Mosaic Glass Bead from Roman Egypt

Mosaic Glass Bead from Roman Egypt

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Glass beadmaking

Glass beadmaking is among the oldest human arts, with the oldest known beads dating over 3,000 years. [1] [2] Glass beads have been dated back to at least Roman times. Perhaps the earliest glass-like beads were Egyptian faience beads, a form of clay bead with a self-forming vitreous coating. Glass beads are significant in archaeology because the presence of glass beads often indicate that there was trade and that the beadmaking technology was being spread. In addition, the composition of the glass beads could be analyzed and help archaeologists understand the sources of the beads. [3]

Glass Museum

Known already in ancient times, first in Egypt and then in the Roman age, bead production also came from glass rods.

The first beads to be produced in Venice go back to the fourteenth century, and for centuries these were invaluable items in trade and exportation with Africa, the Americas and India. Depending on which technique is used for their production, Venetian beads can be either conteria (seed beads), rosetta (chevron beads) or a lume (lamp-worked beads). Documented in Murano as early as the fourteenth century, seed beads are monochrome, tiny and produced ‘industrially’ from thin hollow glass rods.

They can be also used for embroidery and different kinds of compositions. Invented in the fifteenth century by Marietta Barovier, Angelo’s daughter, chevron beads are made from hollow rods made of several multi-coloured layers like the murrine. Lamp-worked beads go back to the seventeenth century. These are made by heating a rod of solid glass over a naked flame (lume).

The molten glass drips onto a metal wire that is held in one hand and continually rotated, creating infinite variations, effects and colours with different additions. During the crisis afflicting Murano in the nineteenth century, bead production was the only one that flourished and actually managed to expand. On display here are some interesting and colourful set of samples from some of the most active producers including Franchini family and Domenico Bussolin, who also specialised in filigree.

However, the museum’s extensive collection offers an excursus into the history and the different kinds of Venetian beads, a genre that was of particular significance and closely linked to the city’s history and traditions it played a special role in female employment, starting with Marietta Barovier’s own creativity, and many Murano women have always worked in this sector. Of particular note are the highly skilled Venetian bead threaders, impiraresse, who for centuries, with their box (sessola), full of beads on their knees would sit outdoors in the alleyways and little squares, and were a characteristic feature of a “vernacular” Venice that was full of people and life.

Roman Glass Beads

Are you looking to add a striking and vibrant vintage looking feel to our next jewelry collection? Well, our collection of Roman Glass beads is going to be perfect for you! Salvaged from fragments of ancient Roman Glass from areas along the Silk Road trading route, each and every strand of Roman Glass beads has its own unique story to tell. Here at The Bead Chest, we want to give you as many jewelry design options as possible! From our alluring green toned Roman Glass beads to our luminescent blue toned Roman Glass beads we know we have a perfect Roman Glass bead strand for you and your next jewelry collection!

The production of Roman Glass can be traced back all the beginning of the 1st century AD. Initially, Roman Glass was produced and created using ancient Hellenistic glassmaking techniques. The majority of these manufacturing techniques were very tedious and usually took a ton of time. Due to this, the Roman Glass industry in its early years was a relatively trivial artisan craft that wasn't practiced by many. The most common glass artifacts that were produced during this period we vases and other vessels used to carry water. These Roman Glass artifacts were traded along the Silk Road and eventually made their way to places like Western Asia and the Middle East.

In the late 1st Century glassblowing techniques were starting to get developed and the implementation of these techniques led to more intricate glass artifacts to be created. SInce glassblowing was such a fast was to produce artisan glass the Roman Glass industry exploded and an excess of glass tools, pottery, decorations and various other items were made and sold in Roman markets and traded across the world. Roman Glass production reached its peak in the 2nd Century AD. Roman Glass was being used for windows and was being dyed in various colors like blue and green. The Roman Glass fragments you see today being used as beads can be from items like jars, goblets, windows, bowls, and vases.

In many new age communities, Roman Glass and jewelry are highly sought after due to their many metaphysical healing properties. Withstanding over 2000 years these glass shards have truly stood the test of time. Many believe that Roman Glass beads hold the knowledge of their ancient artisan creators. It is said that Roman glass carries an energy of transformation, rebirth, and communication. It is also said that wearing Roman Glass jewelry will help protect you from negative energy.

