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The History of Glass V7 | The Baroque period – 1600-1750

The Baroque period – 1600-1750 

By Dr Jessamy Kelly, glass artist and educator

In this article we will examine the development of crystal in the 17th and 18th century and the Baroque and Rocco eras of glassmaking. The development of lead crystal by George Ravenscroft in London, in 1674 and early engraved examples from Germany and Bohemia will be discussed. 

Figure 1 Roemer, Savoy Glasshouse, made by George Ravenscroft England, London, about 1676-1678, 50.2.2. Courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass. 

 

The term crystal usually means glass that contains lead oxide. Only glass products that have at least 24% lead oxide can be legally called ‘lead crystal’. In the mid 17th century, George Ravenscroft discovered that if you add lead to clear glass it creates crystal, which is a glass that has a greater brilliance. The lead oxide increases the refractive index which allows the glass to bend light more to create optical and prismatic effects. This Ravenscroft wine glass is based on a German shape called a rummer and resembles a medieval goblet, the cup has diamond patterns on it which were created by pinching the vertical ribs of the glass whilst hot with pincers, a raven’s head can be seen on the stem of the goblet, which is the crest of the Ravenscroft family (see figure 1). 

A Seventeenth-century Anglo-Venetian vessel, with Dutch engraving, at The National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unlike many modern glass manufacturers Cumbria Crystal still use lead crystal. Our glass contains 24% lead oxide creating a brilliant shine, enabling glass to be blown thicker without discolouration and an enhanced refractive index when cut by our master craftsmen. Historically ‘full-lead’ crystal using 30% lead oxide was popular. The differences are imperceptible but enable us to reduce our environmental footprint. Being slightly softer than soda-lime glass, lead crystal is eminently suitable for carving, eventually leading to the evolution of decorative cut-crystal in which Cumbria Crystal specialises today.  

In the mid 17th century, glassmakers across central Europe developed other formulas for clear, colourless glasses. Cutters and engravers created highly ornate glass objects that imitated rock crystal by cutting into the glass with abrasive wheels. In Germany and Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), they combined potash with chalk to create a clear colourless glass, that could be cut with a wheel. They excelled in decolourised glass, creating elaborate forms with intricate cutting and engraving in the Baroque and Rococo styles.  

In the 17th century, the German gem cutter Caspar Lehmann adapted the technique of copper and bronze wheel engraving from gem cutting. Lehmann created his most significant works in the Baroque style at the Potsdam glassworks, in Brandenburg, Germany. Huge goblets and beakers often with over-sized lids were engraved for the German court (see figure 2). The engraved glass tradition was continued at Potsdam by many notable engravers including Gottfried Spiller, this beautiful covered beaker bears the monogram of Frederick III Elector of Brandenburg, the first King of Prussia (see figure 3). 

During this period, glassmaker Johann Kunckel was working at the Potsdam glassworks and produced a ruby glass by adding purple of Cassius to the batch containing gold. He created large, intricately decorated glass vessels, which were engraved and often mounted with precious metals, this piece was engraved by Gottfried Spiller (see figure 4). 

Next month we will look at European cut & engraved Glass from the Biedermeier period 1800 – 1940, we will also look at examples from the Viennese firm of J. and L. Lobmeyr who commissioned ground breaking designs for their glass from the Wiener Werkstatte, who were a group of early modernist Architects and painters. 

By Dr Jessamy Kelly

Jessamy Kelly is a glass artist and educator based in Edinburgh, she has worked as a freelance glass designer for Cumbria Crystal since 2016. She is the designer of the Loop and Palm collections.


Do you have any questions or feedback? We would very much like you to share by emailing verity@cumbriacrystal.com

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Autumn/Winter 2021 delivery update


Thank you for your interest in ordering world leading, completely handmade, luxury lead-crystal from Cumbria Crystal.

Please scroll down for your options when ordering in the coming months.


The luxury crystal industry is experiencing longer lead-times than normal. This is due to a combination of post-Brexit rebound and a shortage of talented craftspeople, combined with and growing demand globally for luxury products. This is compounded by increasing numbers of manufacturers moving away from working with expensive lead-crystal to cheaper materials, or by employing mass-production or automated processes to reduce costs. 

On average it takes 15 years to train a glassblower to achieve the standards we demand & five years for an engraver. We are different from many companies in that we only use original historical techniques, have not automated anything, use only traditional clay pot-furnaces and everything is done by hand by our small team of skilled staff. 

