As we plow forward in the glass industry at Barrett Limited, we constantly look for new innovations, for more efficient ways to deliver quality products to our partners and customers. However, while looking forward is important, it is important to remember that history also serves as a rich resource to inform our industry.

We must be able to look back to effectively and clearly look forward. So today we ask the question alongside you, “How did glassmaking become what it is today?”

Early Glassmaking

Over 4,000 years ago, glassmaking was discovered in Mesopotamia. The earliest known glass objects found in this area were glass beads and the Phoenicians are credited as the first glass-blowers. They used this craft to make beakers and bottles. In fact, art and pottery was the main use of glass in its early days, and the earliest glass-makers even produced it as substitutes for precious stones. This is why a lot of the early glass that has been discovered is opaque and brightly colored.

In 476 A.D., after the Roman Empire collapse, glassmaking tastes changed. Techniques like cutting, engraving, and enameling disappeared. Glassmaking began to flourish again in central Europe and Spain when Islamic glassmakers brought back Roman techniques and developed them into new forms. It was also during this time that stained glass windows began to make their way into cathedrals.

Stained Glass Cathedral Window

Photo by Elias Andres-Jose on Unsplash

Modern Development of European and American Glass

It was during the Renaissance that luxury and decorative glass began to take flight. The English began to add lead to their batches of glass, which made for a more brilliant glass than ever before. Lead glass dominated the market in northwestern Europe and the American colonies.

As industrialization took hold of the world, the growth of the middle class set a demand for consumer goods that appeared rich and lavish. Decorative glassmaking continued to flourish and the first glass factory was built in Jamestown, Virginia in 1608. As glassmaking in America became a symbol of wealth, American glass factories grew to New York and South Jersey. 

Glass in Architecture

The Crystal Palace, located in Hyde Park, England, was the first large-scale architectural glass construction. Constructed of 300,000 pieces of glass, the design infused modular sections with iron frames for the ceiling and walls.

Since its construction, glass has been infused to architecture in ways that the Crystal Palace’s engineers could’ve only dreamt of. In the 1900s, Chicago architects constructed America’s first high-rise glazed building, and city architects haven’t looked back since.

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The history of glass is woven deeply with art, culture, and construction. This history is one that Barrett Limited continues to look back on as we push towards a more innovative future. Want to learn more about that innovation in our importing? Subscribe to Glass Buyers Monthly!

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