Made in USA vs Import
Who really made that glass pipe? How can you tell? And why does it matter?
The truth is, it shouldn’t matter, however, the vast majority of companies selling glass are buying finished product from China and lying to their customers about the origin of their product to avoid health or safety concerns while making big money.
If Made in China is not a big deal, why remove the origin sticker?
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. If you’re really interested, here are a few clues.
How to tell
- Ask at your local pipe retailer. If you shop at a reputable store, they will always be more than happy to tell you EXACTLY who made your piece, and where it came from. ‘Ummmmmmuhhhh Bob. Yeah, Bob! Thats it! Bob the local glassblower made this!’ is NOT what you want to hear. If they can’t or won’t, be wary. Any reputable local glass artist will have a facebook or IG page dedicated to their craft. Our glass is made 100% in the USA. In Phoenix, Arizona, to be specific.
- 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 Grav, Bio, GL303, Pulse, Beta, Cream, Mav, UPC, Sesh Supply, 420 Science, Killa, Illuminati, AMG-AmericanMadeGlass etc etc etc American Branded pieces get on DH Gate?
When a company places an order with a Made in USA manufacturer like Chameleon Glass or Purrr or Greenlight, they purchase a certain quantity, say 1000 units. US manufacturers typically make the item, then utilize the factory for something else, like a different model from the same brand. Not true for Chinese and Indian manufacturers; they have a different view of the same process. They want to avoid tooling change out costs, raw materials holding costs and training costs, so, they keep making the same product after the initial 1000 units were made. Guess where they go? On the DH Gate website, of course. Many companies say that these are “knock-offs”. They are not. They are just the bread crumbs left by dishonest American companies seeking to use misinformation to fool customers into paying WAY WAY WAY TOO MUCH for a low quality imported product. Oh, and, make sure to be sitting down…you’re in for some reverse sticker shock…yeah, you paid a 450% mark up for that Grav bub last year….daaaayyyum!
Not up to (ralf) look through all the American branded chinese production? You can also look up Rollingstar Supply Chain Summaries online. Wow, 5 containers of ‘kitchen implements’ in 2 months and they don’t even show a mixing bowl on their website….hmmmmmmmmmm.
Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights mean nothing in China or India. Chameleon Glass pays for a service to sweep every Asian website for our name and logo. It’s totally affordable ($300 a month) so, any truly Made in USA company can afford it….should they wish to remove any designs NOT manufactured for them in China. 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 USING THE AMERICAN BRAND name to do so. 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. Chameleon Glass makes pipes in the U.S for consumption in the U.S. 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.
Why it’s Important
- Health: 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. Not if, but when. This pipe has a visibly drilled out bowl. You can tell by the rough edge and the thickness of the glass there. These pipes contain glass particles leftover from the drill. They are as similar to asbestos as you can get without it being asbestos. 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? That costs extra money, and YOUR HEALTH does not. Mesothelioma or Silicosis, China cares not for your health. It’s not just the cost of rinsing the pipe out after drilling, it’s also less expensive to import jewelry…oh, you didn’t know this was a pendant and not a pipe? In order to side step the expensive import tariffs on smoking accessories, importers falsify the inbound manifest and bring ‘pendants’ (pipes with a mouthpiece and a carb, but no blown bowl hole) in as glass “jewelry”. They put a string through the mouthpiece & carb…to wear it as 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.
- Health. Color: We live in a wonderful time where there are as many colors of glass as there are in the rainbow…almost. But, for a while, there are STILL glass colors that aren’t available to offshore manufacturers of glass. To make up for this ‘issue’ China and India have both been caught using paint instead of glass colors. Paint typically contains a whole bunch of gnarly volatile organics and petrochemicals that really don’t do well with fire from your lighter or torch. The pictures below are of chinese manufactured glass pipes with colors not available in China. So, Twitter followers broke them up to find…..paint. Very colorful and inexpensive piece you bought on Amazon…I’m sure that super honest and reputable FBA store owner from Amazon totally cares about your health and included the free paint huffing opportunity in the product description! Spoiler Alert: China and India are known to not care what materials are used in the making of your smoking apparatus.
