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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 ( 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

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Our top five films to watch with your father

Whether you are lucky enough to visit your father in person this year or have arranged a Zoom call with him, here are 5 films we believe are perfect to watch on Father’s Day this year.

You may be the father yourself reading this, so feel free to send this list of suggestions to your children and pencil in some time to share together and watch something you will both enjoy.

Photo by Noom Peerapong on Unsplash

  1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crudsade (1989)

Let’s start with the classic father and son on-screen duo; junior and dad. This Steven Spielberg film sees Dr Jones embarking on a journey to save his father who disappeared whilst searching for the Holy Grail. Whether you are revisiting – or viewing for the first time – be ready for adventure, laughter and a feeling of relief that your own father isn’t a professor of medieval literature!

2. Vertigo (1958)

Want to watch the greatest film of all time with your father? This 1958 box office flop reached the top spot in Sight and Sound’s – once every decade – poll. An Alfred Hitchcock film, not for the faint hearted, which follows Detective Scottie who suffers from acrophobia and is hired to investigate the strange activities of an old friend’s wife. At over 60 years old, don’t expect incredible visual artistry but do expect to be gripped by the intense storyline.

3. Like Father (2018)

Not every father-child relationship is plain sailing and this film beautifully demonstrates the complexities of a relationship that we are taught is enduring and unshakable. When a woman is ditched at the alter, she is left to bond with her estranged father on, what was to be, her honeymoon cruise. The sensational Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer make, what could be deemed as fluff on paper, a piece that is deep, emotional and very true to reality for some.

4. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

This film – based on a true story – is a true testament to the enduring love of a father who wants to do everything he can to provide for his son for a better life. Newly separated, financially broke and living on the streets with his son he takes on a 6-month unpaid internship and lives off hope, determination and the chance of a better life.

5. Casino Royale (2006)

There had to be a Bond film featured amongst the list and so we chose the one that also features our very own crystal. We join Daniel Craig on his first mission as 007 where Bond must defeat a banker funding terrorists in a high-stakes game of poker at Casino Royale, Montenegro. Expect the classic car chases, stunning scenery and close shaves we have come to expect from the films inspired by Ian Fleming’s literature.

double old fashion whisky tumbler

Want to gift your father something he can enjoy for years to come? Our bestselling crystal glass – Grasmere Double Old Fashioned Whisky Tumbler – was used by Daniel Craig during Casino Royale and is the perfect present for 20 June 2021. Our team of artisans are currently handcrafting theses glasses as quickly as they can, but due to huge demand there is an 8 week lead time.

However, if you order today – stating in your order notes you would like a commission letter – we will send you an IOU you can gift to your father on the day whilst he waits to receive his gift boxed, crystal glass in the near future.

Plus, enter the code PREMIUM, and receive Free UK Mainland Postage (worth £18).

Purchase Grasmere Double Old Fashioned Whisky Tumbler

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The History of Glass V2 | Hellenistic Glass 325 BC – AD 400

Hellenistic Glass 325 BC – AD 400

By Dr Jessamy Kelly, glass artist and educator

Examining the many facets of a glass artefact and imagining the stories it can tell can be an inspiring and evocative experience. Ancient glass artefacts can act as bridges to the past, by understanding how they were made and used and the unique social and spiritual values they embody.

Figure 1. Glass mosaic ribbed bowl late 1st century B.C.–early 1st century A.D. Image courtesy of the Met Museum

This series of articles can be viewed as a gateway through which to navigate the cultural significance of glass through time. This month we are delving into the Hellenistic period, a rich and colourful chapter of ancient glass history, which includes the years between the reign of Alexander the Great and the early years of the Roman Empire. Glass artefacts from this period can be traced back across a wide span of regions from the Mediterranean to Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa.

Much of the glass produced during this era predates glass blowing, the style is exemplified by the process by which glass vessels were produced using a kiln[1]. Key techniques such as mosaic glass became the hallmark of this period, fairly large bowls and platters created from colourful canes of glass. The canes were laid into a mould and then heated in a kiln so that they became fused and slumped together to form a colourful mosaic. The vessels were made up of many small spirals and stars arranged in a range of bright or mono-chromatic glass colours (see Figure 1).

