If you frequent head shops and dispensaries you may have heard the terms
“soft glass” and “hard glass” thrown around in reference to some of the pieces and
wondered what they meant. All it really is, is a slang term for the material used.
Soft glass, or soda lime glass, is a mixture of silica, soda ash, and lime. This
mixture lowers the melting point, giving it a higher coefficient of expansion. In plain
speak, soft glass expands and contracts more in lower temperatures compared to
Borosilicate or Quartz, so it doesn’t handle temperature fluctuations well. If you ever
cracked a bong while cleaning it, sometimes called thermal stress cracks, it was likely
soft glass. Because this material is more affordable than other options, it’s very common
in the cannabis industry.
There is a common misconception that soft glass is the only one that comes in
colors, but the industry has figured out that adding chemical compounds to any glass
such as copper, tin, manganese oxide, and much more, can produce vivid color shifts.
You may also see Dichroic glass which is about 30 to 50 layers of reflective metals
including titanium and aluminum that have been vaporized by an electron beam in a
vacuum tube. This idea was taken from NASA who created the material to block
astronauts and equipment from harmful light spectrums by fracturing and separating
Hard glass, or Borosilicate, is a mixture of silica and boric acid. This major
difference gives Boro a lower coefficient of expansion meaning it can handle drastic
temperature changes without cracking. While a majority of heady glass used to be soda
lime, borosilicate is on the rise with artists figuring out how to make durable beautiful
pieces built to last. There is a small market of hard glass called Scientific Glass that
consists of sturdy, thick, clear pieces with minimal curves, you may find some with color
accents but the main focus is percolation and durability.
The last type of glass you may encounter is Quartz, which is almost purely silica.
There are no additives mixed in, making quartz glass very resistant to high temperatures
and chemicals. Due to its purity, it is one of the most expensive materials. Bangers are
typically made of quartz since they can handle consistent heat and retain it well. While a
lot of glass manufactures say their bangers are quartz, it can be a lower quality meaning
it’s thin and the heat dissipates a little faster, but still slower than regular glass. If you’re
questioning if your banger is quartz or not, look for air bubbles. Quartz will never have
perfectly round air bubbles.
Stop into Fire and Frost Cannabis in Vancouver today to learn more, or see some amazing examples of these glass types from our selection of PNW local and American artists.