How Was Glass Invented and When?

Glass is useful for all sorts of things, especially windows. Before glass, homes must either have been very dark but warm, or light but cold.

Smashing Stuff. Glass is sand that’s been heated to a very high temperature. Obsidian is a natural glass, made by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. Lightning strikes on sand also produce natural glass, called fulgarites.

We don’t know when, where or how the first synthetic glass was made, or who invented it. Someone probably invented it by accident. As far as we know, the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians were the first to use it, as glass beads for jewellery, around 2500 BC. A thousand years later, the Egyptians were making glass bottles in moulds.

Around 10 BC, someone in Syria realised that glass could be blown: if you put a blob of liquid glass on the end of a hollow tube and blow, you can make it into a bubble, then shape it to produce bottles, glasses, bowls and other objects. (This takes a bit of practice, obviously.)

The first glass window panes were made in the Middle Ages. The most common method was to blow liquid glass into a disc, which could then be cut and flattened into panes. Windows were made in this way until the 1800s, when a method of making glass in plates was invented. Soon ordinary people were able to look out of the window and keep out the rain at the same time.

People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Early window glass was quite e difficult to see through. Until the late 1700s, anything seen through a glass window wasn’t admissible as evidence in an English law court.

Make your own stained-glass window and give these medieval church builders a run for their money! The way stained glass is made hasn’t really changed since the Middle Ages – until someone invented coloured tissue paper, that is.


tissue paper in various colours, a thick black marker, black card, glue, a pencil, white card, a white coloured pencil, scissors


1. Draw your stained-glass design on a piece of white card. When it’s finished, go over the of the drawing with a thick black marker pen.

2. Carefully cut out your design, then place this template over a piece of black card and trace around the cut-out with a white pencil. Remove the template to find your design traced on to the black card.

3. Now you need to cut out your design on the black card very carefully. This is the frame You can use your original white card template again to trace the tissue paper shapes.

4. Make sure when you cut out the tissue paper that you make all the shapes a bit bigger than you have drawn them, so there is room to glue them to the frame.

5. Glue the tissue-paper shapes into place behind the gaps in your design. Once you have finished, stick it to a window and watch the
sunlight stream through it.

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  • Sandra Callahan

    I have a glass serving bowl and platter set that is so old I can’t find anything like it on any site.
    They aren’t even perfect round. They look as if they were rolled out like dough and laid over something to cool and harden.
    There is a nice wave of grooves to one side etched from the back.
    I would love to send pictures of these to someone who knows what they are looking at.