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About Metal Layers

Layered Mirroring Chemicals Inside Blown Glass EggsYou can layer one metal over another using the four basic metal colors - silver, gold, copper and black (galena)- to create new colors and shades. The Angel Gilding process uses two layers, silver and gold, to make a gold mirror.

Ben Dombey at Tulane University used several layering combinations to create this blown glass sculpture. Go to the Customer's Gallery to see the full image.


Rules for Layered Mirroring:

  1. Work in layers. Mixing two metal chemicals together does not work*.
  2. Rinse the glass well between layers to avoid chemical mixing.
  3. Use Tin for Silver if the first layer is silver; otherwise use Tin for Gold.
  4. Gold and silver can take the place of Palladium Sensitizer for copper and galena mirrors.
  5. Keep the first layer thin or the second layer will not show through.
  6. A single heavy deposit is likely to peel off the glass.
  7. Create your layers in this sequence: gold, silver, copper and galena. While this order is not strictly necessary (it depends on how creative you feel) we should warn you that sometimes the second layer will cause the first layer to peel off the glass.

Possible Combinations:

Gold + Silver = Angel Gilding = a gold mirror
The depth or “karat” of the gold depends on the number of gold layers. One layer is pale 18 karat gold. Two layers are true 24 karat gold. Three layers look dark and might peel off the glass when you rinse it.

Gold + Copper= a sunrise mirror
The effect is very beautiful. The final color depends on the thickness of the gold layer. With a heavy gold layer, you get a warm, rich gold. With a thinner gold layer, you get a warm copper color.

Silver + Copper = a pale peach mirror
Copper chemicals will “eat” a heavy layer of silver. We suggest that you “flash silver” the glass - let the silver deposit for just 30 seconds - and then pour it off. Rinse the glass and apply the copper.

Silver + Galena = a black-silver mirror
Galena chemicals contain sulfur that will tarnish the silver but they do not “eat” it as the copper chemicals do. On the other hand, the sulfur tarnish does not always show up on the front surface of the mirror. For a silver/black mirror, “flash silver” the glass, rinse it and then deposit the galena.

Gold + Galena = a black-gold mirror
Since gold is translucent you can use two layers of gold and the galena will still show through. The gold effect is subtle but a black/gold mirror is very different from a pure galena mirror.


The combinations listed here are tried and true. You can certainly try other combinations. Silver over a “flash layer” of galena on glue-chipped glass gives a wonderful antique silver effect.
To make “zebra glass”, silver a ridged texture like Pilkington’s Cotswold glass. Wipe the top of the ridges with a cloth dipped in Silver Remover and then mirror the glass with galena. The black and silver stripes are very cool.

Keep Records

We make our sample pieces on 6” x 6” squares – big enough to see the results but small enough to conserve our supplies. Number the front of each piece and note down every step of the process or you will never be able to duplicate the results. Been there, done that.

* The only thing you get when you mix two unrelated liquids is a useless chemical mess. There are no explosions or fumes – just mess. Add the result to your waste bucket and start over.