Important Dates and Facts in Glass History
The shot glass, as we know it today, has gone through an exciting evolution influenced by many cultures. Glass has a long history of 5000 years.
3100 BC Earliest glass artifacts found in Egypt
1500 BC Small glass articles made from molds found in Egypt and Syria; the first glass was produced probably in Egypt
650 BC First glass making manual written, Assyrian Assurbanipal's Library
1 AD Technique of blowing glass invented in the Babylon area
25-400 AD Rapid development and growth of glass melting, working and forming technology in the Mediterranean region during the Roman Era
100 AD Glass cost declines rapidly and for the first time becomes available to ordinary citizens
600-699 AD Strong Islamic influence
1000 Domination of Venice glass center in glass production; Murano Island became a major glass center
1226 “Broad Sheet” first produced in Sussex
1330 French glassmakers produced ''Crown Glass'' in Rouen, France
1500 Angelo Barovier invented “Cristallo,” a clear, colorless glass
1590 Development of glass telescope and microscope lenses in the Netherlands
1600 Caspar Lehman, a Prague glassmaker, used the technique of cutting rock crystal to glass
1600 France became a major power in the glass industry
1608 The first American glass was made by settlers in Jamestown
1615 Introduction of coal furnaces in England
1620 Production of “Blown Plate” was produced in London
1676 English glassmaker George Ravenscroft patented a formula for lead glass, heavy, clear glass, ideal for cutting
1688 “Polished Plate” produced in France
1690 William of Orange passed a law that lifted taxes on distilled spirits and encouraged development and expansion of this industry
1745 Glass Excise Act passed in England
1765 “Crystal Glass” production began a new era in the glass industry
1773 Glasswork of polished plate glass established at Ravenshead in England
1800 Industrial revolution dawned a new era in the glass industry. Synthetic glasses with improved properties were available for the first time
1827 Glass pressing machine invented in America
1834 Robert Lucas Chance introduced “Improved Cylinder Sheet”
1843 Henry Bessemer introduced an early form of “Float Glass”
1847 James Hartley invented “Rolled Plate”
1867 First regenerative glass furnace patented in German by Siemens brothers, Freidrich, Karl, Hans, Werner and Wilhelm
1875 Technical glasses developed in Germany
1903 An automatic glass blowing machine invented by Michael Owens
1913 Technique of “Flat Drawn Sheet” introduced in Belgium
1950-1960 Glass science became a major research discipline; major glass research center established by Ford Motor Co
1959 “Float Glass” invented in the UK by Sir Alastair Pilkington
1984 First fluoride glass discovered by Marcel and Michael Poulain and Jacques Lucas in Rennes, France
People had used naturally occurring glass, especially obsidian (the volcanic glass) before they learned how to make glass. Obsidian was used for the production of knives, arrowheads, jewelry and money.
The ancient Roman historian Pliny suggested that Phoenician merchants had made the first glass in the region of Syria around 5000 BC. But according to the archaeological evidence, the first man-made glass was in Eastern Mesopotamia and Egypt around 3500 BC, and the first glass vessels were created about 1500 BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia. For the next 300 years, the glass industry was increased rapidly and then declined. In Mesopotamia, it was revived in the 700 BC and Egypt in the 500s BC. For the next 500 years, Egypt, Syria and the other countries along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea were centers for glass manufacturing.
In the beginning, it was tough and slow to manufacture glass. Glass melting furnaces were small, and the heat they produced was hardly enough to melt glass. But in the 1st century BC, Syrian craftsmen invented the blowpipe. This revolutionary discovery made glass production easier, faster and cheaper. Glass production flourished in the Roman Empire and spread from Italy to all countries under its rule. In 1000 AD the Egyptian city of Alexandria was the most vital center of glass manufacturing. Throughout Europe, the amazing art of making stained-glass on churches and cathedrals across the continent reached its height in the most exquisite Chartres and Canterbury cathedral windows produced in the 13th and 14th centuries.
The first glass known to stone age people, which was used for making weapons and decorative objects, was obsidian, black volcanic glass. The earliest known man-made glass dates to around 3500 BC, with finds in Egypt and Eastern Mesopotamia. Discovery of glassblowing around 1st century BC was a breakthrough in glass making.
Glass was first made in the ancient world, but little is known about man’s first efforts to make glass. Amulets and solid beads were made in Mesopotamia as far back as 2500 BC. Later, glass making expanded in Egypt around 1500 BC.
