Different glasses perform different functions, each with unique properties that boil down to variations in their raw materials and the manufacturing process. But all glass starts in the same place: the melt.

Inside this 1,200-degree Celsius oven and in the process that follows, elements and compounds form new bonds, gain mechanical strength, thermal stability, unique optical properties, and other attributes that allow them to perform at a consistently high level. Here’s what happens inside the melt and how it forms glass’s many advantages.

How is glass made and what is it made of?
Glass is composed of quartz sand, a prevalent mineral in the Earth’s crust (what you generally find at the beach), and elements and chemical compounds like boron, lime, and calcium carbonate. Different types of glass are made by selecting the right combination of elements and compounds.

Glass manufacturers rely on an element’s natural properties to influence a glass’s characteristics. For example, alkali aluminosilicate glasses have different properties than borosilicate or phosphate glasses.

The differences between the glass ‘families’ are a result of the interaction between the constituents of the glass. The properties of a glass can be tailored to a specific application or desired color via the combination of elements and compounds used in the glass melt.

The glass-making process is a confluence of chemistry, controlled engineering, and time.

Read more: Traveling into a 1,200-degree melt to learn how glass is made