Structural glass

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Libbey-Owens poster
Colors of Vitrolite


A general term for a variety of architectural glasses but usually refers to colored opaque glass slabs (Dyson, 1995). About 1900, opaque glass slabs (Sani-Onyx) were first developed as a sanitary alternative to white marble slab table surfaces. Opaque structural glass was composed of Silica, Borax, Feldspar, Fluorspar (for opacity), Kaolin, Cryolite, Manganese and inorganic colorants. The sheets were cast then rolled to form a smooth even surface. They were cooled slowly, then fire-polished to produce a smooth satiny finish. Some glass pieces were polished to achieve a high gloss. Opaque glass was available in many colors, but most common were white and black. Structural glass was popularly used in the 1920 to 1940s for exterior cladding on storefronts, service stations, movie theaters and automobile dealerships. It was also used for interior clean surface areas such as hospital operating rooms, hotel lobbies, restaurants, kitchens, and bathrooms.

Synonyms and Related Terms

recreated rock slab; sanitary glass; vidro para construção (Port.); Argentine; Carrara® [PPG]; Glastone; Marbrunite; Nuralite; Opalite; Sani-Onyx [Marietta Manufacturing]; Vitrolite [Libbey-Owens-Ford]


  • Easily broken by impact

Resources and Citations

  • C. Dyson, "Structural Glass", in Twentieth-Century Building Materials, T. Jester (ed.), McGraw-Hill: New York, 1995.
  • "The Preservation of Historic Pigmented Structural Glass (Vitrolite and Carrara Glass)", Preservation Brief 12, National Park Service. Link
  • The Old House Web: 'Structural Pigmented Glass' link
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996
  • Anne Grimmer, Glossary of Building Stone Terms, A Glossary of Historic Masonry Deterioration Problems and Preservation Treatments, National Park Service, Washington DC, 1984

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