A further example is lacework or reticella glass, which was created from spirals of twisted glass canes known as tesserae which were assembled next to each other to form intricate patterns (see Figure 2). Mosaic glass was a highly sophisticated technique, the main drawback was the labour, as it was extremely time consuming to form and polish the glass. Over time, it was replaced by glass blowing which was much more efficient. Today, fused glass has evolved from this origin to be a wide and highly technical subset of kiln forming.

[1] an oven or furnace used for processing glass by high firing it in a mould, kilns are also used in pottery.

Figure 2. Lace Mosaic Bowl, Roman Empire, Italy, 225-100 BCE. Image courtesy of the Corning Museum of Glass

A topic close to many of our hearts is wine. The cultivation of grapes for wine making, predates the Hellenistic Age, but during this epoch it became widely popularised and many glass drinking vessels were made for lavish social events that focused on drinking and feasting. This Levantine wine cup was an early kiln formed example, the glass would have been placed in a wooden foot as the disc shaped based would have been unstable (see Figure 3). The base would have been very useful and connects us to a universal concern that we may damage our glasses through use.

Figure 3. Levantine, Amber glass wine cup, moulded glass, Levant (modern day Syria) (ca. 100 BC-AD 100). Image courtesy of the Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam.

The final artefact for your consideration is a mythical story from a Persian poem about Alexander the Great, who had a diving bell made out of glass (see Figure 4).  

An elaborate, rather comical story was told of how curious Alexander was of the sea and how he was lowered down in his diving bell along with a dog, a cat, and a cock to explore the ocean. He entrusted his wife with the chain that could pull the bell back up to the surface, unfortunately she eloped with her lover and threw the chain away, so he had to devise his own escape. Many stories were written about Alexander to document his daring and outlandish exploit, this story resonates for me because of the period from which it originates, in that it centres glass as an innovative material and makes the impossible seem possible, could this really have happened?

Figure 4. Alexander the Great under Water by Jansen Enikel, Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany. Tempera colors, gold, silver paint, and ink on parchment, about 1400 – 1410, Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum.


Next month’s newsletter will introduce Roman Glass, during the 1st century AD the Roman revolutionised the glass industry with the introduction of glassblowing, establishing glass as a widely available and popular material for vessels.

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

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Bentley Motors

Cumbria Crystal is an authorised manufacturer of luxury car company, Bentley Motors. We have worked with them on a number of prestigious projects and continue our relationship with them to this day.

Cumbria Crystal champagne flutes for Bentley Bentayga Mulliner


In 2017, Cumbria Crystal was awarded an exclusive contract by Bentley to produce luxury crystal champagne flutes for the new Bentayga Mulliner. The new flagship Bentayga model reaches new heights of interior cabin luxury and redefines the benchmark for automotive luxury.

Chris Blade, managing director of Cumbria Crystal said “We are proud that Bentley Mulliner placed so much faith in Cumbria Crystal by inviting us to develop and manufacture the exquisite and highly unusual champagne flutes for the new Bentayga Mullier SUV. The design teams at Mulliner were extremely supportive throughout the development process and placed complete trust in us to develop these extraordinary flutes, which come as standard. This is the beginning of an exciting ongoing collaboration, with additional products already being discussed. Bentley, Mullier and Cumbria Crystal offers an exciting fusion of luxury, engineering and British craftsmanship. These champagne flutes are exclusively available with the car.”


The Mulsanne W.O. Edition by Mulliner isn’t just inspired by W.O. Bentley’s own 8 Litre – it even contains a part of it. 20 years ago, the crankshaft of W.O.’s car reached the end of its natural life and had to be replaced. The Mulliner engineers were amazed to discover that it used incredibly similar materials, engineering and production processes to the Bentley crankshafts made today. To commemorate Bentley’s Centenary, this defining piece of the company’s engineering heritage was carefully cut into 100 sections for display in the new Mulliner cars. Each finished piece is proudly displayed between the two rear seats, visible through a window in the veneered tray of the bespoke drinks cabinet. With no two sections the same, every car is truly unique.

