Glass in architecture

Before humans learned to make glass, they used volcanic or naturally occurring glass. Volcanic (obsidian) glass helped in knife, money, arrowhead, and jewelry production. When did the art of glassmaking begin? Who expedited the process? How does Murano glass fit into all this?

This guide takes a ride back to the history of glassmaking and highlights unique attributes of the art of Murano glassmaking.

Early Records

The archeological findings of Eastern Mesopotamia and Egypt show that the first record of manufactured glass goes back to 3000BC. Archeologists found the oldest fragments of cases in Mesopotamia in the 16th century. These fragments indicate the early signs of the hollow glass industry.

BesidesMesopotamia, the production of hollow glass also evolved in Egypt, North Tyrol, Mycenae (Greece), and China at the same time. The findings show the first manual on the subject dating back to 650BC in the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal's library.

Glassmaking was costly and slow in the beginning. It was a luxury than a necessity as fewer could afford it. However, the art of glass blowing was discovered in the late 1st century, revolutionizing the industry.

The discovery is attributed to Syrian craftsmen, and this technique made production cheaper, easier and faster. Glass became available to every citizen for the first time. The techniques and tools used in glass blowing haven't changed a lot over the centuries.

The Era of Flourishing

Glassmaking art flourished in the Roman Empire. It spread across the Mediterranean and Western Europe. Glass became an important trade item across the borders. Romans used glass in architecture when Alexandria discovered clear glass in 100AD.

Romans followed the Hellenistic technique to produce glass. They concentrated initially on colored and cast glass vessels. Earlier findings also indicate glass objects used in industrial, domestic, and funerary contexts. However, glass was primarily used for vessel production, with some production of window glass and mosaic tiles. The industry underwent technical growth and saw the dominance of aqua or colorless glasses. The raw glass was manufactured in different locations.

By the end of the 13th century, Europe developed its flourishing glass industry in Venice, thanks to the fall of the Roman Empire. Romans fled to Europe, and the rest is history! In 1291, glassmaking equipment was transferred to the Island of Murano, where colorless glass called Cristallo was invented by Angelo Barovier.

Murano glass in the making

Murano Island

The island is the center for luxury Venetian or Italian glassmaking. It started in the 14th century when a variety of new techniques were developed. Murano soon became the center of lucrative glass exporters in mirrors, dinnerware, sculptures, vases, and other items.

What distinguished Venetian glass was the use of local quartz. These quartz pebbles include pure silica grounded with fine sand and combined with soda ash. This soda ash became the reason Muranese glass masters held a monopoly over the industry.

This exquisite glass was tinted in the following ways:

  • A natural coloring agent was grounded and melted.
  • A black glass was produced that was later held against the light to see the true color that a black glass would give to another glass. It was essentially used as a drying agent for other glasses.

Venetian monopoly and their superior techniques also gave Murano glass a trade advantage over other glassmaking regions. Murano continues to be known as a center of fine glassmaking. Today, Murano glass masters are the island's most prominent and famous citizens. They aren't allowed to leave the island to limit glassmaking to Murano.

You can buy Murano glass online at MuranoNet. They offer authentic Murano glass products directly procured from glass furnaces. They work with Murano glass masters and artisans to produce unique products, including Venetian glass chandeliers, hand-blown glass pendant products, Fornasa glasses, and more.

Millifiori technique

 

Glass Industry Today

The modern glass industry has evolved to include new processes. One of the important advancements in glassmaking is melting glass and adding lead oxide to it. This technique improves the appearance of the glass and makes it easier to melt the glass with the help of sea coal.

George Ravenscroft discovered this technique in 1674 when he produced industry-wide lead crystal glassware. He had the financial and cultural resources to revolutionize the art and allowed England to overtake Venice in the 18th and 19thcenturies. He found an alternative to silica in the form of flint. However, the glasses crizzled and developed small cracks, which destroyed transparency. Later, he overcame this problem by replacing potash flux with lead oxide during the melting process.

Industrial Production

In 1851, Joseph Paxton built used glass in building construction for an exhibition. His new building revolutionized the use of glass as a building material for horticultural and domestic architecture. In 1832, a British company pioneered producing sheet glass with the help of a French glassmaker. Long cylindrical glass rods were blown, cut, and flattened in the process.

James Hartley invented Rolled Plate method for a ribbed glass finish which is now used for glass roofs in railway stations. 1887 marked the mass production of glass with semi-automatic machines that produced 200 glass bottles per hour.

Today glass is widely used in interior décor, building construction, tableware, housing, furniture, electronics, appliances, and more. Despite the use of machines, the hand-blown glass technique of Murano continues to inspire glass artists around the world.

The use of precious metals, ancient techniques, fine craftsmanship, and different techniques set Murano glass apart from other glass lands. Hence, its demand has increased recently as more American artists have taken an interest in this form of art.

You Can Buy Murano Glass Online Today!

If you're looking to earn bragging rights and adorn your home with exquisite pieces of artifacts, Murano glass is the way to go! MuranoNet offers authentic Murano glass products that you can use for interior décor, home embellishment, and as presents for special occasions.

Glass sculpture

The store is home to fine Venetian glass chandeliers, Murano glass sculptures, big flower vases for the living room, art glass mini pendant lights, hand-blown glass sculptures, jewelry, and gift items. Discover their catalogs or reach out to them today for further queries!

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