The people in Iranian plateau are known for their skills in cutting and engraving glass. Archeologists have discovered an ancient glassmaking center at Chogha-Zanbil in southwest Iran. Elamites could make translucent tubes out of glass paste in 1250 BC. These tubes were arranged in window frames near the ziggurat of Chogha-Zanbil.
However, there is not sufficient information about its historical evolution in Iran. Some glass objects like light green beads and bracelets bearing patterns in contrasted colors have been found in very old graves of Lorestan province.
Certain techniques of glass-making are reflected in works belonging to 5th century BC. According to archeological findings in Persepolis, at around the same time, under the Achaemenians, vessels used engraving techniques.
Before the 2nd century BC, glass making had flourished along the eastern Mediterranean from the Phoenician coasts to Crete Island.
Since the 2nd half of the first century BC, the very center of this industry moved westward to Italy and the regions beyond it. As a result of war between Parthians and Romans in 92 BC, the industry entered western Iran.
New techniques together with inherited Achaemenian traditions showed a substantial trend in glassmaking.
During Sassanian Period
The most interesting objects among Sassanian glassworks found from northwest to southwest Iran are the ones decorated by cutting wheels. With deeper cuts in comparison to Roman glassworks, Sassanian glass objects were more attractive and well known.
Within the Sassanian Empire, there were centers of glass making like southern Mesopotamia, Ctesiphon, Gilan province, western Alborz, Susa and Rey. Embossed patterns and kiln-decorated glassworks attracted a great deal of attention under Sassanians.
Many of the glass vessels made in various regions from Europe to Japan between 3rd and 7th centuries AD followed the Sassanian traditions. Of course, Roman traditions were used by Iranians, but on pure Iranian forms.
During Middle Ages
In the early post-Islam period, no sudden change is evident in Iranian glassworks. At times, functional works were made of green, impure glass. Gradually, forms evolved and varied until the Seljuk Era when some common production processes were totally abandoned.
Blowing in the mold became the dominant technique to produce most glassworks. There were three simple methods used in glass making, of which engraving by wheel was the most important one implemented from an artistic viewpoint.
In the early Abbasid Era, engraved glassworks were created by three technical methods: Engraving to shape embossed patterns, direct cutting on embossed patterns and a combination of the two methods.
Decorative items were designed in oval patterns and embossed knobs mostly on decanters, ewers and perfume holders. At times, silver mixtures were also used to stain yellow color on glassworks in Egypt, Damascus and Iran.
During the Seljuk and Mongol invasions of Iran, glassworks did not go through a flourishing process. In the history of glass making, gilded and enameled glassworks were created in some centers of Syria.
During Safavid and Later Periods
Syrian artists and artisans had to emigrate to Samarqand as a result of Timurid invasion. The general decline in the 15th-century’s glass-making industry paved theway for European glassware to penetrate Syria and other markets along the eastern Mediterranean.
During that period, it seemed that Armenians imported European glassware to Tabriz and then sent to other towns and cities inside Iran. Instead, various kinds of silk cloths were exported to Europe via the same route from Iran.
Iran, then, was a good customer for European, especially Venice made, mirrors and vases used as the base of water pipes. Shiraz was the center of good quality glassware in Iran. In the workshops of Shiraz, various kinds of bottles, glasses, gooseneck sprinklers, etc. were made. They were often transparent and colorless.
Shiraz and later Qom became the centers of glass making in Iran until 20th century and focused on making bottles. They were the only glass items traded during this period. At present, Iran’s glass-making industry meets a large part of the domestic requirements for different types of glass.
History of Kilim