With medical and recreational legalization sweeping across the country, cannabis culture is on the rise and so too is the functional glass art market! This is great news for local artisan glass blowers and glass art galleries like Dicronix, or at least it should be, right?
While there’s no doubt that there are more consumers in the market for a new piece of functional glass art, not everyone is ready to invest in a high end piece of glass just yet. When you purchase a piece of glass art, you’re purchasing more than just an object. You’re purchasing a piece that is completely unique and represents hours of hard work and determination that a specific individual has created. As a result, it’s no surprise that the price of a locally-blown piece of functional glass art can come at a relatively high price point when compared to the cheaper, lower-quality alternatives.
What is China Glass?
The functional glass market is saturated with poorly-made and sometimes dangerous products that generally come from overseas factories. The majority of these factories are located in China and Southeast Asia where labor regulations are lax and safety testing policies even more so. Chinese wholesale sites like Alibaba and DHGate further exacerbate the issue by allowing sellers to market these products as if they were their authentic American counterparts. It’s for this reason that the term “china glass” has caught on as a catch-all term for any piece of functional glass art that’s low in quality. That’s not to say that there aren’t talented glass artists in China, but rather that the majority of Chinese glass art exports are made with cost-cutting manufacturing methods and sub-par materials, in the hopes to recreate an “American-made” quality.
Here at Dicronix, our disdain for china glass stems not from the fact that it costs us business, but from the fact that it’s impossible to verify the quality. Beyond anything else, we value the safety and happiness of our customers. As well as happy customers, buying American made glass, allows us to work closely with the artists and support our local artists. Selling poor quality merchandise that could be potentially harmful to our customers health goes directly against that belief, which is why you’ll never find china glass on our shelves or on our site. At Dicronix, we stock exclusively American-made glass so that we can personally vouch for the craftsmanship and quality of our products.
Poor Quality Materials
The most pressing concern when it comes to china glass is the utter lack of regulation in the manufacturing facilities where the pieces are made. American glass artists utilize pure borosilicate glass in their work. Borosilicate glass, or “boro” as it’s commonly known, is more durable than other types of glass and is 100% safe for human use even after having been repeatedly heated. For overseas manufacturers looking to churn out mass quantities of similar pipes, borosilicate is not an ideal material as it takes time and skill to properly form. Instead, many Chinese glass factories use soft glass, which lacks durability; additionally, there are countless reports of these factories painting transparent glass rather than utilizing true colored glass, which is very concerning to one’s health. These products almost never include descriptions of the exact materials used in their production, so verifying the quality of the glass is almost impossible strictly by eye.
Potential Health Concerns
Painted glass is a major health concern, especially for those purchasing functional glass art for smoking purposes. While colored borosilicate won’t give off any harmful fumes or toxins when heated, painted glass likely will. Many of the paints used in these factories emit harmful gases that are inhaled along with the smoke, potentially leading to harmful diseases like cancer. Even if the paint is on an interior area of the pipe that is not directly heated, there is still the risk of paint chips flaking off and being inhaled directly.
Beyond painted glass, a major health concern with overseas glass is the presence of glass dust in pieces that have been worked on at room temperature. Most American glass artists create slits on percolators or holes in bowl pieces while the glass is still hot. The final step of the glassblowing process is to anneal the finished piece, which then solidifies the glass and ensures sturdiness. Kilns can be expensive to acquire and operate, so many Chinese factories skip the annealing process altogether in favor of adding these features later once the glass has cooled. A hole in a spoon may be drilled out using power tools, percolators may be cut into with a band saw, and the piece will continue to move on down the assembly line and into shipping. This practice not only leads to fragile pieces that contain micro stress fractures around the cut/drill point, but also leaves microscopic particles of glass dust within the glass itself. If a piece is not washed out by the consumer before use, these particles can be inhaled leading to diseases like mesothelioma.
Hurts Small Business Owners
Last but not least, china glass hurts the community of dedicated glass artists that depend on their work to provide for their families. While it might be great to save money and have a piece that looks cool, many of the pipes and other types of functional glass art you’ll find on sites like Alibaba and DHGate are blatant counterfeit knockoffs of unique designs. Not only does china glass potentially endanger your health, it takes money out of the hands of hardworking people just like you. When it comes time to purchase your next everyday piece of functional glass art, don’t waste your cash; stop by Dicronix and support local American glass artists!