Quartz scientific glass blowing has spanned the period from the ancient Egyptians around 1500 B.C. to the present day’s innovations.
It was probably around 1500 B.C. when the ancient Egyptians learned how to use glass to glaze tiles and to make the first glass beads for jewellery. This has been disputed by the Roman philosopher Pliny, who believed that the Phoenicians were the first to discover glass.
Pliny’s narrative was that during the first century the Phoenicians used blocks of soda (sodium carbonate) as a support for cooking vessels. This soda combined with the sand beneath under the heat from cooking to produce a melt that became recognised as an early glass. However, this is an apocryphal story, as glass was already a well-used decorative material in the Roman Empire at this time.
But this ancient glass was very opaque and contained lots of bubbles. This is not the product that quartz scientific glassblowing ceramic today seeks to make. But it has been a long process to refine the final glass product.
Glass making spread throughout the region known as today’s Middle East during the second century, producing beads, jewellery and scent bottles. Wine bottles and drinking glasses became common by the fourth century. Colours could be added to glass by incorporating small amounts of gold, cobalt, iron and copper. All any location needed was a supply of sand for the raw material and forests for fuel for the fires. This made Venice the world’s glass-making leader by 1400, especially the island of Murano within the inner part of the Venice Lagoon.
But the Venetian dominance was soon snatched away by French and German glassmakers, who wanted to create their own local industries and create the famous windows in their cathedrals. They devised an efficient method for creating flat glass. Meanwhile, the decorative glassmakers settled in Bohemia, making the Czech lands a centre for affordable decorative glass to the present day.
As scientific discoveries progressed from the Renaissance over later centuries, the craft of quartz scientific glass blowing was created. Glass was born because of a need to make simple implements and adornments and progressed through elaborate jewellery and decorations to today’s highly specialised technology.
Present-day scientific investigators worry about the thresholds that scientific glass can sustain during their experiments with lasers or corrosive materials. But they have to thank the ancient Egyptians for modern quartz scientific glass blowing and their light and adaptable experimental apparatus.
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