Wonder how glass is made? Its ingredients? How many types of glass exist? Read about glass making process and related inf1rmation in this section and our blog.
By the time of Crusades, glass manufacturing developed in Venice, and it became glassmaking center of the western world. In 1291 glassmaking equipment was transferred to the island of Murano. During the 15th century, Venetian glass blower, Angelo Barovier, created cristallo, a nearly colorless, transparent glass. By the late 1500s, many Venetians went to northern Europe seeking a better life where they established factories and brought the art of Venetian glassblowing.
By 1575, English glassmakers were made glass in Venetian fashion. In 1674, an English glassmaker George Ravenscroft invented lead glass.
The first glass factory in the United States emerged in Jamestown, Virginia in 1608.
In the early 1800s, there was a high demand for window glass which was called crown glass. In the 1820s, the age of blowing individual bottles, glasses and flasks ended with the invention of the hand-operated machine. In the 1870s, the first semi-automatic bottle machine was introduced.
After 1890, glass use, development and manufacturing began to increase rapidly. Machinery developed for precise, continuous building of a host of products. In 1902, Irving W. Colburn invented the sheet glass drawing machine which made possible the mass production of window glass. In 1904, the American engineer Michael Owens patented automatic bottle blowing machine.
In 1959 new revolutionary float glass production was introduced by Sir Alastair Pilkington by which 90 percent of flat glass is manufactured today.
For detailed information about this subject read all our articles.
Blue Glass Texture History
The stone-age man used naturally occurring glass obsidian, the black volcanic glass, and tektites to craft weapons and decorative objects.
Archaeological findings in Egypt and Eastern Mesopotamia indicate that the first manufactured glass dates to 3000 BC. The oldest fragments of glass vases were found in Mesopotamia in the 16th century BC, and they represented evidence of the origin of the hollow glass industry. Besides Mesopotamia, hollow glass production was evolving at the same time in Egypt, in Mycenae (Greece), China and North Tyrol. The first glassmaking manual from the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (669-626 BC) dates to around 650 BC.
In the beginning, glass making was slow and costly, it was a luxury item, and few people could afford it. The discovery of new technique of “glass blowing” around the end of the 1st century and was a revolutionary event in the history of glass making. This invention is attributed to Syrian craftsmen. The glass bowling made glass production easier, faster and cheaper and glass, for the first time, became available to ordinary citizens. The tools and techniques of glass blowing have changed very little over the centuries.
The art of glass making flourished in the Roman Empire and spread across Western Europe and the Mediterranean. Glass was one of the most important items of trade beyond the borders of the Roman Empire. The Romans were the first to use glass for architectural purposes when clear glass was discovered in Alexandria around AD 100.
A flourishing glass industry developed in Europe at the end of the 13th century when the glass industry was established in Venice by the time of Crusades (AD 1096-1270). In 1291, equipment for glass making transferred to the Venetian island Murano where cristallo (colorless glass) was invented by Angelo Barovier. Despite the efforts of the Venetian artisans who dominated the glass industry to keep the technology secret, it soon spread around Europe.
In Germany and other northern European countries glass making became important by the late 1400s and early 1500s, and during the 1500s it became prominent in England. George Ravenscroft (1618-1681), an English glassmaker, invented lead glass in 1674 which was a breakthrough in the history of glass.
Mechanical technology for mass production began in the latter stages of the Industrial Revolution with Michael Owens’ invention of an automatic bottle blowing machine in 1903 that could produce 2500 bottles per hour.
In the late 1950s, Sir Alastair Pilkington introduced a float glass production method by which 90 percent of flat glass is manufactured today.
After 1890, the development, manufacture, and use of glass increased rapidly. Glass evolved through advancing technologies, and technological evolution naturally continues. Today, glass making is a modern, hi-tech industry. Current glass plants make millions of glass containers a day in many different colors and produce a precise continuous production of sheet glass tubing, containers, bulbs and host of other products.
Glass Bottles History — Blowing Glass
Glass blowing is a glass forming technique which was invented by the Syrian craftsman in the 1st century BC somewhere along the Syro-Palestinian coast. The establishment of the Roman Empire provided motivation and dominance of glass production by this method, the use of blown glass for everyday tasks spread. The Phoenicians set up the first glass workshops on the eastern borders of the Empire, in the birthplace of glass blowing in contemporary Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, as well as in the province of Cyprus. Meanwhile, the glass blowing technique also reached Egypt.
