Glass, as we know it today, was manufactured for the first time some 3500 years ago, near the Syria-Mesopotamia region. And its journey from being a material source for practical objects like jars and glasses and bowls to being crafted into attractive pieces of jewellery has been a long and interesting one.

Colour and Glass

During the manufacture process of glass, it often got coloured – sometimes due to the impurities present in the materials and often due to the deliberate use of metallic oxides. Cobalt was used to impart a deep azure blue while copper and/or iron were used if the glass was to be coloured turquoise-blue. Lead was used for getting yellow glass, copper oxides were employed to achieve orange and red-coloured glass, while violet-coloured glass was created by using manganese salts.

Coloured glass beads

Multicolored beads and vessels were created by using method called ‘flame-working’, which itself was a variation of the ancient core-forming technique. This involved using pre-made tubes or rods of colored glass (cane) and melting them directly onto the surface of the existing glass bead or vessel in order to create a polychrome design. The molten colored glass rods would then be easily worked with a metal pin to be moulded into intricate patterns and designs. Vertical ribs could be created across the surface by employing a metal comb.

The Dark Ages saw a proliferation in the manufacture of rosaries, thanks to the growing demand from the Catholic Church.These rosaries and beads were created using what is known as the ‘lampworking method’. This method reached its peak during the 14th century in Murano, Italy, the epicenter of glass-making. During the Renaissance period, glass artisans of Murano melted the colored-glass rods and then moulded it into desired shapes while it was still in the molten state, by blowing on it, or shaping it with a combination of tools and hand movements.

Modern-day glass beads in fashion jewellery

Glass beads are today all the rage in women’s fashion jewellery and make for some stunning earrings, necklaces, bracelets and even anklets. Murano glass is particularly well-known for its jewellery that has been finely crafted by Italian artisans in charming designs in contemporary styles.