Glass making History

Glass making History

The invention of glassblowing coincided with the establishment of the Roman Empire in the first century B.C. which served to provide impetus to its spread and dominance. Glassblowing was greatly encouraged under the Roman rule, in particular under the reign of Augustus, therefore glass was being blown in many areas of the Roman world. On the eastern borders of the Empire, the first glass workshops were set up by the Phoenicians in the birthplace of glassblowing in contemporary Syria and Palestine, as well as in the neighbouring province of Cyprus. Ennion for example, was among one of the most prominent glassworkers from Syria of the time. He was renowned for producing the multi-paneled mould-blown glass vessels that were complex in their shapes, arrangement and decorative motifs. The complexity of designs of these mould-blown glass vessels illustrated that the sophistication of the glassworkers in the eastern regions of the Roman Empire. Mould-blown glass vessels manufactured by the workshops of Ennion and other contemporary glassworkers such as Jason, Nikon, Aristeas and Meges, constitutes some of the earliest evidence of glassblowing found in the eastern territories. The Roman hegemony over the Mediterranean areas resulted in the substitution of Hellenistic casting, core-forming and mosaic fusion techniques by blowing.

Ancient Artisans
By 3500 B.C., the Egyptians were using glass for making beads and, in the 6th century B.C. Mesopotamian craftsmen were making vases, not by blowing glass, but by melting it and wrapping it around a core. This glass making method was used more widely as the centuries passed and spread to Egypt, China, Greece and elsewhere.

But glass blowing as we know it today, seems to have begun in the first century B.C. in then-Roman Syria. These glass craftsmen used a metal tube to blow air pockets into hot glass. Taking the potential of glass one step further, they then blew glass into molds, creating a wide variety of shapes for vessels and containers. This innovation would continue to distinguish the Italians as glass masters of the craft for centuries to come.

It was very much later, around the end of the 1st century BC, that a new method, glass blowing would revolutionise glass production. This art was probably discovered along the Eastern Mediterranean coast, probably is Syria. By blowing through a hollow tube, the experienced glassblower can quickly produce intricate and symmetrical shapes out of the "gather" of molten glass at the end of his tube (rod). Alternatively, he can blow the molten glass into a mould.

Middle Ages
The Byzantine glassworkers made mould-blown glass decorated with Jewish and Christian symbols in Jerusalem between late sixth century and the middle of the seventh century A.D. Mould-blown vessels with facets, relief and linear-cut decoration were discovered at Samarra in the Islamic Lands.