The History of Glass – A Timeline

Jan 27, 2020

The History of Glass – A Timeline

Little is known about man’s first efforts to make glass, yet this ancient material and its abilities seem to have no boundaries. From bottles to ceilings, glass is used in creative and diverse forms around the world. There’s so much one can do with glass provided they use the right techniques and methods. However, this wasn’t always the case with glass. Let’s take a look at how glass came to be what we know it as today.


The very first glass known to mankind, which was used for making weapons and decorative objects, was obsidian black volcanic glass. This is a naturally occurring glass, that was used in the production of knives, arrowheads, jewelry and money. The earliest discovery of man-made glass dates back to around 3500BC. The ancient Roman historian Pliny noted that Phoenician merchants discovered glass in Syria. However, according to archaeological evidence, the first man-made glass was produced in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

For the next 300 years, glass manufacturing saw an equally rapid increase and decline in its growth. In Mesopotamia, it was revived in 700BC, and in Egypt in 500 BC. For the next 500 years, Egypt, Syria and other countries along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea were centers for glass manufacturing. During this time, glass melting furnaces were small, producing very little heat to melt glass, which eventually slowed down the manufacturing process.

It was only during the 1st century BC that Syrian craftsmen invented the blow pipe. This revolutionary discovery made glass production easier, faster and cheaper. It was much later that glass production flourished during the Roman Empire and spread from Italy to its neighbouring countries. In 1000 AD, the Egyptian city of Alexandria saw a rapid increase in glass manufacturing and soon became a center for it. Much later, during the 13th and 4th centuries, the detailed art of making stained glass structures for churches and cathedrals became prominent.

15th – 18th Century

The 1450s saw the renaissance of the Murano glass after a 100-year decline. It was also during this time that Angelo Barovier invented cristallo, lattimo and calcedonio glass types. Along with this, green, azure, blue and amethyst glass was also introduced in the Murano glass variety. During the mid 1500s, Vincenzo D’Angelo introduced and used diamond-point engraving on mirrors and other glass forms. It was also during this time that the world first heard of the Venetian “ice” glass.

Towards the end of the 17th century, George Ravenscroft, an English businessman in the import/export and glass making trade, added lead oxide to potash glass. This resulted in heavy, clear glass, which was ideal for cutting. One could also see tints of dark grey, yellow and green. The 18th century brought the addition of red lead, which helped eliminate darker tints. By 1750, all impurities were satisfactorily controlled and glass started to become increasingly clear.

19th Century – Present Day

The 19th century saw a lot of changes to the glass industry. From regency-cut glass to sulphides being introduced, the production of glass was raised to a whole new level in terms of the introduction of new varieties. Various new colours such as violet, pink, blue, uranium-yellow and green were introduced, and varieties such as pressed, cut and cased glass were developed.This was also the time that acid etching first became popular.

Over time, glass manufacturers sought the help of new and improved technologies to produce artistic and commercially viable glass pieces to cater to people’s changing aesthetic needs. In fact, glass suppliers today are taking this one step further by incorporating techniques such as UV printing, lamination and back painting to provide clients with a large variety of options to choose from.

If you’re looking to learn more about how you can incorporate glass designs in your space, get in touch with Mirodec at https://mirodec.com/.