Glass is a material that has always existed in nature. It is used in a variety of fields, in architecture, for tableware, to create furnishings, to speed up fibre communication, to produce solar panels, for food preservation, in medicine, for research and more.

Glass is available in nature

Volcanic eruptions, meteorite impacts with the earth and lightning strikes cause very high temperatures that melt the quartz sand on our planet. It is in the Neolithic period that the first findings of cutting tools made of glass are located. But it was in Mesopotamia in the third millennium B.C. that glass production began. This naturally available material gave the craftsmen of that time the opportunity to create ornaments and tools. The Egyptians, around 1,500 years later, continued the production and used the technique they had learnt to create jewellery, vases and ointment bottles.

The “recipe” for glass was created by the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal in 658 B.C. With 60 parts sand, 5 parts chalk, 180 parts dried seaweed powder and very high temperatures, fluid glass was created. In 100 B.C., the blowpipe was invented, which gave glass a lower thickness and different shapes. One hundred years later, the Romans used this technique to produce pottery, goblets embellished with ornamental stones and the first rudimentary windows.

It was the Venetians who took the title of the most skilled glassblowers, and this is still the case today. The Venetians are the protagonists of the Renaissance art of glassblowing tradition. In the meantime, the most varied techniques for the use, production and shapes of glass were being experimented with throughout the West. Thus, the first eyeglass lenses and Galileo Galilei’s telescope were invented.

In France, the technique of casting glass on a board was used for the first time. Thanks to the use of a roller, it was possible to give the glass the homogenous shape and thickness ideal for the production of mirrors. The technique was later exported and these Rococo-style mirrors adorned the palaces of the nobility of the time.

Thanks to the industrial revolution, the first machines were invented for the mass production of various glass objects. It started with bottles and on to the present day, with the production of many other items.

Glass nowadays

Today, glass, combined with other components, is highly resistant and versatile. Think of the armoured windows of banks, jewellery stores or the windows of some cars. The skyscrapers of many cities employ special windows; from the outside they look like mirrors, while from the inside the visibility is perfect and clear. Today, glass is an integral part of our lives. We are aware of its qualities, particularly with regard to environmental protection. Glass has allowed us to rapidly evolve technologically, to make important advances in research and in medicine.