“We have had a long love affair with glass. It inspires us with its beauty, surprises us with its versatility, challenges us with its complex physical properties, and transforms our lives with its unique technical capabilities” (Wendell Weeks, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, Corning Incorporated)
Glass is all around us in our everyday lives, so much so that we perhaps often take it for granted. Yet this natural material is used in the most delicate processes – from intricate Lalique glass sculpting to complex engineering constructions such as the amazing glass bottomed skywalk above the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon in Central China. So who discovered glass in the first place?
The use of glass is rooted in ancient history and, as with many discoveries, it was found through natural occurrences. In this case it was volcanic activities that formed a natural glass called obsidian, by melting sand in the intense heat and then distributing it during an eruption, which the population at the time found very useful for making spear tips!
That was just the start. Around 4000BC, manmade glass was being used as glazing for stone beads and by 1500BC, the first glass container is believed to have been made by adding a layer of molten glass to a core made of sand.
From 100BC, glass blowing was the most popular way to make glass containers. However the impurities in the raw materials made it densely coloured so it was unsuitable for use as windows. It wasn’t until the end of the first century AD that colourless glass was being used.
During the years of Roman domination, the secret to making glass was closely guarded and remained that way until the fall of the Roman Empire when the skills became accessible to wider Europe and the Middle East. In Britain, there is evidence that the first glass industry developed around Wearmouth and Jarrow in the North of England around 680 AD and by the 1200s, the industry had spread to include areas around the Weald, Surrey, Sussex and Chiddingford.
So who came up with the idea of using glass in windows?
Well, as with many inventions that we still use today (roads, sanitation, sewage etc.) we have the Romans to thank! When glass was discovered in Roman-occupied Egypt it wasn’t only used as decoration, it was also used as small panes that were set into openings, so the Romans brought the idea with them when they occupied Britain.
The manufacturing process at that time only allowed for small-sized glass panes until the 17th century when a process for making larger panes of glass was discovered. All well and good you might think, that is until 1696 when King William III introduced a ‘window tax’ which levied a ‘tax’ according to the number of windows in your property. Many people bricked up their windows to avoid paying, hence the origination of the saying ‘daylight robbery’! It wasn’t until 1851 that the tax was finally repealed.
1834 saw a cylinder sheet process imported from Germany that enabled Britain to manufacture higher quality glass in larger sheets that was far less expensive than previously-used methods. Along with the withdrawal of the window tax, this made it much more affordable for people to have windows in their homes – and the rest is history as it is said!
Glazing has come a long way!
Double glazing was introduced in the latter part of the 20th century as a way to improve energy efficiency in homes and innovation in the industry continues today with a specific focus on U-values and energy efficiency. The energy efficiency of sealed unit windows is rated in terms of a set of energy efficiency classes from A++ being the most energy efficient to G which is the least efficient.
At Custom Glaze we are always on top of the latest developments in the glazing industry so we can give our customers peace of mind that they are making the right choice for their homes. In fact we install A+ windows as standard so you can be absolutely certain that your home will be well protected from the elements and any unwanted visitors!
With no window tax (shhhh!! don’t give the government any ideas!), energy-efficient gazing and a huge range of styles and colours to choose from, it’s a great time to invest in your home and reap the rewards of what our ancestors discovered and developed all those thousands of years ago.