Glitter is a product used by crafters and designers to create a sparkling or shimmering effect. It is primarily composed of very tiny flecks of glass, stone, paper or plastic, although polyester is perhaps the most common material used in modern production. Coated paper can also be formed into glitter, and some have even used commercial grade diamond dust.
Some may assume that glitter is produced by simply crushing the source material into dust-sized particles, but that is not the case. Commercial manufacturers use various dies to cut out individual pieces in bulk. Even though the pieces can be as small as 50 microns (0.002 inches) in size, each one has been precision-cut in the shape of squares, circles, rectangles or hexagons.
Glitter comes in a vast array of colors and styles, from clear polyester to iridescent metallic. Crafters often purchase a variety in order to enhance particular pieces. Christmas ornaments, for example, may receive a dusting of silver and gold, while holiday candles could be enhanced with red and green glitter. A pattern of white craft glue can be applied to a project and then liberally coated with glitter to make it shimmer or shine.
This product is generally sold in small tubes or specially designed "glitter shakers." These shakers allow the crafter to control the flow of the tiny pieces, which tends to pour out like pepper flakes. Some crafters pour a supply from the original containers into trays for easier access. Working with glitter can be challenging, so it often pays to use smaller batches or have a system in place for recovering any excess.
Glitter is considered to be non-toxic, which makes it suitable for craft projects involving young children. Adult supervision is still advisable, however, since when it's spilled, it can become problematic and some children may confuse glitter with candy. When working with this product around younger crafters, it may help to stress a "less is more" philosophy.
Although a significant amount of glitter is now manufactured overseas, the product itself was invented by an American cattle farmer named Ruschman during the 1930s, although some sources say he invented the product after World War II. His company, Meadowbrook Inventions, is still the world's largest supplier. Customers can order directly from the company, in a wide assortment of shapes, colors, sizes and materials.