The History of Glass | Reliable Glazing

The History of Glass

August 9, 2019

We come into contact with glass every day, all day, from windows to drinking vessels—but do you know how long humans have been producing glass? The material is a lot older than you might think! Next time you’re planning home glass replacement in Denver, CO, you’ll be able to look back on this long history and have even greater appreciation for your new investment.

Naturally-occurring glass, like obsidian, has been discovered in ancient civilizations. Obsidian was used in knives, arrows and jewelry. Pliny the Elder, the ancient Roman historian, credits the Syrians with actually producing the first manmade glass, though other sources suggest that manmade glass existed as early as 3500 BCE in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The Earliest Glassmakers

By 1500 BCE, glassmaking was a booming industry in Egypt. Beads and amulets were popular objects. By 1200 BCE, they had learned how to press glass into molds for various objects, and by the first century CE, Syrians had figured out how to blow glass. This was an unprecedented invention, and led to the production of glassware like drinking vessels and bowls. Since glass blowing allows for finer, thinner glass, it was also an artistic expression. The molten glass is wrapped around a blowpipe and air is blown through, making a bubble that can be further shaped and molded.

By the Middle Ages, Venice, Italy was the center of glassmaking, although glassmaking and glassblowing had spread quickly throughout the world. To this day, Venetian and Murano glass is considered some of the world’s finest.

The History of Glass Manufacturing

Modern glass has its roots in the 17th century. The first glassmaking factory in the United States was founded in Jamestown in 1608. By the 19th century, window glass was common in homes and commercial buildings. By 1820, a hand-operated machine to create bottles had been invented, and by 1870, the first semi-automatic bottle producing machine was introduced.

The invention of safety glass—also called “laminated glass,” which is what you might see in cars, homes, windows and other areas where sturdy glass is needed—was accidental. In 1903, French scientist Edouard Benedictus dropped a flask containing liquid plastic. This allowed the glass bottle to keep its shape even when it was dropped. Imagine what a cracked car windshield looks like: the glass may shatter, but the inner and outer layers of plastic material hold the glass together regardless.

The invention of tempered glass followed soon after, and the early 20th century saw a glassmaking boom. With this new, sturdier glass that wouldn’t spray shards on impact, more opportunities for using glass arose. For example, safety glass was used for gas mask lenses in World War I. After the success of safety glass in battle, manufacturers started producing car windshields made out of the same material. While techniques have been refined over the years, the safety glass of today is still fairly similar to the original.

If you’re interested in what modern glass can do for your home, contact the team at Reliable Glazing. We’ve served Denver and the surrounding areas for over 15 years as a locally-owned business, offering window glass reglazing, safety tempering and glass window tinting in Denver, CO. Call us today to schedule your consultation!

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