A Brief History of Glass Bottles

Glass is a $30 billion industry in the U.S, and glass bottle manufacturing accounts for a $5.5 billion-share of the glass industry. Depending on the product, some retailers today prefer plastic bottles for shipping and packaging, such as the cosmo round plastic bottles, due to the lighter weight of the plastic.

The first plastic bottle was produced in 1947. Glass bottles, on the other hand, have been around for centuries.

Glass History

Glassmaking is an ancient art. Once believed to have originated with the Mesopotamians, researchers now say it is likely that the Egyptians were the first glassmakers. A crushed quartz and plant ash mixture was heated in clay pots until it formed a ball of molten material, which was crushed a second time. Red or blue coloring agents were added, then the product was heated again and allowed to cool. Ingots were formed and sold to artisans who made mosaics, jewelry, furniture inlays, and figurines.

Glass Bottles and the Artisans

The first glass bottles are believed to have been created and used in Southeast Asia in 100 BCE and by the Romans in AD 1. Archaeologists found a 1,700-year-old, unopened bottle of wine that researchers say was crafted by the Romans. Artisans created opaque and colored glass bottles, and which became rare and prized possessions. In the late Middle Ages, artisans in Switzerland, southern Germany, and Italy learned to produce clear glass bottles created from raw materials and manganese oxide. But it was the Venetian glassmakers who were considered to be the master craftsmen of glass during the Renaissance period and enjoyed the privileges of higher social statuses.  

Mass Production

It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that glass bottles were used for products, and artisans discovered a way to create them using molds. It wasn’t until 1904 with the invention of Michael Owen’s glass bottle blowing machine that the idea of mass production of glass containers was conceived. Fourteen years later, the Owens machine was making about half of all glass bottles produced in the US. Today, there are more than 40 billion glass bottles and containers manufactured every year, with a variety of styles available.

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