conspiracy theories, craft projects for lifers

All that glitters is not gold…sometimes it’s aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate

I wish my life could be / As strange as a conspiracy   Felt “Primitive Painters”



It’s a new year and time to try something new, so I thought I’d delve into a conspiracy theory.

I usually avoid conspiracy babble and internet rumormongering like the plague.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to all mongering.

Who doesn’t love getting fresh seafood from a fishmonger, for example.  And I love a schmear, but only on a bagel.

But this conspiracy, I heard mentioned on NPR, what could be more respectable, on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, and it seems like a scintillating topic.

This particular mad machination or rumor has apparently been floating around, glistening, shiny-but-senseless, since around since 2018 but I just learned of it.

Here it is.  Apparently, people keep asking, “Is there a shortage of glitter,” and “Who is buying up all the glitter.”

I investigated this exhaustively, for as long as it took to duck into a craft store and ascertain that there is not a shortage.

Let’s get this part out of the way.  What is glitter exactly?

Some of it is still made from good old mica – – the shiny flecks & flakes you see in granite, schist, etc.

The manufactured kind is aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate.  I’m guessing all of you already knew that, because unlike the psychotic persistence of glitter on your tongue or in your eye, “aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate” just trips off your tongue, doesn’t it.   And it’s listed on your tubes of eye shadow, nail polish, shimmer powder, highlighter, pearl powder, etc.

The December 21, 2018 NY Times carried an article by Caitie Weaver “What is Glitter?  A strange journey to the glitter factory.”

Glitter turns out to be a surprisingly fascinating topic – – there’s holographic vs iridescent, mylar “metalized” with aluminum, polymers with different refractive indexes, etc.

The aluminum is evaporated in a vacuum chamber — I’ve never noticed aluminum evaporating, didn’t know it did that!

Sweat, the Great Salt Lake, my bank account – – yes, aluminum – – no.

For someone like me, with only the most tenuous grasp of science, it all sounds pretty high tech, science-y and mysterious.

I wonder how the Reynolds Wrap people foil such a loss of aluminum?

Scientists, of course, want to ban this glitter stuff – the smallest versions are 50 x70 microns, so it’s another hideous micro-plastic to pollute the planet, with literally a thousand year lifespan.

But anyways, back to the conspiracy theory.  During the interviews for the NY Times, a company rep refused to reveal which buyer or industry was the largest consumer.

So we’re free to speculate!  Who is buying up all the glitter??

I’ve limited myself to four theories but please feel free to contribute.

1.   A powerful organization called the Glitterati has recruited Beyoncé, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey for a huge glam rock festival, and will pump enough glitter into Madison Square Garden to make it the world’s biggest snow globe.

David Bowie isn’t really dead and will show up in his Ziggy Stardust character and bring his own brand of disco dust.

2.  Snow Globes.  The current dearth of snow in some parts of the country has created a yearning for snow globes, like the one in Citizen Kane.

(These globes were invented in the 19th c. by an Austrian maker of surgical instruments and were originally called Schneekugel, which is just extremely pleasant-sounding, I find myself saying it out loud, sometimes when I’m riding an elevator, and then people look at me funny.)

3.  Elon Musk is loading it onto hundreds of SpaceX rockets and will spread it in the upper atmosphere, forming a reflective layer to slow global warming.

4.  Glitter is produced by unicorns when they eat too many candy canes and suffer from fairyland flatulence. And just like my kitchen, the Clean Up Elves are on strike.

Anyway, the whole thing is a false alarm.  If there really was a shortage, a really thorough vacuuming of any home with kids and every preschool would produce tons of the stuff, cemented to sticky old graham cracker crumbs so it can be used for both decoration and dessert toppings.

Enough.  Have you heard this rumor?  Any theories?



46 thoughts on “All that glitters is not gold…sometimes it’s aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate

  1. Good one. You’ve done your research. How else would we know about aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate? Do people in the industry fondly call it ampt?

    I’ve heard of glitterati but not of a glitter shortage. Do you think it might be connected to the rumored shortage of toilet paper early in the pandemic? Or maybe companies were beginning to put glitter in baby formula so parents could have bright children; if so, the shortage of glitter would have triggered the real shortage of baby formula last year.

