According to the ancient historian, Pliny, glass was discovered by a party of Phoenician seamen who set anchor near the mouth of the Belus river on the coast of Israel. Read More...
As they cooked a pot of soup over some natron bricks, they noticed the sand and the natron melting and fusing into a liquid beneath the fire. Although the story is likely a mythical legend, it may bear a grain of truth, since sand from the coast in the area of the Belus river was considered ideal for making glass.
The invention of glass occurred as early as the late 16th century BC in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Sand, soda, and lime heated together in a furnace produce a thick fluid which hardens when cooled. Originally glass was used to form solid beads and pendants, but eventually, glassmakers realized that they could wrap molten glass around a vessel-shaped core, which they removed once the glass hardened. Later, glassmakers poured molten glass into molds to form vessels.
During the first century BC, the technique of glassblowing emerged. The glassmaker would dip the end of a hollow metal pipe into molten glass, gathering a gob of the material on the end of the pipe. He then would blow air through the pipe to create a bubble. Tongs were used to pinch and form the vessel as well as to add handles and decorations. A heavy metal rod, known as a pontil, was used to separate the vessel from the blowpipe.
Two of the earliest known workshops that employed the technique were located in Jerusalem and in the region of Galilee. Glassblowing enabled glassmakers to produce large quantities of glass vessels quickly. It also facilitated the production of a wider variety of vessels. With the invention of glassblowing, glass vessels became widely popular. Vessel types from the end of the first century BC and the first century AD include bowls, beakers, jugs, bottles, and perfume flasks.
Glass vessels were produced in a variety of colors based on the local materials available. Most vessels produced in the Holy Land are pale blue or green, although purple and clear vessels also exist. Early sources suggest that clear glass was considered to be more valuable than tinted glass. Occasionally cobalt blue vessels come to light in archaeological excavations, but these are almost certainly imported vessels and not locally made. In addition to the color of the glass, ancient glass vessels typically feature an iridescent coating, which reflects a variety of colors. This coating, known as a patina, is the result of mineral buildup that occurred over the centuries.
Tear bottles are a unique vessel type with a corresponding tradition. It is said that every time a young woman cried, she would collect her tears in a bottle. Over time, the tears would accumulate in the bottle. As part of her wedding ceremony, the young woman would present her bottle of tears to her new husband, entrusting him with the safekeeping of her emotions. The tradition of collecting tears goes back to first temple times. The psalmist, David, wrote,
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
Glass in the Roman period had many uses in the first century that we can also read about in the New Testament. Here in Gethsemane, Jesus asks God the Father "Would you take this cup away from me".
Ancient jars, vases, flasks, anointment bottles and other home-wares had multiple uses by the rich in the Roman period.
Items such as tear bottles that were used to collect tears for memories, was tradition among the Patricians of the Roman empire.
Roman glass for sale to a collectible that is increasing in value as time passes and makes a wonderful heirloom. This beautiful glass was made 2000 years ago and comes with a certificate of authenticity from the Israel Antiquities Authority.