American vs Import: How can you tell? And why does it matter?
There are many factors to being able to tell if something has been made in the USA vs being imported from outside of the country. Here are a few clues. Please comment if you know of any that haven’t been included here.
- Ask at your local pipe retailer. If you shop at a reputable store, they will always be more than happy to tell you who made your piece, and where it came from. If they can’t or won’t, be wary. Our glass is made 100% in the USA. In Phoenix, Arizona, to be specific. Choose a store that you trust, because your health can depend on it. When a store only labels their glass as some non-descript ‘local’ glass, or you can negotiate an ‘awesome’ deal, chances are it’s import. Here’s a good litmus test: Recently, the owner of Grav Labs put out a not well known podcast called “Torch Time”. On the 3rd episode, he acknowledges that he has been importing from China for about a decade now. It’s an interesting listen, if you have an hour, and a puke bucket available. It is also a good insight into the mind of someone who feels that what he does is aboveboard. Anyway, go into your local smoke shop, and ask them if Grav Labs is an American Made product. If they tell you that it is, I would suggest that you buy your glass elsewhere.
- Pricing: Does it seem too good to be true? Take this piece, for instance. Less than $5 for an inside out, silver fumed mini bubbler. There is no way this piece could be made in America. The materials alone would cost more than that, not including the labor costs.
- Look on DH Gate or Alibaba. Have you ever wondered how those pieces get on DH Gate?When a company places an order with an importer, they purchase a certain quantity, say 1000 units. If the manufacturer makes an over run, or they reject some pieces, guess where they go? On the DH Gate website, of course. And at deep discounts. Many companies say that these are “knock-offs”. Legally, the pieces can not be advertised as a name brand unless that company contracted to have the work done outside of the United States. When they do, they no longer have recourse against this subcontractor dumping excess or second quality production on DHGate. You will NEVER find any smoking apparatus on DHGate or Alibaba with the Chameleon Glass logo on it because we do not contract manufacturing outside of the United States. That’s not to say that other companies haven’t taken our designs, knocked them off and sent them to China, however. We all know Grav Labs has done exactly that; Knocking off the Chameleon ‘Typhoon’ cyclonic filtered dry pipe with their ‘Helix’ branded pipes, and the Chameleon Ashcatcher mouthpiece…..all now available on DHGate, courtesy of the importers known as Grav Lab.
- Drilled Bowl?: You really have to look at the piece. Is the bowl drilled out, or is it a true push bowl? If it has been drilled, your likelihood of having the bowl crack is 100%. Drilling causes stress fractures that can’t be seen by the naked eye, but with repeated heating and cooling, like from a lighter, the expansion and contraction of the glass will cause the glass to crack.
This pipe has a visibly drilled out bowl. You can tell by the rough edge and the thickness of the glass there. **Also, these pipes contain glass particles, similar to asbestos in them, after being drilled. Tap that mouthpiece on the counter of the store. Did anything come out? If you see a dusty looking residue, you will know what it is; glass dust. You didn’t think they would wash the pipe out after drilling it, did you? Why do they do this? Well, in order to side step the expensive import tariffs on smoking accessories, they bring pipes in as glass “jewelry”. You know, you put a necklace through the mouthpiece & carb and wear it on a necklace. Then, after it gets here, they unpack and drill them out. Meanwhile, the money that the tariffs would be bringing in to do things like pay for infrastructure such as streets, parks and schools goes into the wallet of the importer.
- Fully melted in glass stringers?: Again, you have to do an inspection of the piece through the carb, bowl and/or mouthpiece. If the piece is quality, it will be fully melted, and the stringers won’t just be elevated, laying on top of the clear on the interior. Import glass makers don’t care if it is fully melted in, or not. Why does this matter to you? Glass doesn’t like angles and it does not like dramatic differences in wall thickness. Anything with an angle is more likely to cause cracking, and anything with wall thickness variation is going to leave large sections of the crystal lattice unbonded to the rest of the glass…crrrrrrraccck. Ask any glass blower with more than just a minimum of experience; stringers just laid onto tubing as inside out work is a complete NO-NO.
- See on the first (top)picture how you can see the elevated stringers? And then see how ours are completely melted flat to the glass.
