The History Behind Glass Blowing Pipes

Even though glass blowing today may use modern equipment, the essence of working with glass remains and always will remain an ancient art. Molding red-hot liquid glass to make a lasting glass artifact is something that needs someone to have a creative mind, very good hand work, and stamina. Throughout history, the basic knowledge and techniques of glass blowing have been highly coveted, and sometimes only a select few knew how to do this. This information was handed down secretively from glass blower to apprentice for thousands of years. Glass blowers have literally been held hostage fearing that their knowledge of glass blowing would be leaked. During the 1st Century A.D., Phoenician glassworkers were not allowed to travel. There were some that escaped and they spread the art form into the present day. For Venetian glassblowers, leaving the island of Murano was a crime, and if you did leave it was punishable by death.

Glass is able to occur naturally byways including:

  • volcanic eruptions
  • lightening strikes
  • meteorite impacts

When these things happen, certain rocks melt at high temperature, then cool quickly and solidify. Many cultures accidentally discovered glass making. Some historical highlights in glassblowing include:

  • 16th Century B.C. – Oldest known glass vessel fragments were made during this period in Mesopotamia. There is also evidence of independent glassmaking in Greece, China and North Tyrol
  • 15th Century B.C. – Glass vessels are first made in Egypt
  • 500 B.C. – Glass vessels being made begins on the Italian peninsula at the start of the Roman Republic
  • 50 B.C. – Glass blowing techniques invented by the Phoenicians on the Syro-Palestinian coast
  • 23-79 A.D. – Ancient Historian Pliny suggests shipwrecked Phoenician sailors accidentally discovered glass making
  • 1st Century B.C. – Cologne, Germany becomes major glass blowing center of the Roman Empire
  • 1st Century A.D. – Rome, Italy becomes a major glass blowing center of the Roman Empire. Romans begin using clear glass windows as an important part of architecture
  • Late 1st Century A.D. – Glass blowing begins in Switzerland, France, and Belgium
  • 3rd Century A.D. – Glass blowing techniques are described in an Egyptian poem written on papyrus
  • 4th Century A.D. – Glass blowing begins in Spain and Croatia
  • 5th Century A.D. – The Renaissance period revitalizes Italy’s glass industry, specifically on the island of Murano, off the Venetian coast. The progression of glassmaking techniques slows with the decline of the Roman Empire causing less ornate pieces
  • Late 6th Century A.D. – Byzantines created glass with Jewish and Christian religious symbols in Jerusalem
  • Early 1200s A.D. – The Venetian Glassmakers Guild was made
  • 1291 A.D. – All of the Venetian glassmakers are forced to live on the island of Murano, which protected Venice from fires that may have happened, and controlled people from sharing any of the glassblowing knowledge. Venetian glassmakers invented glass mirrors and crystal.
  • 1607 A.D. – Glassblowing is brought to America by the Jamestown colony settlers
  • 17th Century A.D. – The book L’Arte Vetraria by Antonio Neri was published, sharing the secrets of glass and glass making with the world
  • Mid-17th Century A.D. – English glassblowers invent dark green “black glass” which was used to make storage vessels. It blocked out light. England became the leading bottle distributor
  • 1676 A.D. – English glassmaker George Ravenscroft invents leaded glass
  • 1688 A.D. – Production of plate glass for use in mirrors begins in France
  • 1784 A.D. – Benjamin Franklin invents bifocal eyeglasses
  • 1820s A.D. – The mechanical press makes glass production easier and faster
  • 1845 A.D. – Glass is now commonly used in homes as drinking glasses, butter dishes, honey jars, flower vases, and other dishes
  • 1903 A.D. – The automatic bottle blowing the machine is invented by Michael Owens, allowing production of millions of light bulbs a day.
  • 1960 A.D. – The studio glass movement begins. This is where glass artists begin to work in their own glass studios where they are able to experiment with various glass techniques. This movement continues to present day
  • Present Day – Advances are continuing to be made in glassmaking as the technological evolution create new equipment and techniques