Magnificent Marquetry
To give this invaluable section of crankshaft the spectacular setting it deserves, the veneered surface around it contains an exquisite piece of marquetry showing a finely detailed view of W.O. Bentley’s 8 Litre. Designed by Mulliner in the Art Deco style popular in 1930, it takes five full days to create. In total, 419 individual pieces of veneer are arranged by hand, including Tay, Birch, Eucalyptus and Dark Stain Burr Walnut veneers to enhance contrast and depth, with further shading effects achieved by burning the edges with hot sand. Aluminium is used to add gleaming highlights, a distinctly modern touch, while diamond-like borders infuse the Art Deco design with a contemporary edge.


Here at Cumbria Crystal we are delighted to have collaborated with Bentley on their EXP 100 GT. We have assisted in creating the seamlessly integrated AI hub, also known as the Bentley Personal Assistant, which allows you to make commands through hand gestures.

“Bentley prides itself on working with the best luxury manufacturers around the UK, we at Cumbria Crystal are truly honoured to be a part of this extraordinary milestone. The EXP 100GT epitomises true craftsmanship.” Chris Blade, MD

The AI & Digital Craftsmanship Concept

The Bentley EXP100GT forms a 3D canvas enabling light to communicate through uniquely crafted elements within the digital hand-made concept, fusing materials and technology in a unique and innovative way. The detail and perfection of material craftsmanship is also reflected through craft and curation of light. Specially developed software orchestrates thousands of separate LEDs throughout the car, enabling unique interactions within its wider environment and bringing life to human interactions within the car. The intensity, colour and movement of the light are bespoke for each material. Instead of replacing authentic materials with displays, the digital world enhances the natural beauty of materials to deliver information in a more emotional and compelling way creating a deeper connection to the journey.

The crystal centrepiece is the brain of the car, creating a means of visual feedback and emotional connection and enabling the car to communicate its own intelligence. Through sophisticated AI, the car learns preferences and behaviours of individuals, curating extraordinary experiences to enhance the journey, whether this be through luxury services or live educational content. The crystal centrepiece in the rear of the car forms the focal point for the ‘journey-scape’ allowing individuals to shape their Grand Tour in an emotional way. You can ‘Capture’ the greatest moments of your Grand Tour in your hand, all of which are saved by the AI in a journey library to be Re-Lived and shared. You can ‘Re-live’ these moments through the car which becomes the ultimate emotional and experiential diary which can be handed over to the next generation. Experiences evolve and update to maintain relevance and create timeless emotional bonds.

The crystal centrepiece is the brain of the car, creating a means of visual feedback and emotional connection and enabling the car to communicate its own intelligence. Through sophisticated AI, the car learns preferences and behaviours of individuals, curating extraordinary experiences to enhance the journey, whether this be through luxury services or live educational content. The crystal centrepiece in the rear of the car forms the focal point for the ‘journey-scape’ allowing individuals to shape their Grand Tour in an emotional way.

You can ‘Capture’ the greatest moments of your Grand Tour in your hand, all of which are saved by the AI in a journey library to be Re-Lived and shared. You can ‘Re-live’ these moments through the car which becomes the ultimate emotional and experiential diary which can be handed over to the next generation. Experiences evolve and update to maintain relevance and create timeless emotional bonds.

Continental GT Whisky Tumblers

“The whisky tumblers produced by Cumbria Crystal have been a true inspiration for us designers over here at Bentley; they influenced the fusion of romance and technology we performed in our headlights and rear lights of the new Continental GT.”

Stefan Sielaff MDes (RCA), Mulliner Director and Bentley Director of Design

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In conversation with Hamilton & Inches

We recently sat down with Hamilton & Inches CEO, Victoria Houghton, to ask her all about the incredibly inspiring company that she works for whom we are proud to call one of our esteemed partners.

Cumbria Crystal and Hamilton & Inches have worked together for many years now with great synergy. Whilst we strive to be one of the best in the world when it comes to luxury crystal glass, you do the same regarding hand-crafted silver. Tell us about the journey attached to this endeavour, the history of the brand and details regarding the market you operate within.

Hamilton & Inches was founded by Robert Kirk Inches and his uncle James Hamilton in 1866. We have celebrated many key milestones including being first granted a Royal Warrant more than 120 years ago, appointed “His Majesty’s Clockmaker and Keeper and Dresser of His Majesty’s Clocks, Watches and Pendulums in Palaces and Houses in his Ancient Kingdom of Scotland”. Although the original title no longer remains, in 2010 Hamilton & Inches was appointed “Silversmiths and Clock Specialists to her Majesty The Queen”.

