Explosive volcanic eruptions are characterized by the rapid fragmentation of a magmatic melt into ash particles. In order to describe the energy dissipation during fragmentation it is important to understand the mechanism of material failure. A quantitative description of fragmentation is only possible under controlled laboratory conditions. Industrial silicate glasses have a high structural affinity with magmatic melts and have the advantage of being transparent, which allows the study of the evolution of fractures by optical methods on a time scale relevant for explosive volcanism. With this aim, a series of low speed edge-on hammer impact experiments on silicate glass targets has been conducted, leading to the generation of fragments in the grain-size spectra of volcanic ash. In order to verify the general transferability of the experimentally generated fragmentation dynamics to volcanic processes, the resulting products were compared, by means of statistical particle-shape analyses, to particles produced by standardized magma fragmentation experiments and to natural ash particles coming from deposits of basaltic and rhyolitic compositions from the 2004 Grimsvötn and the Quaternary Tepexitl tuff-ring eruptions, respectively. Natural ash particles from both Grimsvötn and Tepexitl show significant similarities with experimental fragments of thermally pre-stressed float glasses, indicating a dominant influence of preexisting stresses on particle shape and suggesting analogous fragmentation processes within the studied materials.