Chameleon cares about your health and does not use paint
- Environment. One of the large cost factors in modern manufacturing are environmental controls to protect our little blue bubble called Earth. China, and even India are super fund sites in the making. Stated environmental controls are at best lax and mostly ignored in practice. Listen folks, I’m not going to spend a lot of time here, the question is not IF China is polluting massively. The question is whether you care or not. I’ve heard all manner of rationalizations on this topic, but it boils down to this: Prevailing winds generally move from west to east. We saw what happened after Fukushima Dia’ichi melted down. You think the same thing isn’t happening from China? Pollution does not recognize our artificial boundaries. Poisoning the Earth is not a political football to be tossed about like a game.
- Humanity. Like the brewing environmental catastrophe that is China, the abuse of your fellow human beings is well documented and I am going to state the known and avoid expounding on this topic. Instead of going to some uber left or uber right website, I will instead refer you to a more unbiased crowd sourced document should you wish to review China’s report card on civil and human rights. What I will tell you is my personal experience. I get daily emails from ALL of the Chinese and Indian factories offering their services for glass pipes of all kinds. Often times, I will respond and request photos of their employees at work. Often times, I actually get them. I would describe them as all as fire traps lacking ventilation of any sort save an open window here and there. Suffice to say when working in an open flame environment, next to highly explosive industrial gas, sprinklers and an easy exit should be mandatory. Ventilation should also be mandatory with positive vacuum set for a minimum of 600cfm per workstation. I’ll cut through all the rationalization bs and tell you how I decide if a product is ok to buy. Would I let my kid work in that factory? You can do the rest.
Yes, developing economies DO lean heavily on their citizenry as capital, however, in democratized systems, the cost of living is allowed to increase which allows the standard of living and the value of life to increase. In a communistic system, the cost of living is set by the political party and citizens are not allowed upward mobility or in general terms, the ability to work hard and earn a better life. Citizenry is used, and when a human machine is used up, it goes out with the trash. Good news though, Foxconn installed nets around the Apple factory so workers didn’t die when they tried to commit suicide by jumping off the roof. Now that’s humanitarian progress if I ever saw it!
- Quality. 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 and not melted in so you can ‘call’ it inside out work is a complete NO-NO.
(partial melt / low quality)
(fully melted in / high quality)
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.
- Quality. 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”. Wherever 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, expensive 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. https://youtu.be/PEyRdCujqJM
- Quality. 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).
- Quality. 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 knock off reproduction of one of their hand made creations. 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 just under our price, maybe $5 less, enough to make the consumer (you) assume it’s Made in USA and buy the slightly less expensive model. I’ve asked many people about this, and the response is almost unanimous: ‘If I knew it were Chinese glass, I would have expected a far lower price!’ 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. Then, importers plow all that profit into misleading Facebook Ads (care for some Vodka, Comrade?), spam emailing and advertising in a very successful effort to eliminate competition. When the American companies are supplanted by China, there will not be innovation – everything will look the same.
Choosing a glass smoking apparatus 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. That is currently not the case with imported glass. We assume far too much. We project our way of doing things on other cultures. Importers use this assumption against consumers. Do I have a problem with the fact that it’s made outside the US? No. There are several industries that no longer exist anywhere else BUT China (see above for how that happens), so, there are items that HAVE TO be made outside the US. All I ask is for retailers, distributors and manufacturers to respect those of us who choose to incur the massively more expensive costs of manufacturing in the U.S. by respecting:
Leave the Made in China sticker on the product.
For the consumer: Do your homework; buy a quality piece that is safe to use and will last for years if you want, or, purchase a cheap ass imported liquor store cop-chucker piece that you can roast a bowl in and throw away. Either way, with a little bit of internet search, you can accept or avoid leaded paint inside to burn into your lungs, glass shards to inhale, or a bowl that falls out after just a few sessions. We at Chameleon Glass ask that you support the people that bring you 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 unknowingly purchase an import pipe, we all lose.