We have maintained our own onsite workshops since inception, housing a team of highly skilled craftspeople, including master polishers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, and engravers; all of whom have honed their craft through the knowledge and skills passed down from previous generations. Alongside the team we have invested in exclusive facilities for some of the world’s finest jewellery collections. Delivering an authentic and bespoke service, alongside a contemporary and luxurious offering, the specialist team at Hamilton & Inches provides clients with an unforgettable experience.

Hamilton & Inches has stood the test of time, with 155 years of passion, creativity, artistry, and dedication to craftsmanship.

Your team of craftspeople consists of silversmiths, goldsmiths, polishers and engravers. Like Cumbria Crystal, you are committed to the heritage crafts using traditional techniques. Can you tell us a little more about that? How long does it take to create a single item?

Our team are a blend of masters and apprentices, a group of unassuming friends who, when put to task, create pieces of magic. They are incredibly diverse in age, in culture, in inspiration and technique but one thing unites them; they have crafted some of the finest pieces of silverware and jewellery in the world.

For 155 years they have passed their knowledge and skills from one generation to the next. We are fortunate to have several specialists in a variety of fields, who continue to keep the crafts alive through the H&I Academy.

Our two-resident hand-engravers are exceptional artists, who work using their expert eye and perfectly steady hands. Each piece of work they undertake has their own unique footprint, from their individualistic styles to their own distinctive artistic nuances.

Our silversmith team, Panos, David, Paul, George, and Ruth have over 59 years of silversmithing experience between them, in that time creating exceptional items for the worlds of rugby, football, whisky, education and more. They have created candelabras and bookmarks and tumble cups and dinosaurs; each with their own unique style, all with absolute devotion.

Colin Golder is our award-winning polisher who celebrates his 30-year anniversary with us this year. His keen eye for detail is vital to the design and production of our silver, guiding how pieces will be assembled to ensure that they can be polished effectively.

Alan and Jenna (left) are our expert goldsmiths, tasked with taking care of exceptional items of jewellery and creating new, ranges including our exclusive Scottish Gold Collection and The H&I Engagement Collection.

The length of time required to create one item depends on the exacting requirements of the client. Although each job varies, from the University of Glasgow Mace which took over 100 hours of work (and a year from brief to completion) to our silver Luna earrings which are hand-crafted every day, the dedication and devotion applied to the craft of each piece is constant.

We both develop bespoke items for customers on request. Can you share with us what that process looks like for Hamilton & Inches?

We have been handcrafting bespoke silverware, fine jewellery and sporting awards for generations.

The commission process begins by outlining the design concept. This can be inspired by something a customer already owns, a sketch or an idea. Our team will then work to create initial sketches before the client reviews, prior to preparing full design drawings so you can see your piece coming to life.

Once the drawings have been reviewed and agreed our expert teams will begin to craft the piece in our Edinburgh workshops. Each element crafted by hand, the care and devotion of our craftspeople is truly visible in each and every piece our team create. 

On April 26th you opened your doors open to your newly refurbished showroom in Edinburgh, which I am sure our readers will love to visit when venturing afar is a little easier. Tell us what has changed and what we can expect.

Dedicated to enhancing the customer experience, we recently embarked on an incredible transformation, with elegant upgrades taking place across its showroom, workshops, and service department, creating a space that celebrates heritage whilst innovating with contemporary design.

To accentuate the glamour of the new showroom, we implemented a striking new store front, which sees us rejuvenate our original design, installing curved glass panels set in an antique bronze, with jewellery displayed on a carved breccia marble plinth topped in silk.

Our new interior features, influenced by historic photographs of the Victorian Hamilton & Inches, include an extravagant traditional design palette, reimagined for today. Every new detail accentuates the ornate historic elements of the dramatic Georgian ceiling, alongside chandelier lighting, which creates a generous glow that spills out onto George Street.

We have a beautifully curated new lifestyle area situated within the showroom beside the 19th century Adam fireplace which offers clients a space where they can drop in to shop, and stay for a cup of coffee, or a glass of champagne. We incorporated residential elements into a retail environment to achieve an inviting and comfortable atmosphere.

