Uncomplicated Story of Glass

Naturally occurring glass 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 glass 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 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.


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