Legend has it that glass was discovered by a sailor in the Mediterranean. During a break, they disembarked their boats laden with nitro and made a large fire on the sand to rest for the night. They had no means with which to hang their pots over the fire to cook, so they used the nitro sheet. The mixture of sand, fire and nitro made the first glass.
In Egypt, instructions for making glass were first documented around 1500 BC, when glass was used as a glaze for pottery and other objects. In the first century BC the technique of glassblowing was developed and what had once been an extremely rare and precious object became much more common. During the Roman Empire many forms of glass were created, usually for vases and bottles, jugs, plates. Glass was made from sand, vegetable ash and lime. The first use of glass was as a coloured glaze, opaque or transparent, applied to ceramics before firing. Small pieces of coloured glass were considered precious and often rivaled precious gems as jewellery items. Over time, it was discovered (most likely by a potter) that if glass is heated to a semi-liquid state, it can be shaped and allowed to cool into a new, solid, independent form. In the first century BC, somewhere at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, a new invention caused a real revolution in the glass industry. This was the discovery of glass-blowing, both free-mouthed and moulded.
The colour of 'natural glass' is green to bluish green. This colour is caused by the different amounts of iron impurities naturally present in the sand. Common glass today usually has a slight green or blue tint, resulting from these same impurities. Glassmakers learned to make coloured glass by adding metal compounds and mineral oxides to produce brilliant shades of red, green and blue - the colours of precious stones. When gem cutters learned to cut glass, they discovered that clear glass was an excellent refractor of light, the popularity of cut clear glass increased, that of coloured glass decreased.
Glass objects such as plates and jugs from the 7th and 8th centuries have been found on the islands of Torcello and Murano near Venice, Italy. These form an important link between Roman times and the later importance of that city in the production of the material. Around the year 1000 AD, a major technical breakthrough was made in Northern Europe, when soda glass was replaced by glass made from a much more readily available material: potash made from wood ash. From this moment on, Nordic glass differed significantly from that produced in the Mediterranean area, where soda ash remained in common use.
Probably starting with glass mosaic tiles, glassmaking continued to flourish in Venice. In the thirteenth century there was
In the 13th century there was a guild of glassmakers, and in 1292 an ordinance was passed in the city banning glassmaking on the island of Murano in the Venetian lagoon.
island of Murano in the Venetian lagoon. The reason was partly to protect other buildings from fires (which commonly started in glassworks - the Great Fire of London is believed to have started in a glassworks); and partly to maintain a monopoly on the
trade in glass.
The death penalty was used as a threat to keep the glassmakers in Murano, and it was even forbidden to teach foreigners the secrets of the glassmaking trade. Throughout the Middle Ages, Venetian glass from Italy led the world. Their great secrets included the formula for Cristallo glass, a very clear transparent glass that was particularly suitable for elaborate fretwork and fine blown, intricate designs. They also used thinly cut millefiori canes, and many of their designs were similar to the popular Roman designs, though more subtle and delicate. Another of their great inventions was lattimo or milk glass, an opaque milky white glass. They made some white cups and glasses, but mostly the milky glass was used in the form of thin rods to make elaborate lace designs in clear glass.
The 11th century saw the emergence of new ways of making glass sheets in Germany by blowing balls, swinging them to form cylinders, cutting them while still hot and then flattening the sheets. This technique was perfected in the 13th century in the factory called the furnace in Murano, Venice.
The centre for art glass production from the 14th century was Venice, which developed many new techniques, improved the blowing technique and became the centre of a lucrative export trade in tableware, mirrors and other luxury items. Eventually, some of the Venetian glassmakers moved to other areas of northern Europe and the production of art glass was reduced.
The Crown glass process was used until the mid-1800s.
In this process, the glass blower would spin about 4 kg of molten glass at the end of a barrel until it flattened into a disc about 1.5 m in diameter.
The disc would then be cut into sheets.
Venetian glass was highly valued and desired between the 10th and 14th centuries because they were able to keep the process secret.
Around 1688, a process for melting glass was developed, which led to it becoming a much more widely used material. The invention of the glass pressing machine in 1827 enabled the mass production of inexpensive glassware.
The Murano glass object is sometimes etched with an acid or other caustic substance, so that part of the surface is affected by the acid and part is covered, creating the desired design.
Traditionally this was done by an experienced craftsman after the Murano glass had been blown or poured. In the 1920s a new mould-engraving process was invented, whereby by means of the modified mould, an engraving was simulated. This reduced production costs and, combined with a wider use of coloured glass, led to a popular low-cost glassworks in the 1930s, which later became known as Depression glass.
The history of the Great Master of Murano is: Archimede Seguso, Giuseppe Briati, Angelo Barovier, Alfredo Barbini, Angelo Seguso, Napoleone Martinuzzi... and other Great Masters known in Murano by their nickname: Ciocio, Nane Catari, Caramea, Gigetto, Orso, Scaletta, Nini Macia, Mamaracio, Ciuli, Bruno Cimarosto and many, many others...
And now? The history of Murano glass and its 7 islands from 1500 B.C. to the present day has been..... a whisper.