At Cumbria Crystal, having a partnership with such a high-level silversmith allows us to develop products which are of the highest, luxury quality in both crystal and silver. How has working with us enabled to expand your offering to your own customer base?

Partnering with likeminded suppliers, who value quality allows us to expand our offering knowing that what we produce will meet company standards and the expectations of our clients.

We currently have a beautiful selection of Cumbria Crystal items on our website and in the showroom and we’re working on an exciting new barware collection which heavily features crystal, including a unique crystal and silver cocktail shaker.

Custom commissions continue to be created in the Hamilton & Inches workshops today, using the ancient skills and crafts essential to creating iconic items that will be remembered and celebrated forever, including bespoke silver and crystal designs.

Which is your most popular hand-crafted item?

The Double Oval Link Pendant in Sterling Silver from the Luna jewellery Collection is our most popular silver item, designed and hand-crafted in the workshops above the showroom by our silversmith, Ruth Page.

It is inspired by the natural landscape of the moon, and the collection name comes from the Latin word luna, meaning moon. The textured silver finish is inspired by the surface of the moon with countless volcanoes and craters. The interlocking silver links reflect light like moonlight dancing on the water’s edge.

Explore the Cumbria Crystal x Hamilton & Inches collection

Visit Hamilton & Inches online or at their stunning showroom at 87 George Street, Edinburgh.

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The story of glass and crystal polishing

Cumbria Crystal uses hand, acid and fire polishing in the making of its crystal. The company’s unique selling point is that it is dedicated to the creation of the best crystal that can be made exclusively by hand, using traditional 2000 year-old glass making processes. Therefore, it is little wonder it takes an average of 12 days to create each and every piece of crystal.

Below takes you on a small journey of lead crystal and why polishing is such a fundamental part of what we create.

For millenia the holy grail for glass makers was clear, colourless glass. The discovery of English lead crystal, subsequently called flint glass or white glass, by George Ravenscroft at the Savoy glass furnace in London led to huge improvements in the quality of glasses available.


Prior to the patenting of English lead crystal in 1674 the world centre of glassmaking was the Italian city of Murano. Despite the use of the best ingredients Italian glasses had colour casts caused by impurities in the raw materials. To counter this the trend with Venetian glass was to blow vessels incredibly thin, effectively diluting the colour and making the glass appear clear.

The discovery of lead crystal dramatically shifted the sands and led to the rise of the English lead crystal industry & development of new styles of glass that would dominate global crystal production for the next 300+ years.

The introduction of lead oxide into the glass recipe brought significant benefits.

Most importantly ‘clear’ glass could be produced without needing to be thin; lead crystal, with a high specific gravity refracts light better than other glass – in practical terms this means that when cut with the distinctive patterns we associate with lead crystal, it sparkles far more

It could be blown heavier, whilst remaining clear, leading to the evolution of traditional baluster glasses with beautiful heft.

Crystal possesses a longer working life than other glasses as it stays malleable for longer making it easier for the glassblower to work and it could also be melted and worked at lower temperatures reducing the amount of energy required. Being slightly softer than other glasses, it is uniquely suited to the application of decorative cutting with abrasive wheels; one of the most distinctive features that evolved from the development of lead crystal.

Finally, it is able to take a brilliant polish whether done by hand or through the use of acid.

Polishing glass is an art that requires huge patience, skill and nerve. It will generally be polished using at least one of the three ways describe below, by:


Hand-polishing uses processes, albeit with different materials, similar to those used for polishing wood, metal or stone. Consecutive grinding with progressively finer & finer abrasives until a smooth finish is achieved. Being a hard material, this means hand-polishing glass is a slow and delicate process with the ever-present risk of cracking if too much localised heat is generated through friction.

The abrasives used for grinding and hand-polishing glass include a diamonds, carborundum, aluminium oxide and sandstone. Once ground smooth a pre-polish is obtained by using a slurry of pumice power on a rotating cork wheel. All being well, the final polish is achieved with cerium oxide on a compressed felt wheel.

Achieving a full polish often requires 5-6 different stages. Discovering a single erroneous scratch requires the whole process to be repeated.


To polish the individual facets in cut crystal is not possible by hand. The distinctive sharp edges would be dulled during the abrasive processes and it is impossible to reach the finer sections of the design inner sections well enough to polish properly.

