I am Glass. You know me since the beginning of time and I have been your friend since I have found my feet into this world. From protecting you in form of bullet proof glass to guiding your voyages in airplanes and space crafts to fulfilling very basic needs of your every day life through mirrors, computers, laptops, windows, windshields, doors, floors and the other countless things that I m turned into to serve you I m with you, for you always.
I have found my way into your kid’s fairy tales right from the snowhite’s Glass coffin to the Evil Queen’s Magic Mirror I ve found many ways to enchant your children and enrich their lives. I can be found even on the moon in my natural form. One of the samples of moonrock, brought to earth by the crew of the Apollo-14, contained me.
Now I will tell you about my story and how I came into existence and evolved thereafter to become what I am today.
I was discovered accidentally by Phoenician merchants transporting stone, in the region of Syria around 5000 BC. After landing on a shore, the merchants placed cooking pots on blocks of nitrate placed by their fire. The intense heat of the fire caused the blocks eventually to melt and mix with the sand of the beach and formed an opaque liquid. ME.
In Egypt and Eastern Mesopotamia, my non transparent beads were found which dated back to 3500 BC. By this time in central Mesopotamia, my basic raw materials were being used principally to produce glazes on pots and vases. These products and the new art of making me, was then spread by Phoenician merchants and sailors along the coasts of the Mediterranean.
After 1500 BC, Egyptian craftsmen began developing a method for producing my pots by dipping a core mold of compacted sand in my molten form and then turning the mold so that my molten form adhered to it and then I was rolled on a slab of stone to be smoothed and decorated.
I still remember the three vases made from me bearing the name of the Pharaoh Thoutmosis III , who brought glassmakers to Egypt as prisoners following a successful military campaign in Asia.
Over the years I was passed on to the other corners of the world and travelled to the beautiful nation called Italy.
Assyrian king Ashurbanipal even made a manual which described about how I could be made and the instructions on how to make me are engraved on it.
27 BC – AD 14
Between these times a great discovery was made which helped to greatly beautify me and I discovered numerous ways in which I could be molded and took variety of shapes which were impossible before. It was a glassblowing tube which still gives me company.
The Roman influence
There have been many civilizations before the Romans who used me but none like them could have been so important in taking me to the world and devising newer ways to make and it was them who started using me for architectural purposes. Only after that did I realized that I was bound for immortality and my purpose of existence is to serve the human race in all the forms I can.
Romans shipped me all over Europe and Mediterranean region, my traces were also found in China where I went unnoticed along with the Silk trade and became a part of people’s lives.
A significant change took place in Europe when because of the difficulties in importing raw materials I was made out of Potash obtained from burning trees.
The 11th Century also saw the development by German glass craftsmen of a technique – then further developed by Venetian craftsmen in the 13th century – which was the production of sheets made from me.
In the Middle Ages, the Italian city of Venice assumed its role as the glassmaking centre of the western world. The Venetian merchant fleet ruled the Mediterranean waves and helped supply Venice’s glass craftsmen with the technical know-how of their counterparts in Syria, and with the artistic influence of Islam.
1271 – 1291
A 1271 ordinance, laid down certain protectionist measures such as a ban on my imports and a ban on foreign glassmakers who wished to work in Venice.
In 1291, because of the frequent fires that were caused while making me, my production was shifted to the island of Murano which also made it easier for the city in ensuring that none of the secrets in making me were exported.
15th and 16th Century
In the second half of the 15th century, the craftsmen of Murano started using quartz sand and potash made from sea plants to produce particularly pure crystal. By the end of the 16th century, nearly half of the island’s 7,000 inhabitants were involved in some way in the glassmaking industry.
English glassmaker George Ravenscroft,has been instrumental in developing me in lead crystal form who patented me in 1674. By using higher proportions of lead oxide instead of potash, he succeeded in producing me with high refractive index which was very well suited for deep cutting and engraving.
From developing a new process to produce my plates, which was used in mirrors, with good optical transmissions qualities to aggressively promote its own glassmaking France was doing everything it could to woo Venetian glassmakers to shift base to France, French nationality after eight years and total exemption from taxes, to name just two.
Late 19th century
One of the key figures and my Modern Forefathers was the German scientist Otto Schott who used scientific methods to study the effects of numerous chemical elements on my optical and thermal properties. Schott teamed up with Ernst Abbe, a professor at the University of Jena and joint owner of the Carl Zeiss firm, to make significant technological advances.
Another major contributor in my evolution towards mass production was Friedrich Siemens, who invented the tank furnace and changed the way I was produced.
There were tremendous inventions during this period in America and Europe which further intensified my production like the automatic bottle blowing machine invented by the American Engineer Michael Owens and also Gob feeder and Individual Section (IS) Machines.
In the production of my flat glass type the first real innovation came in 1905 when a Belgian named Fourcault managed to vertically draw my continuous sheet of a consistent width from the tank. Commercial production of sheet glass using the Fourcault process eventually got under way in 1914.
Around the end of the First World War, another Belgian engineer Emil Bicheroux developed a process whereby my molten form was poured from a pot directly through two rollers which transformed me into a glass with a more even thickness, and made my grinding and polishing easier and more economical.
1910 – 1917
Lamination was introduced by this time which strengthened me like never before and in US, Colburn developed another method for drawing my sheets which was first used for commercial production in 1917.
The float process developed after the Second World War by Britain’s Pilkington Brothers Ltd., and introduced in 1959, combined my brilliant finish of sheet glass with my optical qualities of plate glass.
Today in these changing times, I m also ever evolving and increasing my reach and spheres and the way i touch the lives of the humans. Today I am strong enough to replace the walls of the building on my own and brave enough to accompany humans to the dark horizons of the outer space in form of Hardened bulk metallic glass foam. As a dichroic glass – sometimes known as ‘fused glass’ I am used in jewelry, the optical and security industry and other applications.
I have dedicated my entire life to serve humans and will continue to do so till the end of time. This is a story to be shared with all my future generations and passed on so that they all know about the deep rooted connection between us and humans and continue to serve them and take their race in new directions with both us working in tandem.