The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC


The importance of glass throughout history

We use it everyday. It is all around us, yet we barely give it a passing thought. It clinks when you set it on the table, it glistens and reflects light into pretty colors around it. We wear it as jewelry, it helps us see, and helps us view important information on our smart devices and TV’s. 

What we do not think about is the tedious process of making the glass products we use everyday. Once an ancient practice by glass artisans transferred into mass produced goods through factories, artisans today are still widely used to create expensive luxury goods. Artisans then use a hollow metal pipe, where the glass is attached to the end, to slowly blow air into the glass to expand and begin to form shapes. 

Glassblowing is the practice of shaping glass that has been softened by high temperatures. 

Although it is uncertain as to where glassblowing originated, it is thought to be created by a Syrian craftsman who produced blown glass vessels for everyday usage, as well as creating luxury goods. Glassblowing produced unique products, where each one would never be the same as the other. That is until a few decades later in the first century, where the Roman Empire created molds for glass production. The creation of pre-made molds for glassblowing ensured that they could reproduce identical products to sell on the market. 

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Surprisingly, this process has changed very little throughout history. Molten glass is gathered at the end of a hollow metal pipe where air is blown through the pipe and inflates the glass. The molten glass is then molded, heated, and adjusted by swinging, rolling, and shaping the glass upon smooth stone and iron surfaces. One thing that has drastically improved throughout the centuries is how glassblowers refined their products.

Glass blown products used to be opaque, with lots of imperfections of unmelted sand clusters, as well as bubbles throughout the material that was trapped during the melting and molding process.

Islamic chemist, Abbas Ibn Firnas, was able to produce the first of many high quality glasses. Any sand can be made into glass, but depending on where the sand was located, as well as elemental impurities, would drastically change the temperature required to fully melt sand. Silica glass was produced by combining silica sand and quartz sand to create smooth, clear refined material. This material guaranteed uniform temperature required to melt the material as well as producing a clear, refined look.

Another reason glass became so popular was when stained glass was created in the seventh century. Sand was combined with potash (wood ash), as well as powdered metals to create vibrant works that we often see in churches and monasteries. The high demand for glass products in households, as well as used in famous architecture seen today boosted the economy around the world. 

Today we use glass in almost everything. From glasses made to help patients see, to the nice sets of China your parents have hidden away in the house, and to the screens of smart devices and windows for homes. The process of glassblowing is truly a work of art that has survived and thrived throughout history.
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