Although known to man
for ages, glass is a transparent beauty that fascinates us even today.
How did man discover the process of making glass? How is glass shaped?
Mummy had a tough time pleading with 3-year-old Ria to drink her 'nimbu
pani' in her baby mug. Ria wanted it in the same glittering crystal
glass grown-ups drink from. Actually, Ria is hardly to be blamed. Glass
has a mystic beauty that fascinates all, young and old.
Have you ever wondered where glass comes from? Today, all the
glass we see around us is manufactured in factories. We take glass for
granted, but few people are aware of its origins.
History and origin
The precise origin of glass is not known. Narrations in
historical documents however show that natural glass was discovered by
man perhaps as early as the Stone Age. Manmade glass came into the
picture much later.
According to the writings of the Roman historian Pliny
(AD-23-79), Phoenician merchants who traded soda, undertook long
voyages to carry on the trade. On their way they would spread out on
seashores to prepare their meals, and lit fires on the sands. The
problem was that on vast empty shores of the beach they could not find
anything to support their cooking pots over the fire. Therefore they
used lumps of soda.
One such time, as the fire grew stronger, streams of liquid
started flowing around the fire. The soda had combined with the sands,
which melted in the intense heat and formed a curious liquid. As the
fires died, the liquid solidified to form a transparent material. This
The basic raw materials of glass, silica i.e. sand and soda,
were thus discovered around 5000 B.C. Man now knew that glass is
nothing but sand, melted and then cooled.
This may seem confusing because we have seen that when solids
melt to form liquids, on cooling, they generally return to their
original state, like wax. Not so in the case of sand. Sand molecules
rearrange themselves in a new fashion once they are melted and cooled,
giving us continuous transparent medium or glass.
These merchants spread this knowledge along the Mediterranean coast and a new craft, that of glass making, was born.
Glass as found in nature
In nature, glass was discovered perhaps during volcanic
eruptions, when certain types of rocks melted and then, cooled and
solidified very rapidly. This was presumably the first known form of
glass. It was called 'obsidian' and was used to make cutting tools like
spears knives etc. by the people of that age.
Other violent natural phenomena (associated with high
temperatures) like lightning strikes into sand dunes, melted sand and
produced glass. The glass from these sources was called 'fulgerite'.
Other names such as hyalopsite, Iceland agate, mountain mahogany and
obsidianites were also prevalent.
These naturally occurring forms of glass are no longer of any significance.
In modern times
Today the art of glass making has flourished all over the
world. The way glass is prepared transformed into various shapes is
remarkable. When in the molten state it flows and then is quickly blown
and moulded. So simple, yet so amazing!
Innovations in style and utility of glass continue to this
day. From décor items to microwave safe dishes… the possibilities are
innumerable. The duality in its nature gives it a kind of mesmerizing
charm; it could be opaque or transparent, clear or colored and strong
Truly, glass is magic born in flames.