Ancient Roman glass bottles


Ancient Roman glass bottle are probably the best known of ancient Roman artefacts annd are indeed plentiful and inexpensive enough to meet the pocket of even the most modest collector.

Everything from small containers and vials, bottles, elegant jugs, perfume bottles, cups, plates and ornaments were produced. Glass vessels were used as tableware, religious items, funerary goods, trade items, and for special  gifts. Glassblowing allowed craftsmen to make a much greater variety of shapes than before. Combined with the inherent attractiveness of glass this adaptability encouraged people to change their tastes and habits. Glass drinking cups rapidly supplanted pottery equivalents. In fact, the production of certain types of native Italian clay cups, bowls, and beakers declined through the Augustan period, and by the mid-first century A.D. had ceased altogether.This invention revolutionized ancient glass production, putting it on a par with the other major industries of pottery and metalwares. 

Glass was present in nearly every aspect of daily life in ancient Rome. Glass alabastra , unguentaria, balsamaria and other small bottles  and glass boxes were used to contain  the various oils, unguents,  perfumes, and other cosmetics used by nearly every member of Roman society. Small glass boxes , pyxides,  often held jewellery with glass beads, cameos, and intaglios fashioned to imitate semi-precious stones.  Traders packed, sold and transported all sorts of foodstuffs and other goods across the Mediterranean in glass bottles and jars of all shapes and sizes.  Multicoloured tesserae were used in elaborate floor and wall mosaics, and mirrors of colourless glass with a wax, plaster, or metal backing  provided a fairly good reflective surface. Glass windowpanes were first made in the early Imperial period, and used most often in the public baths to prevent drafts. Window glass in Rome was meant to provide insulation rather than to allow in light or as a way of viewing the outside, so,  little, if any, attention was paid to making window glass perfectly transparent or of even thickness. Window glass was be both  cast and  blown. Cast panes were poured and rolled over flat, wooden molds covered with a layer of sand, and then one side was ground or polished. Blown  glass panes were made by  flattening a long cylinder of blown glass and then cutting along one side and flattening it out.


However, although blown glass came to dominate Roman glass production, it did not altogether supplant cast glass. Especially in the first half of the first century A.D., much Roman glass was made by casting, and the forms and decoration of early Roman cast vessels demonstrate a strong Hellenistic influence.


The ravages of time and the chemical changes in and on the surface of glass objects can create wonderful efects of colourful iridescence. Such pieces are often prized by modern collectors and generally command a price premium. 

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