For 50 years, glass bongs have ruled the roost, and why not? Glass bongs are attractive, effective, and – if they’re properly cared for – durable as all get out. In recent years, however, other materials have emerged to try and claim a place at the table including acrylic, metal, and bamboo.
But one alternative material has managed to garner more attention from patrons of our Denver headshop than all the others: silicone. But why exactly is that? And are silicone bongs poised to knock glass bongs from the mountaintop after their incredible run at #1?
Below, we’re going to take a look at the differences between glass and silicone bongs and whether one is inherently “better” than the other.
How Is Standard Glass Made?
The primary ingredient in glass is sand with other ingredients including calcium carbonate and sodium carbonate. The sand is heated to its melting point of 3090 Fahrenheit at which point the other ingredients are added.
As it melts sand undergoes a near-total transformation taking on an amorphous state somewhere between liquid and solid. In this state, it can be poured into molds, poured out into sheets, or “blown” to create striking heady glass pipes and bongs.
How Is Silicone Glass Made?
Silicone glass is made by heating quartz crystals to their melting point of 3,632 Fahrenheit. Typically the melting process takes place in a vacuum or an inert atmosphere. The resulting amorphous material is then physically manipulated in roughly the same manner as molten glass to produce various end products, like bongs.
Silicone glass is highly resistant to thermal shock and will not crack even when exposed to sudden temperature changes. Silicone glass is also beautifully transparent and extremely durable. Which makes it a good material for something like a bong that gets frequently passed from person to person.
Why Glass Is Such a Popular Bong Material
If you surveyed Denver University students today about which material they prefer for their bongs, it’s likely most would say “glass”, even over silicone. It’s not a fluke. There are several good reasons why glass bongs rule.
First and foremost, glass is traditional. Everyone knows glass bongs. Everyone has experience with them and people tend to be creatures of habit. So if they see a glass bong next to a silicone bong they may eye the silicone for a moment, but they’ll probably go with the devil they know over the one they don’t know.
Glass is also easy to clean. (If the hits you’re getting from your glass bong lately taste funky, it’s not the glass’ fault. It’s because the bong hasn’t been cleaned and/or the water hasn’t been changed lately.)
In addition, glass is incredibly malleable and there are an increasing number of glass artisans engaged in bong creation these days that are producing some of the most mind-blowing designs we’ve ever seen at our headshop.
The Downside of Glass Bongs
The biggest and most obvious downside of glass bongs is that they’re, well, glass. As beautiful as glass bongs can be they have an unfortunate habit of smashing into tiny little pieces if you happen to drop them. Not good. But there’s hope.
These days many bongs are made from borosilicate glass. Borosilicate glass was first developed for use in laboratories and is much tougher than standard glass. Still, you don’t want to tempt fate and drop your borosilicate glass bong to see if it will break. Because there’s a decent chance it will.
Why Silicone Glass Is Becoming So Popular
At a glance, silicone bongs are impossible to tell apart from glass bongs. So why would anyone in Denver or Northglenn make a point to buy a silicone bong over a glass bong? In a word: durability.
Silicone and glass bongs may look the same when they’re sitting on the coffee table side by side. However, knock that coffee table over and you will immediately know which is glass and which is silicone, because the glass bong will break when it hits the floor and the silicone bong will likely just bounce around a bit before coming to rest.
That’s not to say that silicone bongs are indestructible. You could probably break one if you put your mind to it. But you’d have to make an effort. Whereas with glass bongs you have to make an effort not to break them. So, silicone bongs are an ideal choice if you have friends over often and the bong gets a lot of use.
Another thing silicone bongs have going for them is the price. They tend to cost considerably less than glass bongs and that’s important for a lot of people these days whose paychecks are being gobbled up by inflation.
The Downside of Silicone Bongs
If silicone bongs have a downside it’s that there are nowhere near as many accessories on the market for silicone bongs as there are for glass.
Whether you’re looking for ice traps, percolators, ash catchers, or other accessories to trip out your glass bong, you’ll find them at your friendly neighborhood online head shop.
That’s not the case with silicone. The accessory list for silicone bongs tends to be pretty limited, although there are signs that the situation is beginning to change.
So there you have it – both types of bongs have their upsides and downsides. Glass bongs take the prize when it comes to accessories, tradition, and style, while silicone bongs are unbeatable in terms of durability and price. Which one is right for you? Only you can decide.