Glassblowing has a long and intriguing history.
You may be asking yourself, where did it all begin? Based on archaeological evidence the earliest form of glassblowing occurred around 1500 BC with the Egyptians. They used it to glaze tiles, make decorative figurines, as well as make some of the earliest beads. Philosopher Pliny did write a text that describes a glassy substance found under the campfires of Phoenicians around the first century AD. However, numerous attempts to recreate what Pliny described have failed to demonstrate glass being formed in this way.
When looking at unearthed examples of glassblowing from the past, the finished product is quite different from what you and I see today. For example, ancient glass containers were opaque, had numerous seeds of undissolved sand and air bubbles trapped within. However this being said it still demonstrates man’s earliest attempts at what will be the long and developing techniques of glassblowing. Even though a lot of the techniques had not been quite refined, by examining archaeological evidence we are able to determine that a lot of the tools used in the past are still used to this day.
During the second century AD the usage of glass began spreading across the Middle East. It was quite a valuable trade commodity for things like beads, jugs, amulets and things of that nature. With the spread of the use of glass, the areas that produced it began to spread as well. Greece samples show that during their time and era, glass making had already developed with the usage of pipes.
While glassblowing continued to spread and become more available to the general populace rather than just the affluent, one area came to dominate the art form around this time. This area was located in Venice Italy. The area had the perfect elements to be at the top of their trade; a huge forest to fuel their forging fires and high quality sand for crafting. As glassblowing continued to grow and become such a valued source of income for the area, the glassblowers were actually moved to the island of Murano away from the major city. With time as the merchants learned the value of the product, the glassblowers were actually kept from leaving the islands to attempt to secure the monopoly on the product.
Attempting to keep the secrets of the glass houses locked away ultimately failed. The secrets of the trade were so sought after that bribing as well as outright kidnapping of the glass workers of the island eventually led to the spread of the process to the North. With time, Venice continued to lose this battle as the other neighboring areas began to rival and then outrank them in glass production and technique.
Even in the new world early settlers realized the great potential market and demand for glass. With the settling of Jamestown numerous workers were brought over to set up the very first glass houses here to keep up with the demand. However, due to massive expansion in the area the vast numerous forest that were needed to fuel the furnaces began to decline. With that decline so did the profitability of the glasshouses in Jamestown which ultimately led to the rise of neighboring glasshouses.