History of Glass: Innovations and Versatility

Glass is one of the most versatile and useful materials to be forged by nature and improved by human ingenuity. We’ve used glass as tools, for hunting, cooking, in construction, insulation, transportation and plutonium. From telescopes to microscopes. And don’t forget art, design, and jewelry. With the ingenuity of Corning, to the Japanese, glass is breaking into the high-tech scene for some really futuristic applications too.

The very first glass discovered was obsidian. It has the same elements I use in my glass today: silica, soda, and lime. Prehistoric people were drawn to that black, shiny, ancient volcanic glass. The qualities of obsidian inspired people to form tools, arrowheads, knives, spears, and decorative objects from its hard, sharp and beautiful  properties. Obsidian blade edges can reach almost molecular thinness- also used as surgical scalpels.

The following historical information came Speedy Glass. I thought it was very concise and informative. Here are some excerpts from the Speedy Glass site:

“…Cuneiform tablets containing glass-making recipes indicate that glass was probably first manufactured by the people living in Syria, Babylonia (Iraq) and Mesopotamia (Iran), sometime around 3,000 BC. They likely discovered the process by accident.”…” One of the earliest forms of decorative hot glass was core-formed. Core-formed glass was made by applying molten glass around a removable core or center, usually a combination of dung and clay mixed with water.

In the third millennium BC, Phoenician trading vessels carried glass and glass-making to Egypt where it was used as decoration by the aristocracy, and as far away as the Celtic cultures of Britain. The Egyptians used glass beads as trading collateral in their dealings with other African peoples, who didn’t have access to the secrets of glass-making. The Romans, and other Europeans after them, continued using glass beads and other objects to trade in exchange for African valuables.

The Egyptian city of Alexandria was the popular center of glass-making dating back to 1000 A.D. By the 12th century, most of the colorful stained glass windows made for church and cathedral windows was being made in France. From the 1400s to the 1700s, the Venetians dominated ornamental glass production. Then, in the 1700s, there was a political revolution in France and the start of an industrial revolution in England: and a revolution in glass production.

Transportation, communication and architecture all benefited from breakthroughs in glass production throughout the 20th century. In Japan, engineers are hard at work on a personal digital assistant that will be a small sheet of glass you can hold in your hand. It is expected that soon new anchor systems, cheaper, thinner laminates, and novel blast-resistant curtain walls will be available on the commercial market. As with our ancestors, glass continues to benefit the quality of human life.”


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