In this essay, we will focus in on one small segment of the overall glass universe…Glass Table Tops.
Many materials have been used as table or furniture tops. Wood is the most common, but stone, metal, plastics, man-made composites, and of course, glass are also commonly used. Of these options, only glass offers the advantage of transparency, which can make the table look light and “airy”, compared to the heavy appearance of opaque tops.
Glass, as a table top, offers many other advantages as well. Available in an infinite choice of shapes and sizes, thicknesses from 1/4″ to 1″, various degrees of clarity or tints, contemporary or traditional edge work. Available in annealed or tempered versions, glass furniture tops offer lots of design options and at a relatively reasonable cost.
1/4″ glass tops are ideal for protecting a wood surface. Although the warm, rich look of wood is appealing, the sad truth is that wood is organic and almost anything will scratch it. No furniture finish…not lacquer, not shellac, not even polyurethane will stand-up to ceramic plates, staples, the rough bottoms of ceramic plates or vases, or the dreaded hot pizza box. Only glass is hard and durable enough to really protect the wood surface from accidental damage as well as normal wear and tear.
You can see 100 year old tables in antique shops with the original glass tops on them, and although the glass may be scratched up and maybe have a chip or two, the wood surface will still be pristine. Options such as smoked bronze glass can also look much better than you may remember your grandma’s glass top looking…less glare and blends in nicely.
As a table top itself, thicker glass is a very versatile design option. Depending on the size, the glass can be 3/8″ thick, 1/2″, 3/4″, or even 1″ thick. The edges can be flat polished for a contemporary look or beveled for an elegantly, traditional appearance. Temper hardened is recommended for 3/8″ or 1/2″ but is probably overkill for 3/4″ or 1″.
Regular glass has a slightly aqua green hue to it, and the thicker the glass, the darker the green gets, especially the edges. The green is a result of the addition of iron into the silica mix. This is to make the glass less brittle. If, instead of iron, lead oxide is added, the glass becomes crystal clear and in fact, this is what is known as leaded crystal…great for Waterford goblets and vases, but too delicate (chips easily) for table tops.
In recent times, a “low-iron” glass has become more fashionable. For this product, most of the iron has been replaced with some rare Earth elements resulting in a much clearer glass that is almost crystal clear, but still durable enough for glass tops. It does cost more but it’s really beautiful.