Sunday, January 29, 2012
A Brief History of Glass
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
In the Bible, glass was as precious as gold. But in our daily life, glass is so commonplace, that it's difficult to realize how rare it once was.
Researcher believe the first glass was made by the Phoenicians and/or the Egyptians. Perhaps they stumbled over a molten piece of silica and sand and realized that with a high enough temperature, they could copy the end product.
The art traveled through the Mediterranean. Some believe that Jews, with persecutions forcing them to be nomadic, learned the art and carried it with them. By the 1500s, Venice became the major producer of glass in Europe.
To protect their monopoly on glassmaking, the Doge, the chief magistrate of the Serene Republic of Venice, rounded up all the glassmakers and sent them to live on the Island of Murano. Furthermore, he decreed that any Venetian glassmaker who shared with a foreigner the secrets of making clear glass would be put to death.
Then in 1665, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the French Minister of Finance, lured 18 glassmakers away from Venice. He wanted them to work at the new glass foundry he was funding in the Paris suburb named Courbevois. The glass was necessary to finish the decor of the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, where 17 archways were built to reflect 17 windows. In each archway, there would be a total of 21 smaller beveled mirrors. The final effect was glorious--and the Venetian control on glass was broken.
Today, when I walk the beach, I look for bits of glass that have been tumbled and made rough by the surf. You can spot these because their color is translucent and darker than that of seashells. As I pluck shards up off the sand or snatch them out of the tide, I examine them carefully. (My favorite colors are shades of green.) I wonder where they came from. Who threw them overboard? What did they once hold? And were any the product of a Venetian glassmaker?
Tell me about the most marvelous piece of glass (or glass object) you've ever seen, and I'll send you a piece of seaglass from my collection!