Due to the fact we currently have very little stock already created and that each order is made especially for that customer, our longest wait times now are up to 6 months.

What this does mean is that your order will be especially crafted in our factory in the English Lake District just for you. We endeavour to complete orders as quickly as we can without compromising on quality, but the nature of the process means it is difficult to increase production. We are currently seeking to recruit more skilled staff to help address this issue longer term.


To assist you we have a variety of options available to ensure your customer journey with Cumbria Crystal is of an excellent standard.


Are you ordering crystal for yourself and have no particular rush for it?

Please place your order as normal. We will schedule our team of artisans to create your piece(s) especially for you, 100% by hand, to be delivered within 6 months.

You may wish to call us +44 01229 584 400 before placing your order, or drop us an e-mail to  shop@cumbriacrystal.com  so our team can assess and advise which products may be available, which need to be made, and/or advise on alternatives. On occasion dispatch is delayed whilst we wait for a single item from a large order to be crafted, especially if it not something we make very often, or is in high demand. In this case you may wish to consider receiving your order in more than one delivery. Please advise us in the order notes if this option would be of interest.


Are you ordering crystal for yourself, or as a gift, would like it within the next few months but don’t mind which collection?


Please call  +44 01229 584 400 or e-mail us shop@cumbriacrystal.com

We usually have a limited amount of crystal available that can be picked, polished and sent out at shorter notice. Call or e-mail us so can review your requirements and what we have available to help you meet them.


Are you ordering crystal for a gift and are happy to wait, but need something to give temporarily in place of the item?

Please place your order as normal, however in your the Notes at the Checkout section request a ‘Commission Letter’ and the address you would like it sending to ‘Send to me’ or ‘Send to recipient’. You will find more information about how our Commission Letter offer works  here. We will then request our team of artisans to create your piece(s) especially for you, 100% by hand, to be delivered to the recipient as soon as it is completed within the next 6 months.

Are you ordering crystal for a gift and need something within the next few days?

Please place an order for a ‘gift e-voucher’ by clicking here.

This will be sent directly to you within 1 business day. You can either choose to print the voucher, or place the unique code within a card to gift to someone. If you would like a paper voucher sending to you, please call us on +44 01229 584400 to arrange.


We hope that one of these options meets your needs and we are always available to discuss your potential order with you by calling +44 01229 584400 (Monday – Friday 10-5. Saturday & Sunday 10-4) or via e-mail shop@cumbriacrystal.com


We thank you for supporting our small, British company who endeavour to keep the art of traditional crystal making alive for many years to come and we look forward to delivering our luxury crystal to your home soon.

Want to learn more about our process and why it takes a minimum of 10 days to handcraft a single item? Click here

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3 James Bond inspired cocktails for you to enjoy

double old fashion whisky tumbler

Finally, after an 18 month wait, the next instalment of the 007 franchise is here; No Time To Die.

Delayed due to the pandemic, the 25th film – and Daniel Craig’s last outing as Bond – hit the big screens in the UK on 30th September.

What’s the story? Bond is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica after leaving active service. However, his peace is short-lived as his old CIA friend, Felix Leiter, shows up and asks for help.

We thought it was a great opportunity to celebrate some of Secret Agent 007’s favourite cocktails that have featured on screen over the past 59 years.

Our Grasmere Double Old Fashioned Glass featured in James Bond’s Casino Royale

Vesper Martini

As featured in CASINO ROYALE

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Lillet blanc aperitif
  • Garnish: lemon twist

Steps

  1. Add the gin, vodka and Lillet blanc into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
  2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  3. Express the oils from a lemon twist over the drink, rub the twist along the rim of the glass and drop it into the cocktail.

Purchase the Loop Martini Glass

Americano

As featured in CASINO ROYALE, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, A VIEW TO A KILL

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces Campari
  • 1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
  • Club soda, to top
  • Garnish: orange twist

Steps

  1. Fill a highball glass with ice, then add the Campari and sweet vermouth.
  2. Top with the club soda and stir gently to combine.
  3. Garnish with an orange twist.

Purchase the Boogie Woogie Highball Glass

Old Fashioned

As featured in THUNDERBALL, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, LIVE AND LET DIE

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • Garnish: orange peel

Steps

  1. Add the sugar and bitters to a rocks glass, then add the water, and stir until the sugar is nearly dissolved.
  2. Fill the glass with large ice cubes, add the bourbon, and gently stir to combine.
  3. Express the oil of an orange peel over the glass, then drop in.