- Proper annealing: This is something that you can’t see with the naked eye, which the Chinese are well aware of. Take a moment and read a few excerpts from the book, ‘Made in China…Poorly”. Where ever something can be cheapened without obvious negative effect, China will cheapen it. I’ve noticed some Gallery style retailers have purchased a Polariscope for use in showing customers that imported products skip this expensive process because, like the ‘full melt’ discussion above, it is not obvious with the naked eye. However, with magnification and a polarizing lens, you can see the residual stress left lines in unannealed glass, ready to ‘pop’ the first time you set your piece down at the ‘wrong’ angle. Additionally, when glass is mixed with ‘other’ glass (add a blue accent marble to a clear bottom base on a waterpipe), you have to heat it almost to it’s melting point to release internal stress caused by the slightly different coefficient of expansion (COE) between the colors of glass. Typical glass blowing with borosilicate; COE33 glass, never reaches true liquifaction temperature, rather, the glass is worked around it’s deformation temperature, ‘garaged’ in a consistent heat annealing oven over a time long enough to allow stress to be removed, then cooled completely, at a regulated pace of temperature drop, with several plateau steps at specific known temperatures. It’s a lengthy, expensice process, but it ensures the strongest possible end glass product. This is a video of someone throwing one of our completely annealed pieces around, proving the strength of it.
- Color: We live in a wonderful time where there are as many colors of glass as there are in the rainbow…almost. But, there are STILL colors that aren’t available to offshore manufacturers of glass. China is known to not care what materials are used in the making of your smoking apparatus. Your health matters to us. Chameleon Glass never uses paints.
- Fuming: If you are an aficionado of color changing, then you will appreciate this item. If you can’t see through the fuming, your glass pipe will NEVER color change for you. The color change you are looking for is based on light passing through the outside of the glass, hitting the shiny resin deposited on the inside of the glass, and reflecting that light back out at you through the fume layer. As light passes back through the fume, the fume layer acts like a filter and absorbs specific wavelengths of visible light. Silver fume absorbs all wavelengths of light except blue and green, so a silver fumed pipe will change color from yellow to blue or green depending on the leaf resin deposited on the inside of the pipe. Import glass is typically fumed so much (more is better, right?) that it does not allow the light to pass back through, and if light doesn’t get through, no colors will, either. It’s a scientific fact. Fuming that is heavy and clouded won’t change color. See how cloudy this is? Silver fuming should only give a hint of yellow to the glass, not an opaque white (or brown).
- Creative designs: Let’s be honest here. No glass manufacturer outside of the United States has had an inventive idea for a smoking accessory design ever. Do you see a janky looking reproduction of one of your favorite glass artists? Kinda sorta looks like the pipe you’ve been eyeing at the local smoke shop? Don’t disrespect your favorites by buying a cheap reproduction of one of their pieces. Many importers have made a mountain of money skipping expensive and time consuming prototyping by simply ‘ripping’ original glass designs off, like ours, and sending them to their Chinese masters for production offshore Take this piece for instance. A complete rip off of our Monsoon pipe, they price it under ours, but not by enough to make it worthwhile. And you can bet that the importer has jacked the price up more than double on this bad copy of our design. This is another reason it is SO important that you purchase your glass from a company, store, or retailer that is trustworthy. A lot of companies have been coming out of the woodwork lately that purport to be “American Made”, “America’s Best”, “America’s Favorite”, or whatever it is. That doesn’t mean that their glass is actually MADE in America. They import the lowest priced, lowest quality glass, and then pass it off as “American”, with a huge markup, regardless of the cost to the end users health and well being. Their fat wallets are worth more to them.
Choosing smoking accessories in Fort Lauderdale is a private and personal decision. It is one you shouldn’t take lightly, as when you ingest something, or put it up to your mouth, draw it into your lungs, etc, you should be able to trust that you are only taking in whatever you add to the bowl. Do your homework, and buy a piece that will last for years, or purchase a piece that you can roast a bowl in, but might also have leaded paint inside to burn into your lungs, glass shards to inhale, or the bowl falls out of it in just a few sessions. Then, see if the company that made it will stand behind it. There’s really no contest. We at Chameleon Glass ask that you support the people that bring you new, innovation and ingenuity to the process, not the ones who lack business ethics. We ask that you support the people who have been fighting in support of legalization for over 25 years now, not the companies that are only here to cash in on the “Green Rush”. When they have drained every last penny that they can, who will be left to stand together with you the way we have for so long? We can not fight this alone. Every time you purchase an import pipe, we all lose.