Glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly at a 2005 exhibition in Kew Gardens, London, England. The piece is 13 feet (4 m) high (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
TAUNTON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 10: Glass maker and blower Will Shakspeare makes glass baubles in his workshop at Shakspeare Glass and Gallery on December 10, 2010 in Taunton, England. The traditional glass maker based in Somerset is currently hand making over 100 glass baubles a day to deal with the Christmas demand. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Nowadays, when you find out that what you thought was a real Garnet is actually just a plain glass imitation, it’s not very fun, but many years ago, when glass making was still a new art, glass was practically a gem itself!
It is said that it was accidentally discovered by Phoenician merchants who were carrying a cargo of nitrum. The merchants stopped on an island to replenish their water supply. Then merchants decided to eat their evening meal on the beach, warming themselves by the cook fire as they watched the sun set over the sea. They couldn’t find any stones to prop the cooking pot over the fire, so they used the nitrum from their cargo. When the merchants lit the fire, it melted the sand and the nitrum, (don’t ask how they got the fire so hot, remember, this is a folktale) where they combined to form glass (the nitrum just is there to keep the silica from crystallizing and forming reaction with other compounds).
That is what glass is: silicon dioxide (also know as silica or SiO2) in a non-crystallized form (I’ll try to get a post about crystallization out to you sometime).
Anyways, after this discovery, the merchant probably doused the blob of glass with water, talked excitedly, and set sail for home as fast as the wind could carry them. From then on, the production and arts of glass making would have escalated, people figuring out how to color it, then make bottles by glass blowing, until finally in roman times it began to be used to cover up the holes in houses, aka as windows.