Modernist "Biomorphic" Iridescent Abalone Glass Bowl (LEO Design)

Iridescence, also called goniochromism, is a phenomenon throughout the natural world—found in animals, vegetables and minerals.  Simply put, iridescence is the event in which surfaces appear to gradually change color as one's angle of viewing is changed (or the angle of light source shifts).  Iridescent materials reflect light across all (or part of) the rainbow spectrum.  In contrast, pearlescent color usually means the reflection of sparkling white light along with the predominant "base" color of the object.

Iridescence occurs when something "interferes" with the consistent reflection of one pure color of light off the physical surface.  It could be the varying thicknesses of the reflective material, an uneven (reflective) surface, or something else in the underlying structure of the surface.  Consider a soap bubble: various iridescent colors swirl around the floating bubble because the thickness of the bubble wall is uneven—and, therefore, reflects a different color from the different portions of the bubble.

Iris was a Greek goddess—a messenger of the gods, personified by the rainbow.  The Greek root word "iris" (meaning "rainbow") combined with the Latin "-escent" (meaning "having a tendency toward") creates "iridescence."

One of the most beautiful iridescent surfaces is witnessed in the "nacr," the interior lining within some seashells (like abalone).  For centuries, abalone shell has been used for jewelry, decorative inlay, and other luxurious surfaces.  The glass bowl shown above, made in Turkey, is suggestive of the inside of an abalone shell. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248