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The History of Glass Production

The History of Glass Production

An indepth look into the history of glass production and how it’s evolved into an important part of human life today

For as long as man has existed, the human race has been using glass in some shape or form. According to historians, one of the first glasses to be used by man was obsidian, a form of natural glass that is created inside volcano’s. The glass is produced as a result of a volcanic eruption that melts the sand, with obsidian being used to create the tips on spears for hunting purposes.

Evidence has been discovered that suggests man-glass was being produced as far back as 4000BC. It wasn’t until many years later, in 1500BC, that the first hollow glass container would be produced. This was made from taking a sand core and covering it with a layer of molten glass.

The process of glass blowing was the first known process of glass manufacturing to become common amongst people in the First Century BC. This process was used in order to make glass containers, yet the designs and productions in this time are all made from a vast range of colours, due to the impurities in the materials used at the time. We had to wait until the First Century AD until colourless glass was widely available through mass production, with the colouring of materials coming much later.

Glass production was brought to Britain through the Roman Empire, yet the skills and technology needed to produce the product were guarded by the Romans in order to ensure production was done under Roman ruling. After the fading of the Roman Empire, the skills in glass production finally spread throughout Europe and Middle East, marking a new era for Western production.

The Birth of the Glass Industry in Britain

In Britain, major evidence of the birth of the glass industry exists around Wearmouth, something which dates back to 680 AD. In the 13th century, evidence exists of a glass industry that was created in Surry and Sussex, suggesting that the wide spread of glass production began in this period.

A considerable milestone for the glass industry was to take place when George Ravenscroft invented lead crystal glass. Ravenscroft was trying to counter act the effects of clouding that would take place when glass was produced from the blown process, so he added lead to the materials used in order to smoothen out the process. The glass that was made from this process was both softer and easier to decorate, which gave it a high usability amongst users worldwide. These examples of genius from Ravenscroft lead to the invention of a range of products, like optical lenses, microscopes and even telescopes. Without his new creation, it wouldn’t have been possible to produce these products.

The Crystal Palace, which was made by Joseph Paxton, was created in 1851 and this marked the beginning of the discovery that glass could be used as a building material as well as a decorative piece. This step in a completely unfounded direction gave buildings the encouragement the use of glass in public and domestic architecture. By 1887, the manufacturing process of glass had developed from traditional mouth blowing methods to a semi-automatic process. This step was developed when Ashley introduced a machine that was capable of producing 200 glass bottles per hour in Yorkshire. If we were to skip forward twenty years, in 1907, the birth of the first fully automated glass production machine was produced in America by Michael Owens. This fantastic piece of technology could produce as many as 2,500 bottle per hour!

Today, glass making is a hi-tech industry that operates through modern examples of technology. It’s a highly competitive market that is dominated by quality, design and service. Modern glass plants today are now capable of making millions of glass containers every day. These products can be in a number of different colours, yet brown and clear remain the most popular choices.

Can you really imagine a life without glass? This fantastic piece of material features in literally every aspect of our lives – in our homes, work places, vehicles and the items we use to eat and drink. Even the table this blog is being written is glass!

What do you think of our blog? Do you agree that glass is one of the most famous pieces of technology ever made?

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