Glass is one of the most surprising discoveries made by mankind, and its origin is full of legends and surrounded by mystery. Despite the fact that we do not have precise data about its origin, glass objects have been discovered in Egyptian tombs - thereby it stands to reason that glass was known at least 4000 years BC.
Phoenicia was mentioned by one of the greatest classical historians, Caius Plinius Secundus (also known as Pliny the Elder) as the birthplace of glass. He mentions that Phoenician navigators, leaving fires burning with calcium carbonate on the sand of beaches, observed that after the heating, during the night, a clear liquid would pool at this site: glass.
Another potential source of glass could be natural fusion, such as a fire started by a lightning strike, resulting in glass. It is probable that glass was accidentally discovered. None the less, it is also feasible that glass did not emerge naturally, but by burning pieces of ceramics, or through the fusion of metallic raw ingredients shortly before the bronze age (5.000 - 4000 BC). The oldest ceramic pieces with glassy finish, however, have been dated to approximately 12.000 BC.
Glassmaking only starting its development in the Christian age, around 30 B.C when the blow pipe was invented. This discovery supposedly also happened in Phoenicia and made it possible to shape the pieces. Production centered around the ancient city of Alexandria, from which the Phoneticians exported it across the Mediterranean.
The might of the Roman Empire took glass blowing to a new level. About 100 A.C. Romans started producing and using relatively flat glass to manufacture windows. Even though the glass was opaque it let through enough light illuminate the inner structures of wealthy families. Through the present artists still work with blow pipes, especially when designing decorative pieces with complex geometries.
The first four centuries of the Christian Age were named "the golden age of glass" with production of glass centered around Rome. The Glass industry centered heavily around the Island of Murano in Venice, Italy, from the 13th century onwards. The location was specifically chosen to protect the manufacturing from industrial espionage. Through today crystal pieces still originate with the designation “Murano”.
For two centuries the Venetian glass artists perfected the art of mirror making, finally completing this development around 1600. Magnifying glasses and lenses (graduated glass) were perfected after the 17th century, enabling the development of optical instruments.
Throughout the 18th century glass was perceived as a luxury good, a status symbol of wealth and status. Only with the invention of the heat recovering furnace through famed German inventor Friedrich Siemens was it possible to start production on a larger scale, thereby making glass products available to a wider market.
Thanks to these new furnaces, new products were able to be produced in large numbers, such as the famed light bulbs invented by Thomas Edison. These furnaces also enabled the production of flat glass, by applying production techniques pioneered by Belgian Fourcault and the American combination of Colburn and Owens.
We can see that glass has for accompanied our development and growth throughout much of History.