A Brief History of Glass and How It’s Made

commercial glass walls

Glass may be one of the world’s oldest man-made materials, but it is also one of the most common and useful building materials. It is used for both decorative and practical purposes, making up windows, ornamental objects, and so much more. At Smitty’s Quality Glass, based in Midvale, Utah, we love how versatile glass is. It can change up the entire look of a room or your house depending on how it’s used. It can be used for windows, mirrors, shower glass doors, glass cabinets, and so much more!  

A Brief History of Glass

The earliest evidence of glass being manufactured dates back to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Before this, people used naturally occurring glass, such as obsidian, to create knives, jewelry, and money. Little is known about how Ancient peoples experimented with glass production. 

Glassmaking became a profession by the late Bronze Age. The process was very slow and unreliable, making glass a rare commodity at the time. To create their wares, artisans would pour molten glass into premade containers.

In the 1st century BC, Palestinian and Syrian artisans changed the entire glass industry when they discovered the art of glass blowing. With the introduction of glass blowing, glass became an easily produced and affordable material. The Romans helped to spread the technique across the Ancient Roman Empire. Over time the techniques were adopted across the world. 

Roman glass manufacturers began experimenting with glass and sometime after 100 AD workers from Alexandria learned how to create clear glass. In Europe during the 13th and 14th centuries, colorful stained glass soon became popular in church and cathedral windows. In 1608 the first glass factory in the United States opened its doors in Jamestown, Virginia.

Several techniques are used in modern glass production:

  • Manual Glass Blowing – This traditional technique is mostly used nowadays to create custom glass containers and art pieces.
  • Float Glass Process – This technique is used to create flare windows. During this process, the glass is laid on a surface of molten metal, such as lead or tin. 
  • Glass Containers – This technique uses three different stages to create glass. Raw materials are melted down before they are poured into container molds and then cooled.

How Glass is Made

In its simplest form, glass is made up of sand, recycled glass, sodium carbonate, calcium carbonate, and heat. Sand reaches its melting point at 3090 degrees Fahrenheit. When it reaches this temperature, it becomes what is known as amorphous, meaning that it is not quite a liquid and is not quite a solid. At this stage, it is moldable and poured into different shaped molds or onto a flat surface to create various glass objects.  

To create windows, machines are used to cut down the poured glass to fit the desired size. The glass is then cleaned using a high-pressure cleaner. Panes of glass are sealed together and pieces of frame are cut and then welded together. Once these steps are complete, the glass and frame are assembled together creating a window.

How Mirrors are Made

At Smitty’s Quality Glass we also specialize in custom-cut mirrors. To make a mirror, manufacturers take a piece of glass, cut and shape it, polish, and then clean it. The transparency of glass along with its smooth finish makes it the perfect base for a mirror. After the glass has been cut, it is coated in a reflective metal. After colling the back surface is painted to prevent any damage. 

Metal coatings such as non-toxic silver, aluminum, gold, or chrome have been used to create the reflective aspect of the mirror. Creating a perfect mirror is tricky because the glass used must be polished to perfection. Any impurity or dip left on the glass creates waves in the mirror, causing distortions in its reflection. Quality control is one of the most important parts of manufacturing mirrors. The mirror’s surface must be inspected using the naked eye or a microscope to ensure there is no unevenness and there are no scratches.

Choose Smitty’s Quality Glass for Your Next Project 

Are you considering a new window installation? Looking to change up your bathroom with some beautiful glass cabinets? Call Smitty’s Quality Glass today. We are a family-owned and operated company and are passionate about providing our clientele with the best customer service and quality products. Contact us today so we can help you with your next project.