Uncomplicated Story of Glass

  • Naturally occurring glass manufacturers in a form of obsidian was used even by Stone Age societies whose members utilized it to produce sharp cutting tools. However, the archaeological evidence suggests that the first true glass was made somewhere in north coastal Syria, Mesopotamia or Old Kingdom Egypt. Egypt, with its preserving climate, is a place where we can find a lot of early glass items. Glass beads are thought to be the earliest man-made glass products and date back to 3500 BC. They have been found in Egypt and Eastern Mesopotamia. The oldest fragments of glass vases are said to originate in Mesopotamia 1600 BC. A rapid growth in glass making techniques is assigned to the area of Late Bronze.

    By the 15th century BC, Western Asia, Crate and Egypt became extensive glass producers. They knew and safely guarded a technological secret of initial fusing of mirror for sale from raw material. Glass workers in other areas of the world had access only to imported pre-formed glass forms. There is lack of evidence how glass advanced between 15th and 9th century BC. Over these years glass production was centred in Alexandria. From this place it spread to Italy. The Hellenistic period brought many new techniques of glass production, and glass became to be used in making larger pieces, such as table ware. During this period, colorless and decoloured glass became valued, and methods to have it created studied in a more comprehensive way.

    However, it was only the first century BC that brought a real revolution: glass blowing technique was discovered on the Syro-Palestinian coast. This technique involved blowing glass inside moulds by using a long thin tube which since then has changed very little. This way they produced a variety of hallow glass items. Until then the process of creating a small glass item was very prolonged in time; it could take several days to make the product by casting, core forming or cutting. The introduction of glass blowing led to significant changes in the glass making process and contributed to making glass vessels easy and inexpensive to produce. Then, ancient Romans began blowing glass inside moulds which increased shape possibilities for hollow glass items. The Romans were responsible for spreading glassmaking technology and creating foundations for developing glasswork traditions across Western Europe.

    During the rule of Emperor Augustus, glass usage flourished across France, German and other European countries. Also the Romans as the first ones began using China decoration glass in architecture when clear glass was discovered in Alexandria around 100 AD. However, the decline of the Roman Empire led to the slowing down of the progress in glass making. The archaeological discoveries from the 7th and 8th century show the transition from ancient to Middle Ages ways of producing glass, and in the 10th century a new technique of glassmaking, when soda glass is replaced with potash obtained from the burning trees, was initiated. The Middle Age introduced Venice as a main actor in glass making in the Western World.

    In 1271, the ban on imports of foreign glass and on foreign glass artists wanting to work in Venice was introduced. In 1291 the Venetian Republic ordered the glass makers to move their foundries to Murano. The second half of the 15th century brought quartz and potash made from sea plants to the Venetian glass making tradition. Pure crystal started to be produced. In 1688 China Curved glass making introduced a new process for production of plate glass, which can be used in mirrors. The "plate pouring" process resulted in glass with good transmission qualities. The 19th century was a beginning of a significant change: glass making started evolving towards industry more than the craft. Mass production of glass products was introduced along with an invention of the tank furnace by Friedrich Siemens. It allowed produce greater quantities of molten glass. With the 20th century came an era of revolutionary technology. Machines were developed which replaced traditional mouth blowing with a semi-automatic process, and transformed the craft into an industry. Classical man-made glassblowing became an art, maintaining the tradition and knowledge of ancient glassblowers. Today's glassblower still utilizes the basic blowpipe, but now they have a vast number of supplementary tools to aid in working the material.