Here at The Bead Chest, our lovely assortment of Roman Glass beads is truly going to take your breath away! With such great color choices and an inspiring ancient history representative of perseverance working with our Roman Glass beads is a great way to take your custom jewelry designs to the next level. So please feel free to browse this curated section of Roman Glass beads. We can’t wait to see what you do with them! Here are some of our glass beads are perhaps some of the most unique and rare glass beads available in our store.

Glass Beads -The History and Making Of

Beads are amongst the oldest human art and technology, dating back 30,000 years. They have been dated back to at least Roman times. Perhaps the earliest glass-like beads were Egyptian faience beads, a form of clay with a self-forming vitreous coating.

Glass beads are usually categorized by the method used to manipulate the glass. Most fall into three main categories: wound, drawn, and moulded. There are composites, such as millefiori, where cross-sections of a drawn glass cane are applied to a wound glass core. A very minor industry in blown glass beads also existed in 19th century Venice and France.

It is believed that the Egyptians first used faience (a glazed fused quartz composite) but later developed the core, wound and mosaic methods of using glass to make beads and other decorations. They were the first culture to have glass-making guilds.

Glass beads, however, were not limited to the Egyptians in ancient times. There have been glass beads found in archaeological sites dated between 2,000BC and 10AD in both Austria and Switzerland.

In modern times, they have become a popular form of jewellery, especially in African cultures with necklaces,bracelets, and anklets made of these materials. They can be extremely colourful and bright, making them fashionable and popular in modern times for all cultures.

There are many types of beads and all are named according to the way they are made, including wound, drawn, moulded,lampwork, Dichroic, furnace and lead crystal.

The Types of glass used to construct these include rod, sheet, soda lime, lead, and borosilicate. The material chosen often depends on the hardness, colour, durability, and size required.

Nowadays the Czech Republic is a well-known and reputable producer of these object. Both online and in stores worldwide, Czech glass beads will be sold for a much high price on average than most other types of glass beads. These Czech pieces are often used in necklaces and bracelets and are sold in renowned jewellers across the globe. The Czech's have a reputation for creating beautiful yet durable glass beads consistently.

Many people enjoy making their own jewellery . There are even stores where one can pay to make their own jewellery with glass beads that are provided for them. This has become a popular hobby for many people and has increased the recognition of glass beads across the world. In additon , Lampwork and other artictic craftybeads are back in vogue on the jewellery ciruit.

Timeless Glass Beadmaking History

Glass beadmaking history is one of the important details that must not be forgotten by us. It played a major role in our society nowadays especially if fashion matters. Glass beadmaking history started 3,000 years ago in Egypt, Persia and Greece. Glass beads are said to be the oldest human art technology in history. History consists of eras that gave a big contribution in making glass beads. The major eras are Egyptian era, Roman era, Eastern Mediterranean era and Venice era. Each and every era made a difference in glass beadmaking that is still being practiced nowadays. If it wasn't for their contribution, we wouldn't make beautiful beads until now.

It is believed that the Egyptian era made the ever first glass bead called Faience. They were also the first to discovered wounding, core and mosaic methods. It is believe that wounding is the easiest way of making glass beads that is being done by many nowadays. In Egyptian era, they were the ones who first developed glass-beadmaking guilds and also in imitating precious stones like Lapiz Lazuli and Turquoise, which are opaque like the real stones. Nowadays Egypt is known for making beautiful and colourful necklaces, bracelets and anklets used in African society.

In the other eras in glass beadmaking history, they have discovered different methods like the blown pipe method which is the process of allowing artisan to expand, from the inside of the bead and eliminating the weight and shear amount of glass for core forming method. They also discovered the hollow cane drawn method which is the cheapest and fastest way of making glass beads. Until now Venice remained as one of the top producers of glass beads and still makes different kinds of elegant glass beads. These eras really made a big contribution in glass beadmaking history that's why we have learned to make beautiful glass beads that is being done until now with more modern and stylish pieces.

In modern times, we can say that glass beadmaking history will never be forgotten as long as we still make different kinds of beads. Thanks to them and until now we really benefit from their discoveries. We hope as time goes by we will make different kinds of beads that will also be a history in glass beadmaking.

The History of Glass

For producing glass were absolutely necessary ceramic kilns and the symbol of the potters and later of the glass manufacturers was the salamander, because it was believed that it can survive high temperatures (its skin diffuses a liquid that helps) and that even settled in the fire.

In China in kilns of the Shang dynasty (1600 - 1027 BC) was discovered a kind of primitive glass, but, officialy, it is refered to glass from the 6th c.BC (like in Greece) with the Eastern Zhou (770 - 475 BC), while it reached high development with the Warring States (475 - 221 BC), with the Western Han (206 BC - 8 AD) and Tang (618 - 907) dynasties.