However, it is possible to achieve an extremely high polish in all the details by immersing lead crystal in a solution of 70% sulphuric and 30% hydrofluoric acid, at a temperature of 50C for 42 minutes. This process is exceptionally effective with lead crystal and is the reason the cut crystal industry was able to produce such decorative and ornate designs. Acid polishing, being incredibly dangerous and expensive to operate, is now only be done in a few specialist places in the UK and most companies shy away from it.

Hand-cut and acid-polished crystal is noticeably different to the imitation cut crystal produced through press or injection-moulding processes. Once you know what to look for the differences are obvious – sharp and precise cutting, with high refractivity, looks and feels very different to mass produced imitations.


Finally, fire-polishing. Intense heat can sometimes be used to polish glass which has been partially ground. Cumbria Crystal uses this process to achieve a high polish to the delicate rims of drinking vessels which are prone to crack with the aggression of hand polishing. The rims, once ground to the correct height (or to remove a chip), are heated in an intense flame which causes the glass to partially melt and become shiny. Once complete the glass is brittle due to internal stresses caused by the heat. This is removed by a process called annealing which involves slowly heating the glass to 420C, soaking at that temperature to equalise the temperature throughout the piece, and then gently cooling it back to room temperature. This can be a very slow process as glass is a worse conductor of heat than wood!

Many mass-produced glasses often use an extreme variation to this process extreme heat to separate the glass vessel and create the rim simultaneously. Rims with a distinctive bulge at the top are very unlikely to be hand finished.

Fire polishing in inherently risky, as glass when heated or cooled too quickly, will crack through thermal shock. The temperatures required are very high as the glass needs to approach its melting point with the consequential risk of deforming.

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The History of Glass V1 | Ancient Mesopotamia & Egyptian Glass – 3000 – 1000 BC

Ancient Mesopotamia & Egyptian Glass – 3000 – 1000 BC

Figure 2. Portrait of King Amenhotep II, Egypt, 1426-1400 BC. Deep blue glass with light tan surface. Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (79.1.4).

By Dr Jessamy Kelly, glass artist and educator

Humans have made glass for over 5000 years and over time glass objects have shaped and changed human history. Glass is a material that people have worn as amulets, beads or jewels, traded, exchanged and longed after. They have drunk and ate from glass, the have cooked with it, they have treasured it, looked through it as windows or eyeglasses and into it as mirrors.

Figure 2. Portrait of King Amenhotep II, Egypt, 1426-1400 BC. Deep blue glass with light tan surface. Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (79.1.4).  

In more recent years, it has become apparent how the invention of glass has fundamentally changed humankind. In the 17th century, glass was pioneered by alchemists who first used it for their experiments, glass has led to many great scientific discoveries. Since then many great innovations have been made, from optical glass for lenses, microscopes and telescopes to test tubes, light bulbs, fibre optics, mobile phones and televisions. Finding ways to access the cultural values and significance of glass as a material over time brings the history of these objects into a new light. When handling and using glass in our everyday lives we can make a connection to the history of glass and the interesting stories it tells through its use. This series of articles, will introduce the history of this beautiful medium, providing a deeper understanding of how glass is made in both an historical and contemporary context.

“There is a story that once a ship belonging to some traders in nitrum* put in here (the coast of Lebanon) and that they scattered along the shore to prepare a meal. Since, however, no stones for supporting their cauldrons were forthcoming, they rested them on lumps of nitrum from their cargo. When these became heated and were completely mingle with the sand on the beach a strange liquid flowed in streams; and this it is said, was the origin of glass”. (Pliny, Natural History, xxxvi, 191-2.)

This quote is from a roman naturalist named Pliny the Elder, who explained the invention of glass in the second half of the first century AD in his book Natural History. However, we now know that glass was actually made well before this. The origins of glass can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia (3000 to 1000B.C) which is known today as the Middle East, and includes modern day Iraq and northern Syria. This article will introduce some of the earliest forms of glass, which can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Egyptian faience dates from around 4000 B.C. it is a ceramic material made from sand or quartz, when fired a very colourful glassy surface is created. It was usually formed into beads, rings, amulets and statues that resembled semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli and turquoise (see figure 1). They were seen as magical objects, instilled with the powers of rebirth and the bright colours were connected with the intense radiance of eternity. This funerary collar was used for burial, similar bracelets and anklets were found within the Tomb of Wah, in Thebes.

