Imagine going to a jewelry shop, but instead of buying a necklace or bracelet, you could buy a bong that was just as luxurious and beautiful as jewelry. That’s the idea behind the one and only Empire Glassworks, a California based design studio with a fascinating story and gorgeous pipes to match. Once you see an Empire Glassworks pipe, you will not forget it, and you’ll start identifying these pipes wherever you go due to their intricate and creative details on their glasswork. If you’ve ever wondered what’s behind these beautiful bongs, you can learn the history here with our full recap of Empire Glassworks’s evolution from high-end jewelry maker to bong artisan.
If you’ve ever seen an Empire Glassworks piece, it’s hard to forget. They’re some of the most intricate and colorful pipes in the world, no doubt. From tropical fruit drink water pipes to baby narwhal sushi glass dabbers, Empire Glassworks is home to the weird and the wonderful of the 4/20 world. Even non-smokers enjoy having them on their coffee tables as decorative accessories! From underwater-themed bongs that have a hand-crafted coral reef inside the chamber to a bottle of hot sauce that’s actually a water pipe, Empire Glassworks pieces are unforgettable and really should be in both people’s homes and fine art museums too.
If you think that Empire glassworks pieces look like jewelry, there’s a reason for that: the Empire Glassworks team was actually a successful high-end jeweler in California for over 40 years. They created their own glass beads, metal fastenings and hand crafted figurines and trinkets for their jewelry shop. In 2013, they realized the potential they had to shape the 420 community by providing high-end smoking devices that rivalled the beauty of a hand-crafted glass bracelet or figurine.
While they don’t make jewelry anymore, this rich experience in fine jewelry crafting gives Empire Glassworks pieces their unique and gorgeous looks. Empire Glassworks is the only pipe studio we know of that has such a strong background in fine jewelry, and this experience shows in their gorgeous pipes.
While their pipes are certainly beautiful, Empire Glassworks features much more than just aesthetics in their pieces: every single piece features some of the highest quality, purest glass available on the planet. They import their glass from Europe and proceed to custom mix every single color they use in their pipes at the studio in Southern California.
Ever wondered why Empire Glassworks pipes are so bright and colorful? They use an unusual technique called “lampworking” in their glass making, in which the glass is heated to over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit in their kiln (and you thought your dab seshes got heated), which creates an incredibly striking depth of hue in their glass and also makes it more durable. If you’ve ever seen those intricate figurines sold in jewelry shops or even pieces of jewelry or Christmas tree ornaments with fine details in the glass, that’s likely an example of lampworking.
You’ll only find top-notch borosilicate glass in Empire Glassworks pipes, as this place has been creating quality glass products for over 50 years now. Of course, with some of their pipes costing well into the triple digits, you know that this is not the sort of company to skimp on quality ingredients. No worries if those masterpieces are out of your price range: we love their hand-crafted spoon pipes like this avocado spoon pipe or even a little cactus bowl slide that’s more affordable but just as beautiful and well-made.
Another unique feature that Empire Glassworks employs in their pieces is the use of Dichroic glass. As you can see in the above photo, Dichroic glass (or dichro for short) looks like tiny specks of gold. However, photos can’t really serve justice to what dichro glass does when you look at it in person. It might look like glitter embedded in the glass, but it’s so much more: instead of the glitter you get at the dollar store, dichro glass is like buying glitter at Tiffany & Co. This luxurious material is actually the result of NASA tests done for spacesuits. Have you seen those shiny gold helmets in NASA spacesuits that are reflective? That’s dichro glass!
Empire Glassworks makes dichro glass by fusing micro thin slices of gold, silver, titanium, chromium, aluminum, zirconium, magnesium and silicon onto glass, and then baking all the layers together in a kiln that’s vacuum sealed at incredibly high temperatures. The resulting product yields a unique product that’s never the same, as different materials will reflect different colors as light moves over the metals. These pieces of dichroic glass are then used in Empire Glassworks pieces to add shine and color to the pipes, like with this beautiful deep blue conch shell hand pipe.
Located in Placentia, California, just outside of Los Angeles, Empire Glassworks is one of the top U.S. design studios today for high quality glass pipes. They are certainly the prizewinner for pipes in terms of aesthetics and glasswork. They design and craft everything here in the U.S., and their pipes are designed by experienced glassworkers. Some of their pipes are also inspired by customers, so if you really want to see your favorite movie, food, or anything designed as a pipe, go ahead and drop them a line! The level of detail and creativity found in an Empire Glassworks piece is truly unparalleled in the 4/20 world to this day.
In terms of where Empire Glassworks is headed for the future, we don’t necessarily see them in the vape space, as their speciality is glass. However, with consumers wanting the purest materials used in their vapes, maybe Empire will strike with an all-glass airway vape with unusual details not seen before? We foresee Empire Glassworks branching into a marriage of their jewelry and pipemaking experience with smaller, wearable smoking devices: think a mini hand pipe necklace or charm bracelet. Where do you see Empire going with their products and company in the future?
Julia, a flower child hailing from Spain, discovered her love of fresh herbs years ago when she accidentally became head of product at a farm in Oregon.
She loves long walks on the beach, accordion music and of course spending time with her favorite Yocan Evolve D (only in blue though). She promises to not bias her blog posts towards vaporizers too much, but no guarantees.