There is no evidence in written Chinese sources about this glass, if, for instance, it was made in China or if it was imported from the West, ready or as raw material. Texts of the W. Han dynasty clearly mention imported glass from the Roman Empire and, also there is a testimony, that travellers from the West taught in China in the year 435 glass manufacturing. Even the words meaning "glass" in Chinese (like boli) are disputed and explained of Sanskrit origin. However, the shape, the decoration and the use of early Chinese glass items suggest, that they were manufactured in China. It seems certain that also this big discovery was accidental and the Roman Plinius (23-79 AD) tells the story of Phoenicians, who saw sand and natrium to turn into glass in a fire.

In China there is information about early porcelain and bronze, but early use of glass is absent and it remains unknown to which of the two hemispheres its discovery must be attributed.The most ancient examples of Chinese glass are the multicoloured beads (colourless glass was later made), which survived human and natural destructions, because of their small size. Since at least the 5th c. BC there was extended glass manufacturing, but this advanced technology could be only explained by a long tradition of more than 2,000 years for which there is no evidence and the possibility, that this glass was imported from the West is, therefore, justified.

In Egypt, glass appears directly in an advanced form and it is probable that Pharaohs, like Touthmoses III, brought back with them after victorious campaigns in Asia qualified workers, that already knew about glass manufacturing.

With the Alchemy of the Taoists inorganic materials of nature mixed together and under high temperatures produce now glass, which will mainly imitate jade and it will inherit its potential to grant immortality.

Solid glass beads, easy to be manufactured, will be followed by concave items, like cups and bottles and by the core technique. Mainly, since 1950 were excavated in many provinces (like in Hubei, Hunan, Henan and Sichuan) early glass objects, arrows, items for the decoration of spades, swords and daggers, belt buckles, bracelets, idols, etc.

Glass will copy shapes of Chinese ceramics, which do not allow any doubt about the country of production of the glass and China was anyway first in manufacturing glass with barium and lead. Since the 14th c. Poshan in Northern China will develop into a big center of glass, because quartz was easy to be found very near. It was melted in kilns and then in rods was sent to Peking, where after second melting were manufactured different items in many colours.

The center in the South will be Canton, while since 1800 during the Qing dynasty glass masterpieces in 30 colours will be as well produced in the Forbidden city of Peking. From the W. Han dynasty (about the same time in Greece) the fused glass will allow mass production and will diminish the cost. Producing glass by blowing air into the glass has been recorded since the 1st c. BC, but there is evidence that the technique was known earlier. The man-made glass was either stuck when warm to the iron rod or was poured liquid or in powder in moulds before it was put in the kiln. The natural glass, like rock crystal, was worked by hand and it was more difficult to give to the bead, for instance, the round shape than to make it in a mould.

Glass was known to the ancient Greeks, but they did not make extended use up to the Hellenistic period.
Beads of rock crystal were found in Mycenae, but bigger objects, (like the cup of Kakovatos) were, probably, imported, at least the material, because in the Greek nature (Crete, Taygetos, etc.) there is no rock crystal in such big size. On the contrary there was plenty of obsidian (petrified lava), especially on the island of Milos and it was used for weapons and tools.

Early History of Windows & Glass

The early history of windows & glass from ancient to medieval times including stain glass from ancient Chinese times.

The point of view from which the subject of stained glass is approached in these chapters relieves me, happily, from the very difficult task of determining the date or the whereabouts of the remote origin of coloured windows, and the still remoter beginnings of glass itself. The briefest summary of scarcely disputable facts bearing upon the evolution of the art of window making, is here enough. We need not vex our minds with speculation.

White glass (and that of extreme purity) would seem to have been known to the Chinese as long ago as 2300 B.C., for they were then already using astronomical instruments, of which the lenses were presumably of glass. Of coloured glass there is yet earlier record. Egyptologists tell us that at least five if not six thousand years ago the Egyptians made jewels of glass. Indeed, it is more than probable that this was the earliest use to which stained glass was put, and that the very raison d'etre of glass making was a species of forgery. In some of the most ancient tombs have been found scarabs of glass in deliberate imitation of rubies arid emeralds, sapphires and other precious stones. The glass beads found broadcast in three quarters of the globe were quite possibly passed off by Phoenician traders upon the confiding barbarian as jewels of great price. At all S.G.B events, glass beads, according to Sir John Lubbock, were in use in the bronze age and, if we may trust the evidence of etymology, "bedes" are perhaps as ancient as praying.

