This technique is often confused with sandblasting, however, acid etching offers many more finishes and degrees of transparency and diffusion of light.
Acid glass etching has been used for centuries dating back to the Victorian times where examples of this art form can be witnessed through mirrors and pub windows during the Victorian era. This type of etching was used to add decoration and color to glass and mirrors. The original process for acid glass etching was to use a wax stencil that was placed on areas of the glass or mirror that the artist did not want exposed to the acid. Artists used Hydrofluoric Acid which is the best type of acid to be used for glass etching yet it is lethal to a human being. When the glass or mirror was dipped into the acid, the fumes that it produced were poisonous and if the Hydrofluoric Acid touched a part of the artists body, it would dissolve the skin and tissue. Many artists have even lost their fingers and hands due to the use of this acid.
Now in the modern era many new techniques are introduced. Chemical creams and solutions are used for glass etching. When compared to Hydrofluoric acid these solutions are very cheaper and they serve better to produce their masterpiece. These solutions and creams are not harmful and they never create side effects to the artists. Thus they can do their work without fear.
There is actually a difference between sand blasting and glass etching. In sand blasting artist need to carve the glass or mirror but in glass etching it is not required. Artist need to spend more time in case of sand blasting and not in glass etching. Nowadays artists use chemicals and not hydrofluoric acid. We can very well find the difference between a glass etching that is done with the help of hydrofluoric acid and with the help of chemicals. The one that is done with the hydrofluoric acid will be very attractive and the other will give a dull look. Sand blasting will also give a good look when compared to the glass etching done with the help to chemicals and solutions. Artists should be very careful while preparing a glass etching. In acid and sand blasting various techniques are available to produce different types of glass etching and sand blasting but in chemical glass etching varieties are minimum and hence there is always a draw back in case of chemical glass itching when compared to the other two types.
This is one of the lost arts and few people are able to offer this technique today. It is also more expensive as it is much more specialised and uses very dangerous chemicals which are potentially lethal. Hydrofloric Acid is the only acid which is corrosive to glass but unfortunately disolves human tissue as well so strict safety precautions need to be adhered to.