Purchase the Grasmere Double Old Fashioned Glass

If you decide to give them a go, make sure you tag us when you share your photographs on social media or send directly to us at verity@cumbriacrystal.com

Recipes from www.liquor.com

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The History of Glass V6 | Venetian Glass

Venetian Glass

By Dr Jessamy Kelly, glass artist and educator

Between the 13th and 15th century, Venice was a key route for world trade, from which it rose to be the prominent and important glass making centre it is today. A distinct style emerged that blended Roman glass techniques with skills learned from the Byzantine empire. Venetian glass experienced a golden age during the Renaissance, creating superior products that became widely copied and imitated throughout Europe.

Figure 1 Wineglass (about 1600–1699). CMoG 63.3.12. Image licensed by The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (www.cmog.org) under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

At this time glassblowers in Venice had to be Venetian citizens and were banned from foreign travel.  In the 13th century, Glass production was moved to the island of Murano to ensure the trade secrets were kept safe and to protect the industry from outsiders. It was forbidden to divulge trade secrets. If a glassworker left the city without permission, he would be ordered to return.  If he failed, his family would be imprisoned. If he still did not return, an assassin would be sent to kill him. However, the industry was deprived of external influences which meant that the industry eventually stagnated and started to decline.

The Venetian style was widely copied and was known as Façon de Venise (Venetian fashion), a type of glass made in the style of Venetian Glass but not made in Venice itself. Often cheaper than the real thing, these imitations damaged the sale of Venetian glass.

The rise of glass as an artistic medium saw new levels of technical innovation. Early glass often had a colour-cast caused by impurities, such as metallic oxides, in the raw materials. As such clear glass was highly sought after. Venetian glass evolved to be blown very thin, effectively diluting the colour cast, and making it look clear. A major breakthrough came in 1450 when Angelo Barovier developed Cristallo glass. Cristallo is a nearly colourless glass which emulated rock crystal (see figure 1). It was usually combined with opulent decorative techniques such as enamelling and gilding which were painted on top.

Also of interest, is this fine example of a filigrana wine glass made from a delicate case of white glass canes on a thin layer of cristallo. This wine glass is known as the Rosenborg type, it was made for the Danish king, Frederick IV and were sent to castle Rosenborg (see figure 2).

A true feat of Venetian glass making is this 17th century dragon-stem goblet which has a serpent with wings for its stem. The style has its origin in the Baroque period (see figure3). Glass artist Bill Gudenrath, is one of a few contemporary craftsmen who have perfected this technique; watch an online demonstration of Bill making a dragon-stem goblet at the Corning Museum of Glass, in America.



Figure 4. Bowl (1600–1699). CMoG 9.3.1108. Gift of the Ruth Bryan Strauss Memorial Foundation.Image licensed by The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (www.cmog.org) under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

The Renaissance saw a mania for hardstones such as chalcedony, agate, jade, jasper, bloodstone, prase, topaz and lapis lazuli spread across Europe. Venetian glassmakers began to imitate these materials in their glass creating intricate, coloured effects. This Calcedonio bowl is in the collection of the Corning Museum of Glass and is also known as agate glass. It is an excellent example of this technique which sees a light opaque background mixed with warm and darker tones of coloured oxides creating the streaky agate, or quartz-like, effect (see figure 4).

Highly innovative, the Venetian glassmakers experimented with Roman glass techniques, a range of typical Venetian glassblowing techniques developed from what was known as mosaic glass. Renowned for decorating their glass vessels with brightly coloured cane and fine filigree. Techniques such as millefiori (thousand flowers) were created. Multi-coloured glass rods were bundled together, rather like spaghetti, fused & then stretched to make to make a new rod with the pattern. A similar process to extruding making sweets such as sticks of rock.  Slices were then cut off, assembled to make a  pattern & fused together to create a sheet of glass which could be rolled up into vessel forms containing a pattern of tiny delicate flowers (see figure 5). These techniques survive today and are widely practiced in the studio glass community.

Next month we will look at the development of crystal from 17th and 18th century, with early examples from Germany and Bohemia and the development of lead crystal by George Ravenscroft in London, in 1674.

By Dr Jessamy Kelly

Jessamy Kelly is a glass artist and educator based in Edinburgh, she has worked as a freelance glass designer for Cumbria Crystal since 2016. She is the designer of the Loop and Palm collections.