Apart from trickery and fraud, to imitate seems to be a foible of humanity. The Greeks and their Roman successors made glass in imitation of agate and onyx and all kinds of precious marbles. They devised also coloured glass coated with white glass, which could be cut cameo fashiona kind of glass much used, though in a different way, in later Mediaeval windows.

The Venetians carried further the pretty Greek invention of embedding vitreous threads of milky white or colour in clear glass, the most beautiful form of which is that known as latticelli, or reticelli (reticulated or lace glass), from the elaborate twisting and interlacing of the threads but nothing certain seems to be known about Venetian glass until the end of the eleventh century, although by the thirteenth the neighbouring island of Murano was famous for its production. The Venetians found a new stone to imitate, aventurine, and they imitated it marvellously.

So far, however, glass was used in the first instance for jewellery, and in the second for vessels of various kinds. Its use in architecture was confined mainly to mosaic, originally, no doubt, to supply the place of brighter tints not forthcoming in marble.

Of the use of glass in windows there is not very ancient mention. The climate of Greece or Egypt, and the way of life there, gave scant occasion for it. But at Herculaneum and Pompeii, there have been found fair sized slabs of window glass, not of very perfect manufacture, apparently cast, and probably at no time very translucent. Remains also of what was presumably window glass have been found among the ruins of Roman villas in England. In the basilicas of Christian Rome the arched window openings wrere sometimes filled with slabs of marble, in which were piercings to receive glass (which may or may not have been coloured), foreshadowing, so to speak, the plate tracery of Early Gothic builders. According to M. Levy, the windows of Early Mediaeval Flemish churches were often filled in this Roman way with plaques of stone pierced with circular openings to receive glass.

Another Roman practice was to set panes of glass in bronze or copper framing, and even in lead. Here we have the beginning of the practice identified with Mediaeval glaziers.

There is no reason to suppose that the ancients practised glass painting as we understand it. Discs of Greek glass have been found which are indeed painted, but not with colour fused with the material and certainly these were not used for windows.

The very early Christians were not in a position to indulge in, or even to desire, luxuries such as stained glass windows, but St. Jerome and St. Chrysostom make allusion to them. It is pretty certain that these must have been simple mosaics in stained glass, unpainted : one reads that between the lines of the records that have come down to us.

Stained and painted glass, such as we find in the earliest existing Mediaeval windows, may possibly date back to the reign of Charlemagne (800), but it may safely be said not to occur earlier than the Holy Roman Empire. A couple of hundred years later mention of it begins to occur rather frequently in Church records and there is one particular account of the furnishing of the chapel of the first Benedictine Monastery at Monte Cassino with a whole series of windows in 1066which fixes the date of the Norman Conquest as a period at which stained glass windows can no longer have been uncommon. The Cistercian interdict, restricting the order to the use of white glass (1134), argues something like ecclesiastical over-indulgence in rich windows before the middle of the next century.

Fragments, more or less plentiful, of the very earliest glass may still remain embedded in windows of a later period (the material was too precious not to have been carefully preserved) but archaeologists appear to be agreed that no complete window of the ninth or tenth century has been preserved, and that even of the eleventh there is nothing that can quite certainly be identified. After that doctors begin to differ. But the general consensus of opinion is, that there is comparatively little that can be incontrovertibly set down even to the twelfth century. The great mass of Early Gothic Glass belongs indubitably to the thirteenth century and when one speaks of Early Glass it is usually thirteenth century work which is meant.

The remote origin of glass, then, remains for ever lost in the mist of legendary days. There is even a fable to the effect that it dates from the building of the Tower of Babel, when God's fire from heaven vitrified the bricks employed by its too presumptuous builders.

Coloured glass comes to us from the East that much it is safe to conclude. From ancient Egypt, probably, the art of the glass-worker found its way to Phoenicia, thence to Greece and Rome, and so to Byzantium, Venice, and eventually France, where stained glass windows, as we know them, first occur.

It is probably to the French that Europe owes the introduction of coloured windows, a colony of Venetian glass-workers having, they say, settled at Limoges in the year 979.

Some of the earliest French glass is to be found at Chartres, Le-Mans, Angers, Reims, and Chalons-sur-Marne and at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, at Paris, there are some fragments of twelfth century work which may be more conveniently examined than the work in situ. The oldest to which one can assign a definite date is that at St. Denis (1108) but its value is almost nullified by expert restoration.

