Many collectors prefer to display their treasures on glass shelves for a number of reasons. Curio cabinets often combine reflective shelves with mirrored backings to enhance the viewing of precious items. Delicate items can be viewed from all angles without the need for handling. They can also be less obtrusive than wood or metal shelves.
One major advantage of glass shelves is the ability to use creative lighting effects. Traditional wooden display boxes require exterior track lighting or individual lighting in each cubicle, but glass allows lighting to shine through from above and below. Individual spot lighting placed under the shelves can create a wondrous underlighting effect, especially in a darkened room at night. The reflected light through the glass can give off additional back or underlighting.
Another advantage of glass shelves is a little more psychological. Viewers perceive them to be nearly as delicate as the items displayed on them. This means that visitors who handle collectibles may take even more precautions while moving them in and out of the curio cabinets or display cases. In reality, most are formed from tempered glass and are generally as durable as the wood shelves they replace. But anything that will encourage gentle handling of expensive antiques and collectibles can only be a good thing for nervous collectors.
Glass shelves may not be practical for all storage needs, but they do provide an alternative to functional but aesthetically bland shelving units. Flower vases displayed on glass shelves in a public area provide more visual interest for visitors. Practitioners of the Chinese art of feng shui often encourage homeowners to incorporate more glass into their rooms to avoid blocking positive energy flow. Using these shelves can offer interior designers more versatility than using specific woods or metals for storage and display purposes.