Review article on art glass production techniques for the glassmakers holiday

The professional holiday of Russian glass industry workers has been celebrated since 2000 on 19 November - the birthday of the prominent Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765) – creator of the chemical production of glaze, glass and porcelain. In 2023, it will be celebrated for the 24th time. This holiday is considered by all people who are in contact with the glass industry and glass production, from glassblowers to professionals in the manufacture of windows, glassware and other similar products. This day is considered their own by all people in contact with the glass industry and glass production, from glassblowers to professionals in the manufacture of windows, glassware and other similar products.

In 1746, Prince Mikhail Vorontsov brought samples of Italian mosaics from Rome. Lomonosov became interested in them both as a person with fine aesthetic taste, as a scientist-chemist, as a technologist and, to a certain extent, as an entrepreneur. He had a desire to reproduce these samples. However, the Italians strictly kept the secret of creating smalts (opaque stained glass). In Russia the technology of their production has long been forgotten. After the opening of the Chemical Laboratory in 1748, Lomonosov firmly decided to develop his own technology for the production of stained glass and devoted all his free time tireless efforts to developing the most efficient and practical way of coloring glass. In three years Mikhail Lomonosov welded more than two thousand experimental glass samples in laboratory. He colored them with metal compounds, tried to obtain transparent and matte samples. His experiments gave a lot for further development of glass science.

Lomonosov found a way to produce smalts of bright red and green colors. In 1753, Empress Elizaveta Petrovna granted the scientist the ownership of the village of Ust-Ruditsa near Oranienbaum (now Lomonosov) for the construction of a factory. M. Lomonosov manif  ecte d himself as a talented engineer and manager, having independently developed the project of the factory. Even the location was well chosen! The river, the flow of which was used for grinding blank glass, the nearby sand pits with very good sand and the nearby aspen grove from which potash was extracted, made it possible to quickly set up efficient production and facilitated logistics. Already a year after the foundation, the factory manufactured its first products. Mikhail Lomonosov managed not only to revive the art of mosaic, which existed in Kievan Rus in the 11th-12th centuries, and the medieval method of producing bright red transparent glass, but also independently developed the recipe for 112 tones and more than a thousand shades of colored smalts. The factory produced multicolored tableware and perfume utensils: decanters, mugs, saucers, cups, glasses, inkwells, etc., as well as beads and glass beads and bugles of various colors, cufflinks and earrings....

The great passion of Lomonosov was making mosaics. His first mosaic was an icon made of four thousand glass cubes. Then he made mosaic portraits of Peter the Great, Elizabeth and Catherine II. For almost five years Lomonosov worked on the 42 square meters "Poltava Battle" and finished it shortly before his death.

Lomonosov also introduced the technique of melting colored glass into production, as a result of which domestic glass factories began to produce a variety of colored artistic pieces.

By the end of the 18th century, ruby, blue, purple, green, turquoise, marble and milk glass were in vogue. Especially valued was ruby glass, which had shades ranging from delicate pink to scarlet. Items of colored glass were painted with gold and silver. After the death of the scientist, the factory was managed by his wife, and after her passing the building was destroyed by fire. The remains of production lay in the ground beneath the ruins for nearly two centuries. The mosaic art was long forgotten.

In 1777, Prince Grigory Potemkin from Empress Catherine II the glass factories of William Elmzel in ownership. After the death of the prince, in 1792 the factory became state-owned again and since then it has been called the Imperial Glass Factory. Free fuel made production extremely cost-effective, in Russia glass factories ran exclusively on wood fuel, unlike those in Western Europe, which used hard coal.

Therefore, from the second half of the 18th century the number of factories increased significantly and in 1804 reached 114. The rapid development of production in Russia in the second half of the 19th century led to the fact that already in 1879 there were 173 glass factories in the country. On the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries with the appearance of improved and highly productive glass-forming automatic machines, producing cheap sheet glass, glass production embarked on the path of industrial development.

Today glass is an integral part of every premises, it is actively used in exterior and interior decoration. It maximizes light flow and expands space. The possibilities of this material in the interior have no limits. It is firm, environmentally friendly, durable, non-combustible, and relatively easy to cut and process. Glass production involves the use of many different types of products for human consumption for industrial and domestic purposes.

For the professional holiday of glassmakers and glass art producers glass we have updated the section of the museum website "Art Glass and Ceramics", and we have posted a review article about the basic technologies of art glass production in the section "Articles and Reviews".