Have you ever wondered how your glass pipe was made? Or how someone even thought of this in the first place? We thought it’d be cool to share with you all a little bit of history on how glassblowing ever came to be.
1. 3500 BC
Glassblowing has an elaborate and rich history. One can say that glassblowing can date back up to 3500 BC in the gardens of human civilizations, Mesopotamia. It has been found, that the Egyptians were the first to make objects made of glass, like beads. Historians have identified that roughly around 5 AD, the perfect combination of fire and human’s imagination led to the increase use of glass both as a functional and decorative material in society.
No one truly knows, but it is suspected that just like pottery, humans found that combining sand with other materials and applying heat, the objects they made would hold up their shape and color. Potters where most probably responsible in discovering the use of glasses as they used similar glazes to seal their pots.
2. Murano Island 200 AD
By the second century AD, glass was already spreading across the Middle East as a significant trade item. Merchants were able to trade: bottles, beads, jugs, and amulets. The fourth century, our human ancestors were already using them to consume their most precious drinks: wine. Glass was found in churches, palaces, and rich family estates and quickly hubs of glass houses were formed. For glass you need sand, therefore cities like Venice were ideal for the growth and production of this art.
Venice’s glass houses grew so rapidly, that in 1291 AD the city’s government decided to move them to the island of Murano, out on the bay. The Venetians became known as glass masters across the world, which caused glass house owners to people imprison glass blowers on the island to secure the “secrets of the trade” allowing them to maintain their monopoly. Plus, being on the island of Murano, the glassmakers and their families were easier to control and not allowed to leave the island.
3. L'Arte Vetraria 17th Century
When the secretes of glass were open sourced in the 17th century everything changed. But not open source as we know it today. It was Antonio Neri, who, by publishing L’Arte Vetraria (The Art of Glass) changed the history of glass making completely. Neri shared everything, from how to make glass, to how to build the equipment necessary, and this made the industry and innovation flourish. Soon telescopes were being made, eyeglasses were invented allowing people to gain their eyesight again (or at least a percentage of it).
4. Circa 1676
Let us skip to 1676, when the glass industry had a huge disruptive innovation by a man named George Ravenscroft. He developed a formula which allowed glass making by using lead, which allowed the glass to be workable for longer periods of time. Glass made of lead was lighter and clear, shifting the focus from glass as an art piece to the functionalities of it beyond drinking vessels and beads.
5. Early 1900s
It wasn’t until 1903, when a man named Michael Ownes invented a machine that could automatically blow millions of light bulbs a day, that glass was able take place in the ever changing industrial revolution. His bottle-blowing machine not only revolutionized the glass industry but helped in eliminating child labor in the industry.
Imagine the Possibilities
There are many other individuals who helped in advancing the glass industry and those who have chosen to preserve the traditional techniques as well. Today, there are many other inventions waiting to take place. Currently, there are researchers exploring computerized control systems for mass production of glass items, the integration of micro-electronic and mechanical know-how that will allow us in creating glass which will be able to ‘react’ to external forces. Now that is insane – now, imagine the possibilities!