Do you have any questions or feedback? We would very much like you to share by emailing verity@cumbriacrystal.com

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As seen on screen with Cumbria Crystal

Over the past few decades, Cumbria Crystal has graced our big, and small, screens countless times.

Why does it appear to be the Crystal of choice for the industry you ask? Firstly, due to the lead crystal content, it offers incredible shine and sparkle under studio lights. Secondly, our Grasmere collection – which is the collection of choice for the industry – fits perfectly into stories set in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Below we share some examples of our crystal in motion and we very much welcome you to get in touch if you have seen our collections grace your screen at any point verity@cumbriacrystal.com

Grasmere Highball featured in The Crown (Netflix)

Casino Royale

Thanks to 007, our Grasmere Double Old Fashioned Whiskey glass is our most popular item with customers around the world enjoying their favourite whiskey or bourbon from this vessel. It is after a close shave in the 2006 film that Bond decides to calm his nerves with something strong from our very own glass. We have the exact moment right here for you to watch.

Purchase Grasmere Double Old Fashioned Whiskey Glass (inc. free premium gift box)

Sherlock Holmes

Set just before the turn of the 20th century in 1891, we see Holmes and Watson (Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law) enjoying – or rather squabbling over – champagne from our Vintage style glasses whilst Holmes older brother, Mycroft (Steven Fry) sips a suspected dark rum from the same glass that 007 favours.

Purchase a set of Grasmere Vintage Champagne Flutes (inc. free premium gift box)

Downton Abbey

We are extremely proud to have supplied all the crystal for the filming of Downton Abbey for both the series and film. Our Grasmere collection fits perfectly with the early 20th century setting and aristocratic lifestyle of the Crawleys.

We have specifically chosen the clip above as not only does it show our crystal in motion at Downton but it features one of our wonderful team members Hilary Frankland who, after 23 years as our lead crystal marker, is retiring.

Wishing you a happy and healthy retirement Hilary from all at Cumbria Crystal, customers, followers and friends.

double old fashion whisky tumbler

Where else have you spotted our crystal? Maybe you have taken a trip to the cinema or began a new box set and thought you recognised what the characters are drinking from?

Sometimes we work directly with the production company to provide our crystal for their sets but other times they are supplied via prop companies so we know we have appeared in many pieces of media we are yet to discover. Do drop us an email if you have any information to share with us verity@cumbriacrystal.com

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The History of Glass V5 | Byzantine Glass

Byzantine Glass

By Dr Jessamy Kelly, glass artist and educator

This month we will discuss the epoch of Byzantine Glass from the Middle East, which saw an elevated demand as high-end, luxury objects spread around the world, widely dispersing Islamic glass through trade.

Figure 1 Glass flask, blown glass, 4th–6th century A.D. Early Byzantine, Roman, Syrian. Image courtesy of the Met Museum.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Western glass making was seriously affected. However, in the East, highly decorative glass continued to flourish with a range of mosaics, kiln cast and blown glass vessels produced during this period.

The Byzantine Empire was the continued legacy of the Roman Empire in the East during late antiquity (284AD-700AD) into the middle-ages (5th– 15th century). Constantinople, known today as Istanbul, was the capital of the Roman Empire, in Turkey. When considering Byzantine glass from this period, it is apparent that there is a superfluity of technique and process.

During the 9th century decorative techniques were pioneered, including metallic stains which created a lustre. Into the 10th & 11th century cast and cut vessels were improved upon with some very fine examples created. Between the 12th and 14th centuries gilding and enamelling techniques were pioneered, creating beautifully ornate designs on the glass.

Byzantine glass makers were based in the Levant, better known today as Syria and Palestine. They worked in a distinct style, notable examples from this period include glass drinking flasks that have a u-shaped mouth, where the mouth of the bottle is like a cylindrical funnel usually with fine threads of glass wound around the neck, often with handles to aid pouring (see figure 1). Or, a swan shaped neck, where the delicate neck of the bottle is twisted back (see figure 2). These are often called ashkdans and were apparently for collecting the tears of wives whose husbands were fighting wars. 

Mosaics were a huge part of the Roman Empire and exceptional examples were created during the Byzantine period. Mosaics are images or patterns created from numerous small pieces of coloured stone, glass or ceramic set with mortar and were often used as floor or wall decoration. This beautiful panel (see figure 3) is a mix of marble and glass tesserae. It depicts a woman with very detailed jewellery holding a measuring tool, with a man offering a cornucopia to her left. The piece was restored by the Met Museum and is held in their collection.

