Iris Ornaments: The Beauty in Diffraction

Stephen R. Wilk

Since the first gratings were constructed, there have been a number of attempts to commercialize their color-producing effects as decorative elements.

Jewelarama broochA flower-shaped brooch produced by Jewelarama, with a diffracting disc at the flower’s center. []

The first recorded effort to construct a diffraction grating was in 1785 by scientist David Rittenhouse of the University of Pennsylvania, USA. It was made in response to a query from New Jersey politician David Hopkinson, who wanted to know why his handkerchief looked very peculiar when he held it close to his eyes. Rittenhouse created a model of the horizontal threads of the hand­kerchief by winding a wire between the threads of a very fine screw. (See “Diffraction, the Silk Handkerchief, and a Forgotten Founder,” OPN, October 2010.)

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Publish Date: 01 December 2023

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