HISTORY OF GLASS MAKING

Murano and the history of glass making
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Santa Maria e Donato church on the Grand Canal, Murano, world famous for glass making, a tradition that began in the 14th century and continues to the present day

We decided to create this section on the history of glass and glass making since this is the medium that we use for our fundraising pendants. It’s a brief passage through time, from 3500 BC in ancient Canaan and the Italian Renaissance, to the America of Louis Comfort Tiffany, Steuben glass, Toledo Ohio, and the studio glass movement. Do read on and also take a glance at our other pages that tell you the who, why, where and what behind what we do!

GLASS FOR MAKING JEWELRY

Ancient Egyptian necklace made of gold and colored glass

Gold necklace with green glass beads resembling semi precious stones, Egypt, circa 30 BC-300 AD


Glass was first made around 3500 BC in the regions of ancient Canaan, Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, and was often set in jewelry as a replacement for gem stones.

Then from 1500 to 300 BC techniques improved and later Etruscan, Greek and Roman artisans produced articles such as glass storage vessels and figurines in addition to beads. Glass became increasingly transparent and by adding metallic oxides, it was possible to create colors such as violet, dark blue, turquoise, yellow, red, orange, creamy white and black.

The technique of lampworking, also known as torchwork, is thought to have begun in Medieval times and involves using a burner torch to melt and form glass. During that period, glass beads were used for rosaries.


Murano glass goblet made during the Renaissance
Renaissance glass vase made in Murano

Right, blue, gold and enamel painted Murano vase. Far right, Murano goblet with gold leaf and painted enamels, c1475-1510

Lampworking then reached its peak in the 14th century when Renaissance craftsmen in Murano, Italy, perfected fusing multiple colored-glass canes to create “millefiori” glass for jewelry and other items. Murano glass is still highly sought after today, and if you ever get the chance to visit Venice, we highly recommend you take the short trip to these workshops and see the artisans at work. We did and were amazed at their skill!


When gem faceting became fashionable in Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries, glass was again used to simulate gems, and Bohemia and Silesia, now the Czech Republic and Poland, respectively, became the centers for this craft. By the 19th century, glass beads were then machine-made and mass-produced to meet growing demand and were frequently coated with heated metals for a gold or bronze finish.

Also in the 19th century, cameo glass was developed consisting of different colored layers of glass. When the outer layer was carved away or etched, it would reveal a background of another color.

Dichroic glass, which has become so popular in recent years, was researched and developed by NASA for its space program. For more on this topic, please see the link at the bottom of this page.

Now that we've skimmed over many centuries of glass making, let’s move on to see what’s happening in contemporary America!


FROM A FACTORY SETTING TO AN INTIMATE STUDIO

Louis Comfort Tiffany lamp

Lamps made by Louis Comfort Tiffany are instantly recognizable the world over

Steuben glass bowl

Steuben glass “White Horses” spiral bowl diamond wheel engraved by Edmond Suciu

The evolution of glass continued, and if we look at this from a chronological perspective, Louis Comfort Tiffany was way ahead of his time. An interior designer by profession, based in New York, he opened his own studio and glass foundry in 1878 because he was unable to find the types of glass he wanted for his design work.

We follow on with Steuben Glass in New York State which sadly closed its doors in 2011 after a magnificent 108 years in business. It was world famous for its craftsmen who would mold, hand-sculpt, facet, etch and engrave gifts for royalty and heads of state.


Libbey Owens Ford glass factory

Libbey Owens Ford glass company in Kanawha City, West Virginia

Corning Museum of Glass

Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York

From the beginning to the middle of the 20th century Toledo, Ohio, was home to glass manufacturing giants like Libbey Glass, Owens Corning and Pilkington that established themselves in this area. Soon Toledo was known as the Glass City. Then a major development occurred in 1961 when these industry leaders and the Toledo Museum of Art sponsored the first glass workshop. This single event lead to the beginning of what would be known as the American Studio Glass Movement.

Pilkington sheet glass factory

Pilkington sheet glass factory, Lancashire, England, 1944

THE AMERICAN STUDIO GLASS MOVEMENT

At around the same time as this glass workshop, ceramics professor Harvey Littleton and chemist Dominick Labino had begun experimenting with melting glass in a small furnace and creating blown glass art. In 1962 they gave two workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art and proved it was possible for individual artists to make molten glass in a private studio.

Image of Harvey K. Littleton, The Corning Museum of Glass, courtesy of Fritz Dreisbach, photo by Gloria Schulman

Image of Dominick Labino, The Corning Museum of Glass, photo by Robert Florian

Almost immediately universities in California took the lead and started adding glass programs to the curriculum. Now, colleges all over the country are offering courses in glass work.


GLASS ART TODAY

Dale Chihuly blown glass chandelier

Dale Chihuly’s 30-foot-high blown glass chandelier at the entrance to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum installed in 2000

Fifty years on, interest in glass as an art form continues to grow and flourish. Some studio artists have become world famous, like Dale Chihuly from Washington State; many, however, are amateurs pursuing a hobby. By the way, we consider ourselves so fortunate to live and work close to downtown St Petersburg, Florida, where a permanent installation of Chihuly’s work can be viewed in a museum-like setting.

Now that most fine art galleries exhibit the work of at least one glass artist, more people than ever are collecting contemporary glass. Glass Art Societies and Guilds are forming all over the country and abroad as glass making for pendants and acquiring decorative glass items is a trend on the up and up! When the public appreciates art in all its different facets, everyone benefits!


TAKE A LOOK

Do you want to know about the charities we are supporting? In the left hand column you can click on the appropriate links under the Help A Cause heading. And, we are constantly adding pages about topics related directly to the work they do. We believe in providing great up-to-date, quality information!

Are you interested in tips and gift ideas for many of the important dates on your calendar such as birthdays, Valentines Day, Mothers Day, graduations, gifts for the teacher and, last but by no means least, Christmas? Links to these pages are to the left, under the heading Occasions To Give.

And, of course, you can view all of our pendants together on a single page in our Gift Catalog. We hope you will be inspired. After all, the slogan which forms part of our logo is our goal: "every pendant, every time, helps a cause."


MORE TOPICS ON THE HISTORY OF GLASS

We invite you to read about two other topics directly related to glass making and the history of glass, since these are techniques used for our own exclusive pendant designs. Please click on the links below.

Glass Fusing and Fused Glass Jewelry

Dichroic Glass Pendants - Stunning Material Shines, Sparkles

Return to Home page from History of Glass



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nd pendant post

In the state of Ohio, the Toledo Museum of Art is renowned for the quality of its collections ranging from ancient to modern, as well as its extensive education programs.

Here we highlight the spectacular, multi-purpose Glass Pavillion which opened in 2006, and features over 5,000 glass works of art. All the exterior walls and nearly all the interior ones comprise over 360 glass panels, many of them curved, which allows a flow between the spaces designated for exhibiting, demonstrating and creating glass.

It is a most fitting tribute to the legacies of Toledo as the Glass City, the Museum founder, Edward Drummond Libbey, and the Studio Glass Movement of the 1960s.

To read more about the exhibits as well as glassmaking activities, visit http://www.toledomuseum.org.