Our final example is a beautifully enamelled and gilded glass candlestick. The surface is completely covered in Islamic geometric patterns, which include hand-painted hexagons and stars that encircle the piece (see figure 4). It is a fine example of Mamluk art from the late 14th and 15th centuries, the inscription on the piece is dedicated to a Mamluk sultan. The Mamluk capital Cairo, became a centre of trade in the Islamic world which created an economic, cultural and artistic hub.



Figure 4. Candlestick, enamelled and gilded blown glass, probably Egypt, about 1340-1365. Image courtesy of the Corning Museum of Glass.

Next month we will look at Venetian Glass from the 15th-17th Centuries, a style emerged that blended Roman glass making techniques with skills learned from the Byzantine Empire. Located at the European end of the famous Silk Road, which stretched all the way to China, Venice became a great trading centre and the most important glass-making centre in the world.

By Dr Jessamy Kelly

Jessamy Kelly is a glass artist and educator based in Edinburgh, she has worked as a freelance glass designer for Cumbria Crystal since 2016. She is the designer of the Loop and Palm collections.


Do you have any questions or feedback? We would very much like you to share by emailing verity@cumbriacrystal.com

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3 places to see beautiful stained glass in England

Inspired by Volume 4 of our The History of Glass series – which focuses on Medieval Glass – we decided to highlight 3 beautiful examples of stained glass within England that you can go and visit during the summer.

Photo by Luca Lago on Unsplash

  1. St Paul’s Monastery, Jarrow (Tyne and Wear)

The monastery at Jarrow was one of Europe’s most influential centres of learning and culture in the 7th century. The remains standing today are from the medieval monastery, but part of the Anglo-Saxon monastery survives today as the chancel of St Paul’s Church.

Visiting information Free to enter and open any reasonable time during daylight hours. Sat nav NE32 2DY.

Reconstructed stained glass made from excavated glass from St Paul’s Church, Jarrow, Courtesy of the Jarrow Hall Museum Collection

However, to see Europe’s largest collection of Saxon Coloured Window Glass you will need to make your way over to Jarrow Hall around the corner from the church.

2. St Lawrence Jewry, City of London

The official church to the Lord Mayor of London, this place of worship was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and rebuilt to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren (St Paul’s Cathedral). Understated compared to its designers grander projects, this baroque building was extensively damaged during the Second World War but still remained standing and was made a listed building in 1950.

Visiting information Equidistant to 4 Tube stations: Bank (Exit 9), Mansion House, St. Paul’s and Moorgate. EC2V 5AA (next to Guildhall).

Wikipedia

Want a deeper stained-glass fix whilst in London? Hot foot your way across the city to the splendid V&A museum (free entry) where you will find a very good collection of glass from Egyptian to the present day.

3. Claife Heights Viewing Station, Ambleside (Cumbria)

On the shores of the largest lake in England you will find this viewing station built in the 1790s which offers breath-taking views of Windermere and its surrounding area.

Best known for its dinner dances in 1830s and 40s – which had the exciting novelty of being reached by boat – the building had windows tinted with coloured glass, designed to recreate the landscape under different seasonal conditions. Yellow created a summer landscape, orange an autumn one, light green for spring, dark blue for moonlight and so on.

Although open air and inclined to be classed as ruins, the National Trust have restored the remaining structure bringing back the coloured glass to provide the 21st century visitor with a similar visual experience guests had 200 years ago.

Visiting information Take the ferry from Bowness on Windermere and you are just a few minutes away from this location where there is also a café. Sat nav LA22 0LR.

Did you know you are only 40 minutes – and a beautiful along-the-lake drive – from the Cumbria Crystal shop and factory? Come and see our artisans at work and get to see our luxurious crystal for yourself. Just head to Ulverston and we are opposite Booths at the entrance to the town (sat nav LA12 7LB).

Do you have a favourite spot featuring stained or coloured glass? Let us know via social media or email verity@cumbriacrystal.com Photographs are always welcomed.

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The History of Glass V4 | Medieval glass

Medieval glass

By Dr Jessamy Kelly, glass artist and educator

This month we are looking at Medieval Glass from the middle-ages, which has a wide spanning history from the fall of the Roman Empire (5th century A.D.), when many glass-making techniques were forgotten or lost, until the rise of the Byzantine Empire. Over time many forgotten glass techniques were rediscovered and glass-making began to flourish once again, alongside luxurious glass imported from the Middle East, with a number of outstanding historical examples worthy of discussion.