Figure 1. Broad Collar of Wah, Faience, linen thread, Egypt, early Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, (40.3.2). Collection of the Met Museum

Figure 1. Disk Pendant with Star Pattern, cast glass, Northern Mesopotamia, 1500-1200 BCE, Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (63.1.26).

One of the earliest examples of glass, is a cast glass pendant which has an eight-pointed star (see figure 3, left) which has been traced back to Northern Mesopotamia, 1500-1200 BCE. The star pattern is connected to the goddess Ishtar, who is often associated with the goddess of love and war. The process is called glass casting and predates glassblowing, it is often how solid glass objects are made, pieces of broken up glass ‘cullet’ are put into a mould and then fired high.

Figure 3. Disk Pendant with Star Pattern, cast glass, Northern Mesopotamia, 1500-1200 BCE, Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (63.1.26).

One of the earliest known portraits to be made in cast glass is the head of Amenhotep II, a Pharaoh who ruled Egypt 1426–00 bce (see figure 2, at the top of the article). Glassmaking was introduced to Egypt during the reign of Thutmose III (the father of Amenhotep II). Most likely glass makers were captured during the Egyptian expansion into the Middle East and brought back to Egypt to make glass and share their secrets.

Egyptian perfume bottles and vases are among the first examples of core formed objects, a process which also predates glass blowing and reached its zenith by the 18th Dynasty. Glass objects were formed around a soft ceramic core; the ceramic is then removed leaving a hollow glass form. The colour of this object imitates the semi-precious stone turquoise, with the yellow and white decoration representing gold and silver (see figure 4, left).

Figure 4. Vase, 18th Dynasty, 1400-1300 B.C. Egypt Turquoise & opaque cobalt blue, yellow, white, with translucent cobalt blue; core formed, trail decorated. H. 10.7cm. Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (66.1.213).

Next month’s newsletter will introduce Glass from the Hellenistic period, which includes the years between the reign of Alexander the Great and the advent of the Roman Empire.

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

* nitrum is an alkali such as soda ash, which is a material used to make glass.

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The art of commissioning

Definition Verb

to order or authorise the production of (something). 
“the crystal glass was commissioned by his wife” 

There are various reasons why our customers choose to shop with us – they adore beautiful, luxury
crystal; they desire to fill their home with elements of luxury; they just enjoy gifting beautiful,
items to family and friends. However, the single over-arching reason is the quality and
rarity of our crystal.

Quality is at the forefront of everything we do and something our customers comment on in abundance. As we expand the business, and more people around the world discover our brand, we strive to maintain this at the forefront of everything we do.

Our current lead-time for goods that have to be specially made is longer than normal, at around 12-16 weeks, so some explanation of the processes we use may be helpful in helping understand why goods are not always available for immediate dispatch.

Whether you purchase crystal for yourself, or as a gift, you are more often than not ordering crystal which will be made especially for you. Demand is such that we rarely have large quantities of stock sitting on shelves, so our artisans are often only able to start production once an order has been placed.

The reason for this is that we want to ensure we are dedicating the same care and time to each and
every order, so our quality is unquestionable each time. Everything we make uses time consuming
2000-year old glass-making processes. Our only concession is to use the very best modern crystal
batch recipes, and that our two traditional 500kg clay-pot furnaces are not fuelled by wood or coal
but modern, cleaner energy.

Automation is completely avoided as our USP is the manufacture of traditional crystal where everything is completely mouth-blown and hand-cut. Adherence to this tenet means capacity cannot be easily increased, or costs reduced, as our objective is to produce the best hand-made crystal in the world, not to look to dilute our USP.

It takes around 15 years to train a master glass-blower, and a typical wine glass requires a team of
three artisans just to blow it. The post-blowing processing, marking, hand-cutting and
polishing requires the skills of at least six other skilled people. From start-to-finish a wine glass will
take on average about 12 days to craft
. Only once a product is completed can it be quality graded.
Being hand-made there are inevitably minor variations between pieces, so we go to great lengths to
curate well-matched collections. Better collections are obtained when the crystal has been made at
the same time and by the same glassmakers. Hence, if you can wait, we recommend you asking us to
make the crystal specially for you.