In Germany the oldest date is ascribed to some small windows at Augsburg, executed, it is said, by the monks of Tegernsee about the year 1000. There is also a certain amount of twelfth century work incorporated in the later windows at Strasbourg. The oldest remains of glass in England are, in all probability, certain fragments in the nave of York Minster. The more important windows at Canterbury, Salisbury, and Lincoln are of the thirteenth century.

Religious Use

In western Europe, Islamic mosaic and tile art was introduced by the Moors in the eighth century. These pieces of art contained mainly mathematical and geographical images. Even though mosaic art became slightly unpopular by the middle ages, the expanding tile industry increased demand for mosaic tiling patterns in religious buildings by the 19th century. Many of the Islam and Christian mosaics still can be seen today in mosques and temples around the world. These religious institutions mixed with the introduction of mass tile production launched the trend of decorating floors with mosaics.

Ancient Technology: Glass

Glass is one of those things that you probably interact with constantly without realizing it. Take a moment to look around. How many glass things do you see? For me, windows, my phone and laptop screen, the fluorescents on the ceiling, my watch, and though it took an embarrassingly long amount of time to realize, but my glasses too. We interact with many other things that are made of glass, like your car windshield, maybe a wine glass at dinner, or a jar of jam in the fridge.

Glass has a very long history, and many different types of glass have been invented and worked with through time.

The archaeology of glass begins in the Middle East. Thanks to active trade routes, archaeologists are not sure where exactly glass was first invented. Most experts believe that Mesopotamia was likely the origin point for glass production, but the method quickly spread to northern Syria and Egypt. It is thought that glass dates back to between 5000 and 6000 years ago in this area, but the Middle East was not the only area to develop the technology. Archaeologists have also uncovered evidence that glass was being produced in India around four thousand years ago.

Mesopotamian glass pendant over 3000 years old (Photo from Cornish Museum of Glass, accession number 63.1.26)

Most ancient glass was made with silica, which is commonly present in sand. Artisans would take the silica and combine it with other raw materials to lower its melting temperature since silica alone needs far too much heat to melt—approximately 1700 degrees Celsius. In addition to adding materials to lower the melting temperature, other materials were added to change the glass’s properties. Different materials could alter the color of the glass as well as its malleability, so the finished product could withstand being very thin or tolerate the weight of a larger thickness.

There is debate on where exactly glass was officially invented, but there are instruction manuals on how to produce glass that archaeologists have found in ancient Mesopotamia. These instructions were written in cuneiform on clay tablets around 3300 years ago and sent out to different parts of the ancient world. Glass also emerges in Ancient Egypt around the same time. Later, around 2000 years ago, glass making started in India. At first, archaeologists believed that the technology had emerged in India thanks to its trade ties with Mesopotamia. However, thanks to further excavation and study, most now believe that Indian cultures independently invented glass-making technology. Many sites have been excavated and show the deep knowledge these ancient artisans had at creating not only uniquely colored glass objects, but durable ones as well.

Though glass is now commonplace and inexpensive, it used to be an extremely valuable commodity. This was for a few reasons. The first is how different glass looked from

Egyptian Core Formed Vase from around 3000 years ago (Photo from Cornish Museum of Glass, accession number 66.1.213)


Glassblowing is a technique first developed by the Syrians around 2000 years ago, around the same time as the Roman Empire. It is important because it made glass cheaper and more widely available for the lower class. No longer was glass only affordable to the highest social classes, but the faster and cheaper process made glass something that most regular people could afford to own. Blown glass, at the time, was usually reserved for making different kinds of vessels. Thanks to Roman trade routes, these glass objects traveled far and wide throughout the empire. Because glass blowing was less expensive and time-consuming, the practice spread around the Roman Empire and gained popularity as a craft.

Eventually, major cities became homes to glassblowing, and places like Venice became synonymous with producing this craft. The production of glass became so lucrative that glassblowers kept their skills and recipes a secret, only passing them on to their students.

Stained glass window from Chartres Cathedral in France (Photo from Tashka, iStock/Getty Images)

Glass today is used everywhere, and technology has changed it to be used for many different things from the controlled shatter of your windshield to the enhanced durability of your phone screen. Though used in many modern-day expressions, glass was a major invention of ancient cultures that changed artistic expression. Glass spread around the world as a valuable commodity. Even today, some of the most expensive pieces of art are glass works.

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