The Glitter Trail: Secrets of the Glitter Industry

By Paige Duane

Glitter. It’s all around us. It sparkles in arts and crafts projects, shines in jewelry, key chains, and clothing. In everything from stickers to cookware, glitter is embedded into a variety of products that we use everyday. But what really is glitter? Where does it come from? 

First appearing in the holidays of the 1940s, widespread glitter usage became popularized in the US after Christmas candles and neon signs were banned due to World War 2. It is believed to have been invented by a German immigrant who created a machine that cut tin foil into tiny pieces. Modern glitter is made of aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate, in a process that combines plastic, coloring, and reflective material. Two companies currently dominate the global glitter industry. The first is a highly secretive company located in New Jersey that is rumored to have been the farm site where the first glitter was created. Little is known about this company, including its name, owners, and founders. The second, another New Jersey based company, is Glitterex.

Founded in 1963, Glitterex is a titan of the glitter market. When approached by New York Times reporter Caity Weaver, company president and CEO Babu Shetty was hesitant to allow her to tour the GlitterEx factory. According to Shetty, “people have no idea of the scientific knowledge required to produce glitter” and Glitterex would like to keep the details of its manufacturing private. The reporter was banned from setting foot in the same wing as the glitter manufacturing rooms. Allegedly, the same rules apply to Glitterex’s clients, meaning that not even the biggest glitter consumers in the world know how the product is made.

Many of Glitterex’s clients are unknown. When asked if she could comment on which industry was Glitterex’s biggest market, Lauren Dyer responded with an instant “No” and followed up with the vague hint that “you would never guess it…Because they don’t want anyone to know that it’s glitter”. Dyer also added that the glitter was visible with the product. This has led many to speculate about what this elusive industry could possibly be. 

One popular theory suspects that the number one glitter consumers are tropical hotel resorts. Some conspiracy theorists believe that glitter has been added to the sand of resort beaches to increase their aesthetic appeal. It’s doubtful this is the case as the glitter would pose a danger to animal life which could decrease visits from tourists looking to observe local fauna.

Another theory believes the United States Military to be the glitter whale. According to its proponents, glitter is used within bombs to track their radius of explosion. However, this is unlikely to be the case given that the military, though intensely secretive in terms of weaponry, probably would not go to such lengths to keep its use of glitter top secret. And, realistically, just how much glitter could this process possibly take? Certainly not enough to make the US military the top glitter consumer in the world. 

The most logical theory would appear at a first glance to be toothpaste companies. A company producing a product that could accidentally be ingested probably would not want the information that it contains micro plastics to be released to the public. The caveat to this proposal: toothpaste contains aluminum oxide, not the aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate which glitter consists of. 

The glitter industry holds many secrets. From manufacturing to tricks of the trade and clients, little is known about the inner workings of major producers. Many questions remain about these mysterious corporations. How is glitter really made? Who is the number one glitter consumer in the world? Why does Big Glitter go to such lengths to keep us from knowing?  Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the public will receive answers anytime soon. For now, those secrets will stay unsolved. 

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