What is Glass Anyway?

I recently went to a museum of glass and watched people blow the glass in a hot oven to create beautiful decorations that could last a lifetime (if they don’t drop). This got me wondering… exactly what do we know about glass? For me, the answer was not much, so I went investigating to learn more about this versatile and beautiful material.

The History of Glass

Glassblowing is an ancient form of art held at the utmost importance in certain cultures. Origins of this skill can be traced back to Mesopotamia, Greece, and China.

Originally, glass was used both for function and decoration. Ancient civilizations made weapons from volcanic black glass. Decorative glass was used to tell stories or create beautiful artwork that last a lifetime. At one point in history, glass blowing was considered a coveted skill. Countries would forbid glaziers to leave the land in fear they would spread the knowledge of how to make and blow glass to other regions.

The Uses of Glass

Glass can be a work of art, but there are many practical uses for glass as well. In fact, we use glass a lot more than we may even think! Glass is in our cars and house windows, glass containers, glass insulation and the fiber-optic cable that brings you the internet. With so much glass in our lives, as well as such beauty in the art of glass making, how is it that we know so little about the substance?

Natural Glass Origins

Naturally made glass can come from a variety of sources including volcanoes, lightning, and meteors.

Volcanic eruptions can be a very scary sight, but the glass that occurs when the crystalized pieces cool quickly can add to the danger because it could very well rain glass! This glass is typically streaked or swirly.

Lightning can create glass when it strikes sand that has high concentration of silica. While it is rare, there are sites online that sell these beautiful glass creations. This glass beauty is called a fulgurite and usually sits below the surface, although it can be dug up or exposed by erosion.

Meteors can also apparently create glass that’s out of this world. Impactites, or glass rocks that form from a meteorite impact, are very rare but stunning coming in many different shapes and colors with some a dazzling green and others a brilliant gold.

Glass Today

Today we have new technology that allows even an average person to blow a glass ornament or bowl with the guidance of an instructor. With glaziers creating new and innovative ways to use, create, or decorate glass I can’t wait to see where this field heads in the future.

While glass may not be something we think about often, it is all around us and vital to our everyday life. Glass can be simple or a work of art, manmade or natural. The looks and uses are endless, but what is clear is that glass is something we should know more about.