A Brief History of Engraved Glass

The process of glassmaking goes back in history to the times of the Egyptians around 3000 B.C. These early civilizations initially used the opaque glass they produced to make vessels for drinking and transporting water. Soon after they discovered the method for producing glass, they started refining it to create glass in a wide array of colors and eventually made it transparent. All of these innovations in the way that glass was made gave artists of the day a new medium to explore and beautiful creations soon began to emerge.

The first art to use this new medium took advantage of the various colored glass and combined small pieces of it into a mosaic scene that would catch the light passing through it. Many churches commissioned artists to create windows for their buildings using this technique and some of them still exist. The wide choice of colors for glass gave these artists an almost limitless pallet to work from and many of these stained glass windows were spectacular in their beauty.

Another one of the more popular techniques for working with glass involved layering either writing or pictures on its surface through engraving. This delicate art was initially done with small metal scribes and chisels to create the scene on the surface of the raw glass. This technique was used to create a wide diversity of art that could be made to commemorate almost any occasion. This field was typically divided into two sections. One of these sections produced actual sculptures that were engraved from solid glass blocks, much like working in other materials, and the other was more subtle and involved only the surface of the glass. This second technique was a bit more challenging since the artist has to be very careful when working with such a delicate material as a sheet of glass.

This surface engraving initially involved a very difficult technique that required very sharp tools, a steady hand and unlimited patience on the part of the artist. They would normally work on a single piece of glass for hours, engraving and polishing the surface to achieve the desired result. As this field expanded to other parts of the world, more sophisticated tools were slowly developed to make the process easier and more accurate. Some of these involved using chemicals such as acid to do the engraving and others employed power tools that spun at high speeds to mark the glass. All of these innovations have led to the modern art of engraved glass.


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