Glitter: A Brief History

Photo: Mick Rock/Retna

40,000 to 200 B.C.: Ancient Glamour
Mica flakes are used in cave paintings and by ancient civilizations (Egyptian, Chinese, Greek, Roman) for their sparkly, light-catching quality.

1934: New Jersey Shines!
Machinist Henry Ruschmann of Bernardsville, New Jersey, invents a way to grind up plastics to make large quantities of glitter. He founds Meadowbrook Inventions, still a major supplier of the substance. Its slogan: “Our glitter covers the world.”

Photo: Bettman/Corbis

Early Sixties: Refined Shimmer
Revlon, Estée Lauder, Elizabeth Arden, and Helena Rubinstein echo Pierre Cardin’s paillette-covered sheath dresses by introducing shimmering powders, lipsticks, and eye shadows.

June 1972: Man Power, Kind of
David Bowie’s languishing music career goes supersonic once he becomes the androgynous Ziggy Stardust, with a glittery lightning bolt painted across his face by makeup artist Pierre La Roche.

Mid-Eighties: Rock On
Hair bands like Mötley Crüe and Poison mix glitter into their hair-stiffening products for extra stage presence. Eager young fans use Vaseline to adhere the substance to their faces.

Photo: 20thCentFox/Everett Collection

Early Nineties: Sparkle Epidemic
Glitter takes over childhood as sparkle-filled wands and glitter pens are marketed to tweens.

September 2001: The Beginning of a Meltdown
Mariah Carey’s Glitter hits theaters. It makes barely $1 million.

2006: My Special Pony
The addition of glitter only improves this new edition of a beloved toy.

Photo: Firstview

July 2007: Circus Act
For the fall Christian Dior couture show, makeup artist Pat McGrath creates porcelain faces, shimmery décolletage, and dramatic glitter-encrusted eyes.

September 2007: Happy Juice
Forget Goldschläger; Gold Flakes Supreme vodka is all the rage. ($60 at New York Wine Exchange, 9 Broadway, nr. Morris St.; 212-422-2222).

Now: Full-Body Glimmer
Guerlain’s L’Or is a 24-carat-gold-flecked hydrating gel ($68 at Saks Fifth Avenue; 212-753-4000). Nars’s the Multiple in Orgasm can be used to get shimmer on cheeks, lips, collarbones, eyes ($36.50 at Sephora;

Glitter: A Brief History