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Fairies sprinkle it. Little girls adore it. You couldn’t have survived the ‘90s club scene without it. It’s called glitter and it’s got a history just like anything else. But unlike the length of its flash beneath the sun, glitter’s history lasts longer than a nanosecond. So let’s ruffle a few boa feathers, chip a stiletto, and explore something that most unglamorous folks don’t consider a worthy essay topic.

If you think that glitter originated with Tinkerbell, you are mistaken. Glitter has helped humanity shimmer for centuries — like, since The Flintstones. Fred and Wilma smeared mica flakes into their cave paintings for that extra special something. It wasn’t just cavemen, either. Even the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans admired the way glitter stole the show. It’s likely that members of these civilizations not only used mica in their paintings but their makeup, too. If you’re a child of the Spice Girls generation, you probably remember how “glitterific” Lip Smackers, Limited Too, and Claire’s made their cosmetics right around the millennium. It looks like Cleopatra & Co. inspired the idea!

Christine Stoddard is a writer, artist, and the editor of Quail Bell Magazine.

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