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What's Been With Us Since the Dawn of Man? Glassware!

Aug 17, 2007
Glasswares have been with us since the dawn of man. Even the ancient cultures lusted after the beauty of these translucent crafts. From its humble beginnings as simple baubles, glasswares have evolved to be a serious, delicate art.

Man probably came across naturally formed glass in the earliest times. Nature sometimes produces samples of obsidian from the fusion of minerals through heat. Man then tried to create his own version of this phenomenon. By experimenting throughout the ages, he became successful - creating what we now call glass.

The earliest evidence of glassware is found among the cultures of the Middle East circa 3000 B.C. These glasswares were simple glass beads - trinkets used in decorating self and home.

Hollow glass vessels appeared around the time of pharaoh Thutmose III. Glass artisans flourished during this time, as Asian craftsmen established the trade in Egypt.

From 1200 B.C. to 900 B.C. there was not much improvement in the art of creating glassware. In 900 B.C. Syria and Mesopotamia became well-known as glass making centers of the world.

The next step in the evolution of glassware came in the 1st Century B.C., when the Phoenicians discovered the art of glassblowing.

The early methods were rather crude. To produce various shapes and sizes, the craftsmen would have to chip the solid form of the glass. Only later was the knowledge on manipulating the liquid form of glass discovered.

In the Middle Ages, the Frankish influence directed glassmaker to produce rudimentary usable glassware, and some new designs too. Adornment of these was usually limited to simple molded patterns, threading, and the use of prunts, or little glass beads imbedded the glassware.

The crowning glory of this age was the development of stained glass mosaics during the Medieval Period. To produce such, little chunks of glass called tesserae were cut out from solid, and colored blobs of glass to be put together to form an artwork. Between these tesserae would be inlays of silver or gold.

These mosaics would be set in cement and displayed on walls where light could pass through them. The result would usually be a spectacularly colored artwork that would usually adorn chapels and cathedrals.

During the Renaissance in the 16th century, the Venetians dominated the glassmaking industry. Their specific contribution to the art was the development of cristallo glassware. These cristallo were colorless and transparent. They represented pure rock crystals and were highly sought after.

Later on, these Venetians produced increasingly delicate artworks using cristallo. So famed were their glassware that artisans from Venice were not allowed to leave the country lest they divulge the secrets to their glassmaking art.

In the 1800's the delicate cristallo would be superseded by glassware from Germany and England which was harder and more durable.

During the 1900's the rapid advance of technology allowed for a better quality of glass. Mechanical and chemical methods in glass production were discovered. Also, the ancient techniques in glassmaking were revived.

Today, modern technology allows for the mass production of glass. Decorative glassware no longer is bound by limited knowledge on its manipulation. Nowadays, glassware can be shaped and decorated according to the fancy of its designers.

In some countries, though, glassmaking retains its artistic and cultural significance as some artisans still produce glassware through the ancient method passes along from generation to generation.
About the Author
James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of
GlasswarePlace.com and writes expert
articles about glassware .
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