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How to make DIY mercury glass, classic Bohemian decor with deep roots in Boston

Posted by Melissa Massello  August 6, 2013 11:42 AM

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Photos: Melissa Massello/Shoestring.

Back in the 19th Century, Boston was the Hub of the World when it came to manufacturing "mercury glass" (or silvered glass) — and now, thanks to a resurgence in popularity of all things Bohemian style, DIY decorators can make their own versions of mirrored glass objets d'art with just a bit of water, spray paint, and some garage sale glass containers. Here's how.

Made of double-walled blown glass filled with a mixture of silver nitrate, "mercury" glass (also known as silvered glass) was a must-have ornamentation in any 19th century home. Though the style originated in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in the early 1840s, Boston Brahmins could easily find the art glass locally from manufacturers including the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, New England Glass Company, and the Boston Silver Glass Company, starting just a few years later (circa 1849).

To get the coveted look for less, I decided to try making some upcycled versions of the mirrored decor, turning old wine & whiskey bottles, regular vases, Mason jars, and other tchotchkes into "mercury glass" using Krylon Looking Glass Spray Paint ($8.50) and a spray bottle filled with tap water.

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The home decorating magazines and blog tutorials and Pinterest favorites for making DIY mercury glass all point to a simple method: lightly coat the object with a few spritzes of water (but not too much, or your spray paint will run!), then a coat of the Looking Glass spray paint, let dry completely, repeat 3-4 times. Easy peasy.

Mercury Glass DIY

With a single can of spray paint, I was able to create more than half a dozen DIY mercury glass vessels in just under half an hour, using items from my recycling bin and Goodwill bag including (from left): a glass vase from a bouquet of delivered flowers, bound for Goodwill; a bud vase from an empty bottle of Bully Boy whiskey; a wildflowers vase from an empty glass sprinkles jar; and an empty lighthouse-shaped bottle of Cape Blush wine, from Truro Vineyards on the Cape. (I even upcycled an old shower curtain to use as a drop cloth, costing me exactly zero!) These decorative vessels make for perfect outdoor party decor, wedding centerpieces, birthday gifts, and so much more.

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Plus, by splitting a single $11.99 mixed bouquet of summer flowers, including Scottish thistle and sunflowers, among the four vessels, I was able to maximize the impact and enjoyment of my DIY mercury glass decor. Here are a few close-up shots of the individual finished vases:

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For more step by step direction and project inspiration, check out my full set of Mercury Glass DIY photos over on Flickr.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the Authors

Melissa Massello is a newspaper journalist turned startup junkie and lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her do-it-yourself attitude. From making her prom dress out More »
Tara Bellucci is a Boston-based writer that lives for fonts, food, and flea market finds. Whether decorating jars of her homemade jam for The Boston More »

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