Bristol Blue Glass is a beautiful, clear, deep blue coloured glass - there is a factory and showroom on the Dockside in Bristol, England, although it is also manufactured elsewhere in the country. Somewhat strangely perhaps, the name Bristol Blue refers to the pigment used rather than the place of origin of the glass.
Historically, Bristol has been at the heart of glass blowing since the 17th Century, when glass manufacture grew up around the need for bottles for wines, sherry and for local medicinal water from Hotwells in the city. Most of the glass at that time was clear, but a tax imposed on clear glass made the production of coloured glass much more attractive.
Coloured glasses had been made since Egyptian and Roman times by adding metal oxides to the ingredients in the furnace, but nothing had ever been made which had the sheer quality and vibrancy of Bristol Blue Glass. The wonderful deep blue is the result of the addition of a pigment called smalt (made from cobalt oxide, potassium carbonate and sand) to high quality lead crystal. In 1763 an extremely fine, high grade smalt was imported exclusively by Bristol merchant, William Cookworthy for use in the porcelain industry. Before long it was also being used by Lazurus and Isaac Jacobs, of Non-Such Glassworks and others were soon to follow suit. Bristol Blue Glass was born, heralding a new era in the manufacture of decorative glassware.
Decorative glass manufacture thrived in Bristol until 1851, but recently an increase in popularity of blue glassware has resulted in a local revival. Visitors to the city can watch demonstrations of Bristol Blue Glass being blown at the factory workshop next to the SS Great Britain. The modern range of products includes jewellery, Greek and Roman style urns and decanters, bowls, candlesticks, wine glasses and much more.