Minor variations are normal for this type of crystal and may be caused by many factors. If you are
versed in what to look for these indicate the genuinely authentic nature of the product. Factors
include; the age of the crucible; the temperature and humidity on the day of production; the
different members of the blowing team on a specific day; how the glass melted and whether there
are microscopic bubbles in the crystal (a sure sign of being melted in a traditional pot furnace); how
low, or high, the glass is in the crucible; or indeed how windy it was!

The factory team of 21 staff contains many long-serving members of staff, some who have been with
us for over thirty years. The ability of our artisans to effectively collaborate, rather like musicians in
an orchestra, is essential to achieving our products. You are effectively buying small works-of-art,
not just crystal.

Consequently, our aesthetic is slightly different to modern, mass-produced glass from large tank
furnaces as the melting processes and minor variations identify the crystal as authentically hand-
crafted by exceptional artisans
. Mass-produced, modern glass is completely devoid of these
Currently, demand is such that the company is looking to expand – this means recruiting more
skilled staff which will reduce the time customers need to wait. However, due to the traditional
nature of our business, the emphasis we place on recruiting the most talented individuals in the
world of glass
, along with the effects of Brexit, this will take some time.  

The art of commissioning is something that represents to us the old tradition of ordering items to be handcrafted especially for that recipient which implies a waiting period for a quality product. Here are some questions and answers for you so you are fully clear on our process and can place your order with ease and peace of mind. 

What happens when I commission my order? 
When you place your order in a regular manner which we do not have in stock we will class it as a
commission. You will receive a standard ‘confirmation’ email advising that you will receive your
item(s) within 16 weeks of your order date. We then simply ask you for your patience and we will
contact you when your order has been dispatched. If you need it more quickly then please contact
us to discuss the options.

My order is a gift – can you send anything to say crystal has been commissioned for them? 
If we cannot deliver in time, we can certainly send you, or the intended recipient of your gift, a
special letter confirming you have commissioned crystal to be made for them. Simply leave a
message in the order notes if you would like this to be done. It is useful to know the event (birthday,
etc), date, name of the recipient and their address if you would like it sent directly to them.

How far ahead of time do you recommend I place my order for a special occasion? 
We highly recommend ordering 6 months ahead of the date you require your order if it is for
something special, if possible, so we have the opportunity to discuss and carry out and engraving, or gifting add-
ons and options. We always recommend you speak with us beforehand if you are wanting to order for a special occasion.

Are there bespoke commission options available to me?
Personalised engraving and unique collections are possible. Please contact us at to discuss.

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Spring 2021 delivery update

We are incredibly proud that every piece of crystal we produce is 100% hand-crafted in our small factory in the English Lake District. Our obsession with producing the highest quality crystal – using 2000 year-old glassmaking processes -means every piece takes a minimum of 10 days to create and many hours of our artisans’ time.

COVID19 and the safe working measures we have adopted to protect our staff, are currently impacting the speed at which we are able to manufacture. Glassblowers traditionally work in teams, each with a specialist skill, and currently cannot do so as normal. Consequently, we are working at about 50% capacity, and are experiencing high demand. Some goods may therefore take up-to 8 weeks to complete.

We understand that in a world of Amazon Prime and next day delivery, this can seem a long time. However, our luxury crystal is some of the best in the world, must be completely hand-made and being a small business makes it even harder to scale during the pandemic. We are dedicated to creating crystal for you to use, admire and treasure for a lifetime and beyond. We very much appreciate your order, alongside your patience and understanding in this matter and assure you that any wait will be worthwhile.

Is your order a gift?

If your order is intended as a gift and we do not have it in stock, or if we are unable to produce it by the date you require, we can send to you (or the recipient) an official Commission Letter to advise that you have commissioned something beautiful and special to be made especially for them.

What this means is that once your order is placed (and you have stated in the order notes that you would like this option), we will create a presentation package advising your recipient what is being created for them, with an explanation about delivery.  This will be personalised, on foiled letterhead paper and include information about Cumbria Crystal, our heritage and the crystal.

Please note that this applies to both Premium Quality and Factory Outlet stock.