70's Genie Bottles of DEATH!?
December 17, 2009 11:43 AM   Subscribe

A bottle full of swirling, opaque, pearlescent liquid, that did not homogenize; how did we do that?

When I was in first grade (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth; 70's), I remember a craft our teacher did with us. We kids each brought in a clear cleaned glass bottle (mine was a Wishbone salad dressing bottle) and the teacher put a quantity of something she wouldn't let us touch (I think it was a "magic powder" but it might have been a liquid), let us add a couple drops of color of our choice, and then the bottle was filled with liquid (water? I don't remember) and sealed. The fluid inside was opaque, pearlescent, and swirled like magic smoke, sort of silver metallic tinted with the chosen color. You could turn it over and shake it and whatever and it would keep making swirls, rather than homogenizing. We called them "Genie Bottles".

The stuff used may have been toxic (we were more casual in those days, and I remember the bottle top being glued or sealed so we couldn't open it again)

Occasionally I've seen fancy bubble baths that seem to exhibit the same pearlescent swirly ability, but now that I think of it I haven't seen that kind of bubble bath in years and years, so it might have been toxic too.

Anyone know what the heck that all was, and how I could do it again??
posted by The otter lady to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
did it ever separate? it seems like any type of oil in water would do this (that's certainly what's going on in the bubble baths you remember... but there might be something more specific in your genie bottles).
posted by brainmouse at 11:45 AM on December 17, 2009

Response by poster: My memory is pretty foggy after this many years... I think if you left it long enough, the silver powder would settle down to the bottom and there would be colored clear fluid near the top, but a shake would get it all going again. I don't remember it forming beads and bubbles the way oil in water does, though, but maybe the powder blended the effect?
posted by The otter lady at 11:50 AM on December 17, 2009

You're looking for a pearlizing agent. They are still available, although they may not be as "pearly" as they used to be. I also remember super-pearly stuff as a kid, but maybe I was just easier to impress back then.
posted by Quietgal at 11:51 AM on December 17, 2009

OK, this stuff doesn't do the phase-separation you're talking about; that type of pearlizing agent may not be available any more. We have to think of the children, nowadays.
posted by Quietgal at 11:53 AM on December 17, 2009

I suspect there was glycerine involved, and perhaps alcohol.
posted by fish tick at 12:21 PM on December 17, 2009

I have one of these that I bought at a music festival in Oregon in the 90's. I've seen them for sale at other craft fairs since. It appears to be a mix of some metallic paint and a thinning agent of some sort.
posted by nomisxid at 12:44 PM on December 17, 2009

Best answer: Ah ha...found a how to page that calls them Hippie Swirls --google html version of the DOC found here.
posted by nomisxid at 12:47 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, I can't seem to find any information about this online, but I think you're talking about a liquid used to demonstrate Brownian Motion. I seem to recall that it's some kind of fish scales/scale powder in suspension with food coloring. Hope that helps.
posted by maniactown at 2:23 PM on December 17, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks nomisxid!!
posted by The otter lady at 6:29 PM on December 17, 2009

I bought a gray capsule at a head shop in the early 70s that did this. You added it to water, the capsule disolved and the result was what you want. Forget what it was called, however. Just yesterday, I saw sealed plastic balls (3" diameter) containing this mixture at a Hallmark Card gift store.
posted by Rash at 12:33 PM on December 18, 2009

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