The art of glass-blowing was first introduced to Britains city of Bristol around 1647. High quality cobalt was imported from Saxony and was used in the manufacture of blue medicine bottles. Because the color blue was associated with wealth and prosperity, it was prized and adopted by Bristol Merchant Venturers to display their opulence to the rest of the world. The popularity of colored glass saw the introduction of the first deep cobalt blue handmade glassware for domestic use, and the name, Bristol Blue was born.
The increase in glass trade was largely responsible for Bristols industrial prosperity in the Eighteenth Century. As trade demands grew, the number of glass houses increased, to the extent that one observer stated there were as many glass houses in Bristol as churches. At that time in history, over sixty glass houses could be counted, making over 50% of the bottles andwindow glass produced for Britain, as well as to supply demands for large export operation to the newly liberated North American States.
When George Ravenscroft discovered and patented lead crystal, glass makers combined the new lead crystal with cobalt, to perfect a high quality blue glass. This was labeled, "Bristol Blue," without regard for where it was actually produced.
It is not clear when manufacture of Blue Glass ceased in Bristol, but supplies from Saxony were probably cut off during the Napoleonic Wars. Authentic original examples of Bristol-made glass do exist today. Pieces, signed by makers such as Lazarus and Isaac Jacobs are considered valuable by collectors and can be viewed in the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.
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