By the Middle Ages, Venice had become a major center of glass making. Then, the glass blowing industry moved to the island of Murano. The Venetian glassmakers from Murano produced cristallo, a clear, elegant glassware by employing glass blowing the mold-blowing technique.
Eventually, this art spread in many parts of the world, in China, Japan and the Islamic lands and became ubiquitous.
In the 1820s the industry experienced the most significant innovation since the Syrians invented the blow pipe. Bakewell patented a process of mechanically pressing hot glass, which changed how glass is used.
After 1890, glass uses, and manufacturing developments increased very rapidly.
In 1903, Michael Owens engineered the first automatic bottle blowing machine that could produce millions of light bulbs a day, and in the late 1950s, Sir Alastair Pilkington invented float glass production method by which 90 percent of flat glass is manufactured today.
Glass blowing involves inflating molten glass into a bubble, or parison, with the aid of a blowpipe, or blow tube. Glass blower, glass smith or gaffer is a person who blows glass. Glass blowing involves three furnaces. The primary tools involved are the blowpipe (or blow tube), the punty (or pontil), bench, marver, blocks, jacks, paddles, tweezers, paper and a variety of shears.
A full range of glass blowing techniques developed within decades of its invention. Before the design of the metal blowpipes, the ancient glassworkers made clay blowpipes, also known as mouth blowers, due to the accessibility and availability of the resources. Two significant glass blowing methods are free-blowing and mold-blowing. The free-blowing technique is significant in glass forming from its introduction in the middle of the 1st century BC until the late 19th century. It is still widely used. The Portland Vase, which is a cameo manufactured during the Roman period, is an outstanding example of this method. Mold-blowing is another glass blowing technique evolving after the invention of the free-blowing. These tools and techniques have changed little over the centuries.
The glass blowing craft passed from father to son or from master to apprentice. From its beginning, the formulas and procedures used in glassmaking were secret with death as the penalty for disclosing secret technique.
The technique of glass blowing was used for over 2000 years, and over this period, underwent several transformations to manufacture some of the most exceptional artwork.
Stained-Glass Evolution and History
Colored glass exists since ancient times. Both the Egyptians and the Romans manufactured small stained-glass objects.
Stained-glass gained recognition as a Christian art form sometime in the fourth century as Christians began to build churches. The spread of Christianity throughout Europe is directly related to the expansion of stained-glass across the globe and made stained-glass the dominant art form of the new millennium.
One of the oldest known examples of multiple pieces of colored glass used in a window is at St. Paul's Monastery in Jarrow, England, founded in 686 AD. The oldest European windows are five relatively sophisticated figures in Augsburg Cathedral.
Stained-glass was also produced by Arab architects in the Middle East in the 8th century. Jabir ibn Hayyan, the Persian chemist, described 46 original recipes for producing colored glass in Kitab al-Durra al-Maknuna (The Book of the Hidden Pearl).
During the Gothic period (the 13th and 14th century) stained-glass history expanded and stained-glass windows took center stage in elaborate and monumental cathedral designs. By the mid 1400s, the new realism in painting by the great Renaissance artisans like Jan van Eyck led to a decline of traditional stained-glass. The bold lines and influential figures of Gothic-style stained-glass eventually phased out, and stained-glass windows evolved into more of a painting on glass rather than an architectural element.
Until the sixteenth century, stained-glass was a primarily a Catholic art form, much of it destroyed during the 1600s by order of King Henry VIII after his break with the Church.
Besides religious unrest, the decline of stained-glass occurred during the Baroque period with the increased use of clear glass in architecture; fashion leaned toward more intricately detailed interiors and elaborate wall painting.
During the late seventeenth century, the artisans returned to Gothic-style architecture, which generated a renewed interest in stained-glass. The openings for the new windows were Gothic, but the art of the windows was a combination of both old and new.
During the movement of the Gothic revival, many styles developed.
During the nineteenth century, glass artists La Farge and Tiffany created opalescent stained-glass.
During the 20th century, many new and imaginative forms of this art began to take shape. Matisse, Braque, Leger and others with their abstract and semi-abstract designs broke the traditional figurative mold of earlier times. The windows changed from painted art to decorative art. Artists from around the world experimented with new techniques and designs to create glass artwork, which led to a modern golden age of stained-glass.
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