    German Schnee means ‘snow’ and Kugel means ‘ball, globe.’ Another meaning of Kugel is ‘bullet.’ I’ve heard a rumor that people who want to ban guns in America but know that it’s not gonna happen might settle for a Schneekugel compromise in which the government would require all bullets to be made out of snow.

  2. pinklightsabre says:

    Schneekugel. I like the unicorn theory, lots. Planetary impact be damned. Let us all go down in glitter. There is some drag Queen angle here but I’m avoiding it. Something surrounding pixie dust too. It is “all good,” as the bad saying goes. Love this!

    • Thanks, Bill, pixie dust! Yeah, I should’ve worked Tinker Bell in here somewhere. I’d never seen “Scrooged” until last month, Carol Kane was the best part, some sort of whacked-out fairy and hysterical, I could see her throwing off some serious pixie dust.

  3. I’ve not heard the rumor of a glitter shortage, but I can tell you this: people who send greeeting cards that spill out glitter when you open them need to be assigned to cleanup detail. It seems to me there must be a surplus of the stuff, with people looking for new and obnoxious ways to use it.

    On the other hand, you’ve solved a mystery for me. It used to be that the tinsel hung on Christmas trees was metal; it hung beautifully, and could be used for decades. Now, ‘tinsel’ is an odd, almost unattractive sort of stuff that seems more plastic than metal. I’ll bet that it’s a variation of metalized film, cut into strips.

    • I think that’s exactly right, they can apply an incredibly thin coating onto plastic (vacuum-depositing) like the Mylar that NASA invented. I like the “space blankets” for hiking or emergency use, but agree the plastic-ky tinsel isn’t very nice.

  4. “aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate” – I’m still trying to get the knots out of my tongue after an attempt to pronounce this. 😉😉😉

  5. Actually God is a big hippie character and when he combs his hair, instead of normal dandruff you get … glitter! And there’s a shortage because the angels have finally told him to wash his hair with anti-glitter shampoo.

    Seriously though, if this stuff lasts for ever, and gets everywhere, it should be banned. It never sticks where you want it anyway.

  6. I suspect when you wrote this, you had a gleam in your eye from some non-mica substance that can’t be said three times fast.

    And now I can’t get the image of a unicorn farting glitter out of my head. Does it smell like peppermint?

  7. All that is gold does not glitter,
    Not all those who wander are lost;
    But sometimes you can’t see where you’re going,
    With glitter stuck in your eyes
    and also your teeth, even if you flossed.

  8. Every once in a while someone sends a sofa or other piece of furniture in for me to repair at the store and all too often it spills glitter all over my workbench. From there it follows me into my car and home too. It’s a curse upon mankind.

    • Ha, thanks Lynn! It’s OK, as soon as I read that glitter is another micro-plastic problem, a websearch turned up biodegradable, vegan, cosmetic safe, etc. brands. The ad also mentioned “glitter bars” which I thought meant nightclubs that play Queen and T.Rex, but they meant makeup stations for parties and carnivals. Maybe Elon Musk will dress up as Ziggy Stardust for next Halloween.

  9. That New York Times article is fascinating. I have a new appreciation now for those bits of glitter that hang around the house long after the Christmas decorations come down; I may gather them up and save them in a (very small) jar in case the rumors some day turn out to be true!

    • Thanks, Dale. If you pick some pieces of mica on a walk, you could always toss ’em in the blender and make your own. I thought that article was fascinating, too, a mysterious niche business with very particular expertise.

      • Great, thanks, it’s always good to multitask our kitchen appliances. Funny thing, just happened: The Dog comes in from outside carrying a little stick, which he drops on the dining room floor. I bend down to pick it up… and see two pieces of red glitter between the floorboards! It’s everywhere!

        • I bet if someone went over the floor and furniture with a fine-tooth comb or magnifying glass, literally every house has some.
          I watched an online video a couple of years ago, where someone was fed up with having parcels stolen by “porch pirates,” and he went to a great deal of trouble to create a booby trap – – when the fake parcel was opened, a battery-powered fan kicked on an blew glitter all over the thieves’ car (he even sacrificed an old cellphone to get a video of this). He actually got the box back, the thieves tossed it out the car window a couple blocks from his house. Very satisfying revenge.

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