Most glass is a mixture of silica obtained from beds of fine sand or from pulverized sandstone; an alkali to lower the melting point, usually a form of soda or, for finer glass, potash; lime as a stabilizer; and cullet (waste glass) to assist in melting the mixture. The properties of glass are varied by adding other substances, commonly in the form of oxides, e.g., lead, for brilliance and weight; boron, for thermal and electrical resistance; barium, to increase the refractive index, as in optical glass; cerium, to absorb infrared rays; metallic oxides, to impart color; and manganese, for decolorizing. The term "crystal glass," derived from rock crystal, was at first applied to clear, highly refractive glass; it has come to denote in the trade a high-grade, colorless glass and is sometimes applied to any fine hand-blown glass.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.