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What is Sugar Glass?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 December 2014
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Sugar glass is sugar which has been molded so that it looks like glass. The most common usage of sugar glass is in film and television production, where fake glass is safer and easier to work with than the real thing. Every time viewers see someone hurled through a saloon window in a Western, that window is actually made from sugar glass. Some people also utilize sugar glass in crafts.

The advantage of using sugar glass, also known as breakaway or candy glass, is that it is safer and cheaper to work with than real glass. Real glass can get extremely expensive, especially if multiple takes are required, and it also poses a significant hazard to the cast and crew, as shards of glass can cause severe injuries. Plate windows aren't the only thing which can be made from sugar glass: sugar glass is also used to make glass bottles, glass dishes, and any other glass items which need to be broken.

This product also has one major disadvantage, which is that it has a very short shelf life. Sugar glass warps and melts quickly, making it less realistic. People try to use the glass as soon as it has hardened, to ensure that it will be crisp and believable on film. Sugar glass also needs to be kept away from heat and moisture, or it will start to fall apart.

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To make sugar glass, a large pot will be needed, along with a mold and a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the sugar mixture as it heats. The mold should be oiled so that the sugar glass can be quickly and efficiently unmolded without breakage. People should also be extremely careful, because hot sugar can cause severe burns. If the heated sugar syrup used in sugar glass is spilled on someone, it will also adhere, sometimes causing very deep and painful burns. Wearing gloves, long sleeves, and a protective apron is advisable.

The process starts with blending two cups (473 milliliters) of water with one cup (237 milliliters) of corn syrup, three and a half cups (670 grams) of sugar, and a pinch of cream of tartar. Then, the mixture is slowly brought to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (149 degrees Celsius), with occasional stirring to encourage the ingredients to blend. If colored glass is desired, food coloring can be added to the mixture along with the base ingredients. Once the mix has been brought to temperature, it can be poured into the mold and allowed to cool. Usually, around half an hour of cooling time is sufficient.

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