Flame work has a long history. Examples of beads and bottles have been found in Viking graves, Egyptian tombs and Roman temples. Thankfully glass was highly prized by the ancient cultures so there are glimpses of its past.
It’s believed that Egyptian glass dates as early as 1550BC. While there is no evidence of the exact methods, according to an article by the Glass Museum these bottles were made by a technique called ‘core form’. It’s thought that small clay kilns directed a fire to a narrow opening to heat the glass to molten before being wrapped around a clay and fibre core. While not exactly a torch or lamp, it would have been a form of flame used to heat glass. Modern lamp workers still use similar techniques.
Oil fuelled hand lamps began to be used in medieval Europe. This gave rise to the term lampwork to describe all glass held in the hand while being melted in a direct heat source. Lampwork was used to form vessels, jewellery and figures from the fourteenth century. Murano, Italy was one of the first centres of excellence and later Lausha, Germany and Nevers, France.
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