When you look at your glass windows do you ever wonder just about the history it took to get here? Surprisingly glass has an ancient history that is very interesting, we thought you might like to know just what is behind all those windows to the world you see everywhere.
Glass making can be traced back to about 3,000 BC and then due to several catastrophes in the Mediterranean area glass went out of use until about 900 BC. So for almost two thousand years glass actually disappeared from history.
Probably the earliest glass was a by-product in probably an accidental way from the smelting of metal, so in a sense the use of this transparent material is as important a development as making metal and they go in hand.
It was truly though a luxury product that only the rich could afford, and was at times a closely guarded secret. The average person was lucky to have some beads made from the material and the larger pieces were made exclusively for the upper classes.
Today, it is used by just about everyone and in so many, many things. Like your smart-phone screen that was actually developed in the mid 1960s and sat on a shelf until Apple was looking for very high strength, low density material for the first Iphone. It was originally plastic, but that was changed in a famous marketing idea launched by Steve Jobs. But a few thousand years ago it was just a luxury product right up there with salt, gold and ostrich feathers…
It took a few more centuries but the Romans picked up on how to make glass, refined the process and more or less perfected the art. It was not until the end of the 18th century that their methods were replaced with more modern ones. Not a bad run for methods when they last around 2,000 years.
Czech and northern Italy were Mecca’s of production and even today some of the best glass comes from these areas. Venice is still famous for her glass works. And nothing beats Northern European crystal.
What really changed glass production though was the advent of flat-glass. They used to make glass fairly level at one time by pouring it out on flat metal sheets and then cutting it, or dragging molten glass up from a trough and letting it cool. Both methods made for glass that was clear but would have differing thicknesses and a lot of small imperfections. To see this take a close look at a window that was made about 100 years ago. Notice the edges and imperfections?
In 1959 Pilkington Glass made a new process for making glass perfectly flat. This involved floating the molten glass on a base of liquid tin. This made for zero imperfections and a highly controlled system to make glass in any thickness. It was actually revolutionary.
And from 1959 you can see how glass has become a building product right up there with steel and concrete.
So when you do look out your window, think about the thousands of years people have worked on making that surface absolutely perfect. I suppose for glass the future could not be clearer…
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