Figure 1 Reconstructed stained glass made from excavated glass from St Paul’s Church, Jarrow, Courtesy of the Jarrow Hall Museum Collection

Medieval Glass usually evokes a strong image of stained-glass windows, which were the foremost pictorial art form of the time. These illuminated biblical narratives would have been hugely influential to the beholder and been central to religious life. In the 5th & 6th centuries window glass, in the form of small clear roundels, were introduced to Britain by the Romans. However, this went out of use when the Roman legions left.

In the 7th century, early pioneers in the North-East of England introduced some of the first stained-glass windows to Anglo-Saxon England – including York Minister; St Peters Church in Sunderland and the Monkwearmouth Jarrow monastery, home to the venerable Bede, an enlightened scholar of the time.

A significant example is a reconstructed stained-glass panel made from excavated glass from St Paul’s Church, Jarrow (see figure 1). The cultural significance of this piece is the likely connection with the scholar Bede, a monk at the monastery in Jarrow in the early 6th century who wrote about the Abbott Biscop who travelled to France to find specialist glaziers to fit stained glass windows into the St Peter’s Church in Monkwearmouth Sunderland.

English glassmaking is rumoured to have developed near Sunderland as the high-quality sand needed to make glass, could replace the traditional ballast used in French trading ships, creating a commercial advantage for the shippers & eventually an established trading route.

These sites are now recognised as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The stained glass within them would have been likely inspired by windows seen on pilgramages to France, Germany & Italy. Jarrow Hall in the North-East of England has the largest European Collection of 7th & 8th century coloured window glass from excavated finds at the site.

Moving away from architectural glass, German Wald Glass or Forest Glass stems from the late medieval period (1000-1200 AD) and has a distinctive green colour due to iron impurities present in the sand used to make it. A key ingredient in the production of this glass was potash, which came from the ashes of trees or ferns from the forest, hence the name. It was an early example of craftsman using local materials that were to hand. Decorated beakers and bottles (see figures 2 & 3) became very popular during this time. Practical in form they often had decorative trails and prunts applied by the glassblower. It is thought these motifs were added to stop the glass slipping through the hand, possibly when eating greasy foods.


Figure 4 Beaker with Lions (1175–1225). CMoG 67.1.11. Image licensed by The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (www.cmog.org) under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Our final example is the Hedwig Beakers, ornate drinking glasses from the 12th century. They are elaborately decorated with Christian iconography including lions, griffins and eagles however, their origin is from the Middle East. Historians suggest that they were possibly crafted by Muslim craftsmen during the crusades and were likely made for export to Europe, or for Christian clients. The glasses take their name from a Silesian princess, Saint Hedwig. Their origins are widely disputed and could be from Egypt, Iran or Syria. In total, 14 glasses of this type have been found, all have similar decorations and shape, made from a smoky grey glass with a greenish or yellowish tinge. Made to imitate rock crystal – an extremely luxurious material in the middle-ages; it is thought that they may have been part of a chalice (see figure 4).

Next month we will discuss the epoch of Byzantine Glass from the middle east spanning the 10th to 15th centuries, which were in demand as high-end, luxury objects around the world.

By Dr Jessamy Kelly

Jessamy Kelly is a glass artist and educator based in Edinburgh, she has worked as a freelance glass designer for Cumbria Crystal since 2016. She is the designer of the Loop and Palm collections.


Do you have any questions or feedback? We would very much like you to share by emailing verity@cumbriacrystal.com

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The Artisans | Part One

“For the artisan, craft is an end in itself. For you, the artist, craft is the vehicle for expressing your vision. Craft is the visible edge of art.”

David Bayles Author of Art and Fear

It a rarity nowadays to have a luxury product made entirely by hand yet accessible to most. Whether you are wanting to purchase entire collections for your home, looking for a hand-engraved wedding gift or simply want a piece or two of luxury crystal to enjoy your favourite tipple in; we welcome you.

Teams of three or five highly skilled glass makers work together to produce each Cumbria Crystal product, in what appears to be a choreographed alchemists dance. Lead crystal is gathered from the furnace at a temperature of 1240 degrees Celsius. It is then blown into a graphite or steel mould by the blower before being handed to the servitor who casts on extra glass, using a traditional factory technique rarely seen today, to create the stem and foot. This is achieved by hand, using using wood and metal tools that haven’t changed in 2000 years.

