Jennifer Forker), Associated Press
This Dec. 23, 2010 photo courtesy of Jennifer Forker shows imitation mercury glass vessels in Arvada, Colo. Welcome the new year with the lustrous shine of imitation mercury glass.

It's the time of year that begs for more light, so provide it with lustrous vases and candle holders that imitate the mercury glass sold in home-goods catalogs.

That glass is itself imitation, of the 19th century glass created to emulate the look of silver. Mercury glass has that silvery cast and more — its shine often has a mirror-like quality.

In antique mercury glass and costly reproductions, double-walled clear glass is hand-blown in molds and injected with a silver-looking wash (there is no silver, or mercury, in the making of this glass).

"Mercury glass — it's really loved for that sparkle that it has," says Rachael Liska, senior editor of Fresh Home magazine. "But it's really expensive."

A small, hand-blown antique vase can fetch $100, according to Liska. Larger, more elaborate or colored pieces can cost 10 times more.

Reproduction mercury glass may cost less — an 8-by-14½-inch vase at Pottery Barn lists for $59.

But you also can try doing it yourself. In a less costly but convincing do-it-yourself version, created by Liska, sheets of silver leaf are attached to the insides of inexpensive clear glass vases and votives, sealed, and embellished with silver paint. That's it.

"What's great about this is you can't mess it up," says Liska. "As I found out, it's also really fun."

Depending on the materials you use, the result can throw as much sparkle and shine as the original. Experiment. Find your mix of silvery and shine. And throw some light on this new year.

Imitation Mercury Glass


Clear vase or votive with a wide opening

Silver leaf (sold in sheets)

Metal leaf spray adhesive

Metal leaf spray sealer

Krylon Looking Glass Mirror-Like Paint (available at many ACE Hardware retailers), or metallic silver spray paint

Newspaper to cover work space


1. Wash and thoroughly dry your glass vessel.

2. Working in a well-ventilated space (or outside), lightly spray the inside of the vessel with adhesive. Allow to dry (about 10 minutes). It will be tacky to the touch.

3. Attach torn pieces of silver leaf to the inside of the vessel, smoothing down edges. You want a patchy look, so imperfection is key. Cover 90 percent of the vessel, leaving little spaces clear (to simulate the look of oxidized, flaking mercury glass).

4. Lightly spray the inside of the vessel with sealer, and allow to dry (about 15 minutes).

5. For added depth, lightly spray the inside of the vessel with spray paint.

Tip: You can substitute silver Mirrachrome, a reflective automobile spray paint, for the last step, for even more glasslike shine.