip you expected. But before we get too deep, how about a quick primer?

Dichroic Glass is a multi layer coating placed on glass by using a highly technical vacuum deposition process. It’s a lot like making high-speed computer processors, which is why the stuff is so expensive! Quartz Crystal and Metal Oxides are vaporized onto the surface of the glass in the form of a crystal structure. Originally created for the Aerospace industry, Dichroic Glass is now made available to the artist community by several of the same reputable American companies and now by some less than quality conscious companies who have not perfected the process yet.

The main characteristic of Dichroic Glass is that it has a transmitted color and a completely different reflective color. Furthermore, these two colors shift depending on angle of view. With the play of light, together with its vibrant color, Dichroic Glass is a prime tool used to add interest to any piece of work or project. With over 45 Colors of Dichroic Coatings available, artists have unlimited freedom of expression in straight Dichro and exponentially more avenues available with the palette of boro (pyrex) colors available to “back” the various Dichro colors available.

Each color has a Transmission color (this is the color you can actually see through the glass if the coating is on clear glass) and a Reflected color (this is the color you see when the light bounces off of the surface of the glass). For example “Blue/Gold” will be Blue in transmission and Gold in reflection. If a black/opaque sheet is Blue/Gold, you would only see its reflection of Gold (Yet, it is still called Blue/Gold). The reflected Dichroic colors shift towards the cool end of the spectrum when they are fired. e.g. a Blue/Gold shifts to a lime green; the degree of shift depends on the kiln firing temperature.

Some companies and especially importers have developed preparation techniques that stretch the Dichro so much that it begins too look like dull elongated metallic splinters instead of bright, sparkly points of light. If you have been disappointed in the past with lower quality Dichroic Glass which foils, creeps or appears burnt out, you unwittingly purchased a pipe with over-stretched or imported Dichro. Typically, stretching Dichro will yield 4X as many “stringers” as normal backing delivers, which allows these companies to make claims about how expensive pipes from companies like Chameleon are relative to their own. The old adage holds true here; You get what you pay for. This is not to say that there is no room in the market for cheap Dichro, because there is. Just make sure not to compare apples to oranges.

There is also some debate over Standard and Premium Dichro and whether or not there is a difference. There is. Currently, there are three distinct quality levels available. Economy, Standard and Premium. Economy is typically manufactured with the intent of being Standard, however due to contamination (imperfect vacuum) or unbalanced and/or improper mix of chemicals (acidity is too high), the Dichro appears dull and is often described as burnt. Basically, one of the layers did not develop. Standard grade is bright, with clearly developed double-layered transmission and reflective coloration. Premium (Tri-Chro) has three layers and thus, takes more time, expertise and more expensive machines to produce. Therefore, premium colors are a little more expensive.

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