Visions (cookware)

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Visions is a brand of transparent stove top cookware originally created by Corning France and released in Europe during the late 1970s and in other markets beginning a short time later. In 1983, it was introduced in the United States and became the number one selling cookware set for a number of years. Visions is made of Calexium, a material belonging to the Pyroceram family of glass-ceramics. Aside from being notable for its transparent appearance, it is one of the few cookware lines than can be used on the range (gas and electric), in the oven (conventional, convection, and microwave), and under a broiler. It will withstand heat up to 850 °C (1,560 °F) and features similar thermal traits as Corning Ware plus improved resistance to staining and the detrimental effects of acids and detergents.[1][2] Visions is currently sold worldwide by Corelle Brands, LLC.

History[edit]

In 1953 S. Donald Stookey of the Corning Research and Development Division discovered Pyroceram, an opaque-white glass-ceramic material with a high thermal shock resistance. Included in his subsequent patents were references to a transparent variation of this material, as well. While Pyroceram would quickly go on to be used for a variety of products, including Corning Ware cookware, the transparent version (later to be known as Calexium) was heavily studied over the next two decades.

In 1963 George Beall, working under Stookey, explored a method for making transparent cookware.[3] However, by 1966 Corning decided against commercializing it for fear that it would cannibalize Pyrex sales.[4]

In 1977, Andre Andrieu and Serge Renault working for Corning France, patented the claim that would form the basis for amber-tinted, transparent Vision cookware. It was produced in France and released for the European market in 1979 to instant success.

Corning LeCLAIR (VISION) 2.5L Stewpot
Corning Le CLAIR (VISION) 2.5L Stewpot

In 1981, Corning Glass Works began test marketing the cookware in the United States as an imported product under the name “Le CLAIR” rather than VISION due to a trademark conflict over the name. Once the trademark obstacles were overcome, the product finally received an official rollout in the second half of 1983 under the name “VISIONS”.[5]

Sales spiked during the mid-1980s when Corning released a series of television commercials showing a traditional piece of metal cookware being melted inside a transparent Visions pot, touting the product line as withstanding heat that will "turn ordinary sauce pans into sauce."[6] It would become the number one selling cookware set for the next several years.[7] Due to increased demand, Corning opened additional production lines in the US and Brazil.[4]

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Corning released additional Visions products lines including limited "Sculptured" versions for high-end dept stores, non-stick versions featuring a Silverstone coating, and additional colors.[8]

Sales declined in the US over the 1990s and early 2000s and the product line is now sold at higher end price points via "CorningWare, Corelle, & More" outlet stores and Corelle Brands websites.[4] Visions has remained popular overseas, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region where custom product lines have been created specifically for that market.

Typically seen in an amber tint, a cranberry colored version was available from 1992 until 2004. A white variation was available in Europe as "White Visions" and in the US in limited supply under the name "Pyromax". Visions was temporarily unavailable in the United States from 2004 until 2006 but has otherwise been produced non-stop for nearly 40 years and is currently sold worldwide by Corelle Brands, LLC.

Calexium[edit]

Visions cookware is made of a transparent, beta-quartz material called Calexium, belonging to the Pyroceram family of glass-ceramics. This material and a method of making it was first referenced in a patent filed filed by S. Donald Stookey, of the Corning Research and Development Division, in 1958. It was described as being a semi-crystalline ceramic having unique and useful properties such as coefficient of thermal expansion so low as to be negative in character, a true porosity of zero, and the unusual characteristic of being transparent despite a substantial crystal content (often greater than 75% by volume).[9] In a further patent, filed in 1976, Kenneth Chyung described it as an idea material for cookware and kitchen materials and "unquestionably better" in the areas of infra-red transmittance, stain resistance, and chemical durability than two existing Pyroceramic glasses used for Corning Ware and "The Counter That Cooks".[2]

Thanks to Calexium's extremely high thermal shock resistance, food can be stored in the freezer in a piece of Visions and immediately taken to the stovetop or oven for cooking. Since the material is completely non-porous, it will never harbor food odors or leach chemicals into meals. Additionally, it is completely dishwasher safe and is not prone to haze or etching typically experienced with normal glass kitchenware.

In general, this ceramic-glass family is composed approximately, as calculated from precursor glass batches in percent by weight on an oxide basis, of:

  • 68.2% is Silica Sand (SiO2)
  • 19.2% is Dialuminum Oxide (Al2O3)
  • 2.8% Lithium Oxide (Li2O)
  • 1.8% Magnesium Oxide (MgO)
  • 1.0% Zinc Oxide (ZnO)
  • 0.75% Barium Oxide (BaO)
  • 2.7% Titanium Dioxide (TiO2)
  • 1.75% Zirconium Dioxide (ZrO2)
  • 0.9% Diarsenic Trioxide (As2O3)

Plus additional oxides and colorants depending on the product line being produced.

When initially released in Europe, and during the Le CLAIR test marketing period in the US, many Visions products shipped with a "flat-top" lid that was also made of Calexium. These lids could be flipped over and used as a skillet or baking pan. However, upon official introduction in the US, releases under the Visions brand made use of knob-style glass lids made of Pyrex. Glass lids are now standard worldwide.

Related products[edit]

Corelle Brands sells similar functioning cookware under the CorningWare StoveTop brand name. These products are made of opaque Pyroceram ceramic-glass, like vintage pieces of Corning Ware, and can be used in the similar ways as Visions cookware. They are currently manufactured in France by the same factory that produces Visions.

Pyrex, a brand name for break-resistant glass bakeware, has offered complimentary amber (Fireside) and Cranberry tinted lines to match Visions colorways in the past. Care must be made to distinguish between Visions and bakeware marketed under the Pyrex brand name, as the thermal properties of each product are quite different.

Calexium, the transparent version of Pyroceram used to make Visions, is also used in other products such as ceramic-glass top stoves and fireplace doors.[10][11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana on January 6, 1988 · Page 38". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2017-09-23. 
  2. ^ a b US 4018612, Chyung, Kenneth, "Transparent beta-quartz glass-ceramics" 
  3. ^ US 3252811  Beall, George, ”Glass-ceramic bodies and method of making them"
  4. ^ a b c Davis Dyer, Daniel Gross (2001). The Generations of Corning: The Life and Times of a Global Corporation. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 417. ISBN 978-0195140958. 
  5. ^ Kyle., Coroneos, (2006). The complete guide to Corning ware & Visions cookware. Paducah, KY: Collector Books. ISBN 9781574324686. OCLC 61495500. 
  6. ^ John T. Folden (2017-07-20), 1980's Corning Europe early VISION Commercial: "Sauce Pan Sauce", retrieved 2017-09-07 
  7. ^ "Marketing Gives Corning a Boost". The New York Times. 1988-04-02. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-09-07. 
  8. ^ "LeCLAIR.vision: VINTAGE VISIONS IDENTIFICATION GUIDE". leclair.vision. Retrieved 2018-08-19. 
  9. ^ US 3157522, Stookey, S. Donald, "Low expansion glass-ceramic and method of making it" 
  10. ^ "pyroceram, neoceram, tempered glass, woodstove glass, pyroceram glass price". woodstove-fireplaceglass.com. Retrieved 2017-09-10. 
  11. ^ Beall, George H.; Pinckney, Linda R. (1999-01-01). "Nanophase Glass-Ceramics". Journal of the American Ceramic Society. 82 (1): 5–16. doi:10.1111/j.1151-2916.1999.tb01716.x. ISSN 1551-2916.