Making Mercury Glass

Mercury glass, also known as “poor man’s silver”, is clear glass coated with a solution of silver nitrate and grape sugar to produce a mirror-like finish.  Over time, the silver coating chips and flakes off, giving it that old, tarnished look that I adore for vintage-inspired weddings. Be prepared to pay a pretty penny for authentic mercury glass (up to 1000 buckaroos for a single vase!) Even faux mercury glass can be pretty pricey to use for a one-day event. But boy is it gorgeous.

For Julia and James’ whimsical wedding, my mission was to track down over 50 various mercury glass bowls and vases in curvy, antique looking shapes. As I searched my favorite glass wholesalers, I was disappointed with the puny selection. Most of them were completely sold out or lame looking (for example, the shapes were modern cylinders, not at all reminiscent of the ornate mercury glass vessels from the 1800s, or the paint strokes were machine-made and too “perfect” looking.) Panic ensued.

I decided I would buy as many good reproductions as I could get my hands on. I found 15 gorgeous hurricanes at Pier 1.

Mini candle holder from Pier 1. Love the engraving!

Large hurricanes from Pier 1 on the left and right. The crackle finish made them look extra ancient.

It sank in that I would have to create the remaining 35 myself! This DIY adventure was inspired by a post on
The Everyday Bride where she explained that Krylon Looking Glass Paint can achieve a mercury glass look.

krylonThis technique requires you to spray several even coats on the inner surface of the vase.  This was a bit tricky since some of my vases were fluted and difficult to spray into, causing the paint to pool up and dribble.  Very frustrating.  After I got the hang of it, the results were quite pretty.  However, this technique gives the look of new mercury glass that hasn”t begun to chip and flake off with age. I wanted a more distressed, antique looking mercury glass. I think I nailed it.  Here’s how I did it:

Step 1: Clean your vase thoroughly.  Dust and grime are no good.

Step 2:  Cover the inner surface of the vase with silver leaf adhesive. Let it sit for 10 minutes or so.

Step 3: Apply rub-on silver leaf sheets in patches to the glass, making sure to leave plenty of uncovered areas. I did some large patches, and some lighter, flakier patches for a varied look.

Step 3: To achieve an even more roughed up look, take some sand paper and strategically scratch off some of the silver leaf.

Step 3: Cover the inner surface with spray-on leaf sealer.

Step 4: Spray 3 or 4 thin coats of Krylon Looking Glass Paint over the silver leafing to smooth out the look.


Ok, so it is a little bit of a process. But I had an assembly line going and watched a million episodes of Seinfeld. It became really relaxing.   I do enjoy me some mindless labor from time to time!


5 Responses to “Making Mercury Glass”

  1. Rachel (Heart of Light) Says:

    Oh, they’re beautiful! You clever, crafty girl!

  2. Angela Says:

    I love DIY posts. As a floral designer, my first thought when I see a beautiful arrangement/vase/etc. is always… “I wonder how they did that?!” Thanks so much for sharing!!

  3. Vanessa - V3 Weddings & Events Says:

    Those are AMAZING! Definitely my next DIY project!

  4. Sultry Spanish Details « The Treasured Petal Blog Says:

    […] pillars topped with funky red flowers in hand-finished silver vases.  Find out how I made them here.  The red hanging amaranthus added a touch of […]

  5. Vintage Vase » Beautiful Vintage Crackle Glass Vase Says:

    […] Making Mercury Glass « The Treasured Petal Blog Browse Previous: Vintage Fenton Milk Glass Vase. 7.5cm High. 5.5cm BaseVintage Fenton Milk Glass Vase. 7.5cm High. 5.5cm Base – $10.65 […]

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