Even today it typically it takes 15 years to train a glass blower.

Once blown the product is passed to the apprentice who cracks it off the blowing-iron and places it into the annealing lehr (kiln) to slowly cool overnight, before it moves to the next stage of production.

A typical product takes 12 days to create from start to finish.

Liquid crystal, fierce flames, intense heat, precision moulds, finesse blowing, precise marvering, perfect forming, crystal fusing. This short film takes you on a journey of the beginnings of the creation of our popular Goblet shape. Experience our glass blowers working together to create a unique piece of crystal using simply their talent and tools that date back centuries. View our range of Goblets here.

Our viewing platform is now open once again so if you happen to be visiting the beautiful Lake District make sure to come to the wonderful market town of Ulverston and watch the artisans at work before your very eyes.

Part two, coming soon.

Thanks go to DVG Creative who produced this short film.

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The History of Glass V3 | Roman glass

Roman glass

By Dr Jessamy Kelly, glass artist and educator

The cultural and social significance of ancient glass, is a wide reaching, rich and varied topic, this blog is a journey through glass history from ancient glass right up to present day. This month we are looking at Roman glass.

Cage Cup (probably 300-399). CMoG 87.1.1. Purchased with funds from the Arthur Rubloff Residuary Trust. Image licensed by The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (www.cmog.org) under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

In the 1st century BC, glassblowing was developed in Syria. By AD 50 it became the leading glass forming technique completely revolutionizing how glass had been produced for thousands of years. Glass blowing is, a glass forming technique that involves the inflation of molten glass using a hollow metal pipe, called a blowing iron, to inflate a glass bubble, which can then be manipulated into a wide range of vessel shapes of varying sizes. This technique was quicker and easier than other earlier techniques, making glass vessels considerably more affordable. This was especially true when glass was blown into terracotta moulds enabling large numbers of products to be produced quickly.

Glass blowing as a technique quickly spread through the Roman Empire from the eastern Mediterranean to the west. By the 1st century AD, the Roman glass industry grew exponentially, due to a period of advanced technical growth. A range of decorative finishing techniques were developed such as gilding, enamelling and painting. Techniques were developed during this era that enabled exceptionally high-quality cut and engraved products to be produced. Cage cups, such as the Lycurgus Cup (see figure 1), were made and are a true feat of glass-cutting technology, where a thick blown glass vessel is painstakingly cut away to create a design which is connected to the wall of the vessel by small bridges hidden behind the decoration. A truly amazing example of this is the Lycurgus Cup which depicts an ill-fated king who is seen being strangled by vines after taunting Dionysos, the ancient Greek God of wine. What is particularly of note about this cup is that it is made from dichroic glass, where small nano-particles of gold and silver are mixed into the glass so that it changes from a green colour when lit from in front, to red, when lit from inside or behind the cup.

Around the turn of the 1st century BC/AD cameo cut glass vessels were introduced, the most famous example of this style being the Portland vase, which is housed in the British Museum, London (see figure 3). This vase is an excellent example of Roman cameo glass, a hot glass bubble of one colour glass was encased in an outer layer of another colour. Once cooled the outer layers were cut away to create a design in relief. The most common colour scheme of Roman cameo glass was opaque white over transparent dark blue.


Renowned for their love of feasting, Roberto Bompiani shows his extensive research into a range of ancient artefacts in this painted feast scene (see figure 4). The authenticity of the painting is supported by research of the frescoes, marble, tables, lamps, and vessels all were drawn from Greek, Roman, and Etruscan sources. An intricate footed glass bowl and large drinking vessels are part of this opulent scene, which indicates the social context and frivolity of this feast and the use of glass; which is something which we can all connect with – socialising with friends over fine wine and food. As a form of storytelling the painting brings these historical artefacts back to life and makes us think about their significance and meaning.


Figure 4.  A Roman Feast by Roberto Bompiani (late 19th century), oil on canvas. Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Next month’s newsletter will introduce Medieval Glass, from AD 400-1066, including green forest glass and some outstanding examples of Medieval stained glass.

By Dr Jessamy Kelly

Jessamy Kelly is a glass artist and educator based in Edinburgh, she has worked as a freelance glass designer for Cumbria Crystal since 2016.


Do you have any questions or feedback? We would very much like you to share by emailing verity@cumbriacrystal.com