Who Invented Glitter and Why?

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Glitter. It's like rainbow-colored asbestos, and it's mostly unregulated and just as deadly. If not physically, then spiritually. People toss it about at parties like it's NBD, use it willy-fricking-nilly to decorate cards and costumes, and up until just a few days ago you could actually send your enemies prepackaged envelopes stuffed with the gaudy garbage. What do people see in this mismatched miscellanea of mischief? It's enjoyable for only the five seconds that it's suspended in the air, when it looks a little like nuclear fission but not the deadly kind. 

But once all the "fun" is had, you'll have better luck explaining why you were in the same room as glitter than trying to extract it from every crevice and orifice of your person. I have a strict moratorium on all glitterations on principle, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. 

So you come to realize the malicious potential of glitter: just this morning, disgruntled ex-employee of Summit County Fiscal Office Samantha Lockhart was arrested Thursday for breaking into her former supervisor's office, smashing photos, destroying some desktop computers, and polluting the place with silly string and GLITTER! What is this world come to! I want to know the criminal who's responsible for this heinous invention.

 
This should be a crime, Frazer Harrison / Getty Images Entertainment


As for the invention of modern glitter, we have the American machinist and cattle farmer Henry Ruschmann to thank (or hate, depending on your stance on glitter). Would it surprise you that glitter is a product of the Industrial-Military complex?! Who called it? In 1934, the world was a little busy engaging in a wee skirmish called WWII, and consequently all German glass glitter imports were halted. Ruschmann was looking for a way to compress old garbage in landfills, and accidentally came up with glitter in the process. He collected scrap plastic materials from dumps and refined it into the magical pixie dust we shower on newborns and clog their pores with. 

It is important to remember that glitter used to be recycled trash. Trash. Used plastic bottles, used doggy poo bags, used junk. That's what you're sprinkling on your congressmen, your children, and even yourself. Have a little dignity. Step up your life. 

The stuff is so awful that after Ruschmann's accidental invention, the Allied forces actually considered literally glitter-bombing Germany to thwart their progress. How's that for a party? Glitter everywhere. But they ultimately decided against the tactic because the Germans could have easily replicated it, and hit other countries with the fabulous firepower. This teaches us that glitter has no practical purpose, only to further the vain pursuit of glamor. 

Turns out, though, that Ruschmann isn't the only culprit to this glitter crime. The blight is as old as humanity itself. 30,000 years ago, prehistoric people were using shaved mica flakes to "beautify" their cave paintings. Because glitter makes everything look so pretty, said no one ever. Except for Roger Ertle, VP of glitter manufacturer Glitterex (sounds evil), who is quoted as having told Etsy, "Glitter generally makes people happy just to look at it." What? No it doesn't. It makes everything look cheap and sad. Might be just an urban myth, but if you focus on a handful of glitter for too long you'll lose your eyesight "“ because your eyeballs melted in your skull.

 
This guy looked at glitter for just 60 seconds, Courtesy of American International Pictures

Nowadays, glitter makes its presence seen and felt on far too many occasions "“ parties, red carpet events, makeups, in clothing. As the New York Magazine explained, David Bowie streaked his gorgeous face and marred it with the orange lightning bolt back in the 70s. Heavy-metal rock `n' rollers like Motley Crue and Poison totally undermined their image by infusing glitter into their getups. It even weaseled its way into the holiest of holies: alcohol. Goldschlager and Gold Flakes Supreme vodka contained it. It's everywhere! 

Watch out, though. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict standards that regulate the use of glitters and dusts in food. Which means that there are instances in which you have or might have consumed the glitzy gunk in your own edibles! Look for a distinction between "edible" and "non-toxic" labels on foods that contain glitter. Edible means you can eat it (though I don't know why you would want to), and non-toxic only means that it won't poison you immediately. You still shouldn't eat it. This goes for dresses and lipsticks that contain glitter in them. Do not eat these, no matter how hypnotizing their sheen is. 

Now, it would seem most well bred people recognize that glitter is for diabolical and vengeful purposes only. Now I don't condone revenge, but considering that founder of ShipYourEnemiesGlitter Matthew Carpenter had to put his company up for sale because it had received too many orders, we can kind of see which way public opinion leans. If there is a hell, you can bet it's filled with wall-to-wall glitter.
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