Roman Cantharus

above: the Disch
Cantharus, a two-
handled Roman cup
from about 300 AD
(photograph courtesy of
The Corning Museum of Glass)

If you are looking for
Roman Glass there
is always some for sale
on eBay. See what there
is just now - click
Roman glass

Roman Glass
from the
Glass Encyclopedia

Roman Glass: A short explanation

The importance of Roman Glass derives partly from the status of glass making as a major craft within the Roman Empire. Glass making was a small scale artisan activity until Emperor Augustus (emperor from 27BC to 14AD) decided to include glassmaking in the crafts he wanted to develop by centralising them in Italy. He imported glass workers from Syria and Judea along with their tools, skills, and technologies and the Eastern methods of mold-casting and free-blowing grew into an industry on the Italian mainland. They didn't volunteer, most of them were brought to Italy as slaves. Nevertheless, glass soon became a successful alternative to pottery for tableware and containers for liquids and foods and its use and manufacture spread throughout the Roman Empire.

And just like today, glass was used for utilitarian purposes like storing liquids but also for decorative artistic purposes, like the Cantharus (two-handled cup) shown above. This blown glass cup is decorated with gold foil cupids sandwiched between two layers of glass which have been fused together. It has a cage and glass handles that were then applied.

There is another kind of caged vessel produced by Roman glass artists, where the cage is carved away from the glass body of the piece. The Lycurgus Cup, now in the Britith Museum, is a superb example of a caged cup. It was many years before modern glass artists developed the skills to reproduce that technique. The Lycurgus Cup has the added feature that it is opaque olive green in normal light but when the light shines through it the colour changes to translucent red. The reason for this is because of the colloidal gold and silver which was included in the molten glass mixture together with various chemicals.

Roman glass is not usually expensive, so it is easy for the beginner to build up an attractive collection. Only the rare items are highly priced, like the cameo pieces which are priceless. One of the reasons that so much Roman glass has survived the best part of two thousand years is because it was buried with care as funeral goods. Kept safe inside a stone coffin or a pottery container it was often affected by water and chemicals that seeped into its resting place but it remained undamaged until unearthed in recent centuries.

Roman Cameo glass was usually made by blowing two layers of different coloured glass and shaping into a vase or bowl, cup or other vessel. After the glass cooled, the outside layer which was usually white, was carved away using hand tools to reveal the dark colour underneath (usually dark blue or nearly black) and leaving the design in white standing proud of that inner layer. The Portland Vase is the most famous of these Roman cameo treatures, so precious and so fascinating that it has been reproduced just a few times in England since the late 18th century. Josiah Wedgwood borrowed it in 1786 from the Duchess of Portland in order to make copies of it in jasper ware. But it wasn't until 1876 that a copy was made in glass, by Northwood. And only a few glass artists have shown the patience and the skill to make another one.

Glass Encyclopedia

Click here for the full
list of latest topics

or click on any of
the following links:

Advertising glass
Akro Agate glass
Amberina glass
American glass
Ancient glass
Apothecary glass
Apsley Pellatt glass
Art Deco glass
Art nouveau glass
Arts and Crafts glass
August Walther Glass
Baccarat glass
Bagley glass
Barolac glass
Beads (glass)
Bimini glass
Blenko glass
Books on glass
Bottles (glass)
Boyd's Crystal Glass
Brierley Crystal glass
E O Brody glass
Bubble glass
Burtles Tate glass
Caithness glass
Cameo glass
Cameo incrustations
Carnival glass
Cast glass
Chance glass
Charder glass
Cire Perdue glass
Cloud glass
Cobalt blue glass
Consolidated glass
Contemporary glass
Coralene glass
Coudersport glass
Crackle glass
Cranberry glass
Custard cups (glass)
Custard glass
Cut crystal glass
Dartington glass
Daum glass
Davidson's glass
Depression glass
Dew drop glass
Dorothy Thorpe glass
Drinking glasses
DVDs on Glass
EAPG glassware
End-of-day glass
Etling glass
European glass
Fairy Lights
Federal glass
Fenton glass
Fire-King glass
Flygsfors glass
Fostoria glass
Frank Thrower glass
French glass
Fry Glass
Galle Glass
Glass hand vases
Glass Dumps
Gold ruby glass
Goofus Glass
Gray-stan glass
Greeners glass
Hand vases
Hazel Atlas glass
Heisey glass
Historismus glass
Hobnail glass
Hunebelle glass
Imperial glass
Intaglio glass
Irradiated glass
Isle of Wight glass
Italian glass
Jack-in-Pulpit glass
Jade glass
James Derbyshire
Jeannette Glass
Joblings glass
Joe Rice glass
John Derbyshire
J Walsh Walsh glass
Kemple glass
King's Lynn glass
Komaromy glass
Lalique glass
Leerdam glass
Le Verre Francais
L G Wright glass
Libbey glass
Libensky glass
Lobmeyr glass
Loetz or Lotz glass
Lost wax technique
Malachite glass
Manchester glass
Marbles (glass)
Marqueterie de Verre
Mary Gregory glass
Mdina glass
Mercury glass
Milk glass
Molineux Webb glass
Monart glass
Murano glass
Nailsea glass
Nazeing glass
New Zealand glass
NZ paperweights
Northwood glass
Opalescent glass
Orient & Flume glass
Orplid glass
Orrefors glass
Pallme-Konig glass
Paperweights of NZ
Pate de Verre
Peachblow glass
Pearline glass
Percival Yates & Vickers
Perthshire Paperw'ts
Phoenix glass
Pictures on glass
Pilgrim glass
Pirelli glass
Powell glass
Pyrex glass
Riverside glass
Reverse paint on glass
Roman glass
Rose bowls
Royal Brierley glass
Ruby glass
Sabino glass
Scandinavian glass
Schneider glass
Shoes in glass
Silhouettes on glass
Silvered glass
Silver overlay glass
Slag glass
Sowerby glass
Spatter glass
Stained glass
St Clair glass
Steuben Glass
Stevens & Williams
Strathearn glass
Stretch glass
STS Abel Zagreb glass
Sulphides in glass
Sun changed glass
Thomas Webb glass
Tiara glass
Tiffany glass
Tiffin glass
Toothpick Holders
Tortoiseshell glass
Tudor Crystal glass
Uranium glass
Val St Lambert glass
Vasart glass
Vaseline glass
Venetian glass
Venini glass
Verlys glass
Videos on Glass
Vistosi Glass
Vitro Porcelain Glass
Walther Glass
Waterford Crystal
Webb Corbett glass
Webb, Thomas glass
Wedgwood glass
Westmoreland glass
Whitefriars glass
WMF glass
Ysart glass

Useful glass links

Glass Message Board

Glass Museum on Line

Books on Glass

Glass Target Searches

References and Sources:

Click here to see general books on art Glass on Amazon

Glass Blog
have a look

Browse specialist books on Glass
- what's new?
- what did you miss?
The place to browse through interesting glass books -

Target ebay searches!

Find your favourite glass
with our Target Searches

- save time when you are busy
and don't miss an opportunity!


INFORMATION about Pirelli Glass!
Angela's book on Pirelli Glass. This is the second part of the London Lampworkers Trilogy covering Pirelli Glass.

And if you didn't read the first part of this Trilogy, you can take a look here:

Copyright (c) 1998 - 2021 Angela M. Bowey.
All rights reserved. Copying material from this page for
reproduction in any format is expressly forbidden.
Web site designed by: Angela M. Bowey.
URL to this page: