Glitter: the product that is essential in many sparkly Christmas decorations, children’s artwork, horrendous pranks, and the bane of many hoovers. It is a substance that gets everywhere and is almost impossible to remove. However, the time of the glitter era may be coming to an end, as there is rumor that we are currently in the horrific midst of a glitter shortage!
“The horror!”, we hear you cry. But where is the glitter even going to? Who is even using it? What even is it? Well, there is a glitter conspiracy that has been circulating for a while now, that apparently the number one consumer of this sparkly product does not want you to know their identity.
What is glitter made of?
Most glitter is made up of many big sheets of thin plastic or foil, that is often covered in a layer of aluminum – a substance called aluminum polyethylene terephthalate. Although, some craft glitter is made of metal and glass.
It comes in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. The cosmetic variety is more circular in shape so that it doesn’t cut your skin.
Why do we like glitter so much?
It is a gleaming marvel that captures the imagination of all ages. Humans have always been obsessed with shiny things. There may be an evolutionary reason for this, as glossy object attraction is linked with seeking out fresh water. In one investigation, researchers found that toddlers and infants are attracted to glistening surfaces, in an experiment that looked at how often they mouthed or licked different shiny-surfaced plates.
How is glitter made?
It was first created in the 1940s on a farm located in New Jersey by a person called Henry Ruschmann. He was very experienced in precision cutting, and noticed that the cutting machine that he invented (to cut developed glossy photo prints) occasionally stuttered and deposited cellulose/paper, which was called “schnibbles”. Ruschmann went on to invent the machine to cut glitter schnibbles from plastic scrap. The glitter produced was supposed to be a side business that could help support the farm’s operating costs for breeding and milking Guernsey cows; however, this turned into its own company, called Meadowbrook Inventions.
Glitter wasn’t brought to the public sphere until Christmas time in 1940s New York City, when use of glitter was encouraged in lieu of Christmas candles during World War 2.
Who makes glitter?
There are two main companies, and both are located in New Jersey. The first is the original Meadowbrook Inventions, who are “a very private company”, according to email correspondence with The New York Times. The second company is Glitterex.
There is a very secretive air around glitter production. The companies do not even want their clients to know how this sparkly substance is made.
Who is the biggest glitter user?
There are many uses of glitter. Researchers and zookeepers even mix glitter into animal feed to track animals through their sparkly poop. Due to its static properties and how difficult it is to remove, glitter has also been used as crime scene evidence.
However, the number one glitter consumer is a complete secret. When a reporter asked Glitterex who the biggest market is, their lips were completely sealed and the representative was not allowed to say a word, because “they don’t want anyone to know that it’s glitter [in their product].”
Of course, this response has lit the imagination of many people and is the foundation of the glitter conspiracy theory, or GlitterGate. Most recently, many videos have found their way onto TikTok.
What are the main theories?
There are many theories that have taken the internet by storm.
Some people think that it is the boat-building industry, and that glitter is incorporated into boats, with the suggestion that the industry doesn’t want the consumer to know as it may hurt its masculine image. This theory may be slightly flawed, as it is well known that automotive paint contains glitter, so it doesn't really line up with the original quote that suggests no one would be able tell that the product has glitter in it.
Another theory is that it may be the toothpaste industry. Some people think it is used in the military. Other people think it is actually mixed in with the sand on many luxury beaches.
This question is really taking over the internet, and there are many, many videos about it, including a very detailed PowerPoint presentation on the matter.
Are we even in a glitter shortage?
Although there are rumors swirling around the internet about a shortage, there have not been any confirmed accounts by the companies themselves (secretive as they are).
But, if there is a shortage, that may be a good thing. As the plastic film that most glitter is made from takes about 1,000 years to degrade, scientists have even called for it to be banned.
So, who do you think is the number one consumer of glitter?
An earlier version of this article was published in December 2022.