Glass crafting goes back to the 14th century B.C. as ovens from that period were discovered in Egypt, its alleged country of origin. Phoenicians sustained close relations with the Pharaoh Egyptians and learned the blown glass technique to which they then brought significant modifications.
First and foremost, Phoenicians worked the glass paste and succeeded in transforming the traditional opaque material into a transparent glass. This revolutionary technique confirmed the Phoenician glass craft in its nobility and its trade flourished as appreciation for the transparent glass works became widespread in the world as it was known then. Blown glass workshops appeared in all Phoenician cities, and more particularly inTyre,SidonandTripoli.
The success of the Phoenician glass craft was also owed to the diversity of shapes and ornaments produced. Phoenician craftsmen also continued to manufacture molded glass works hence producing glass bottles, perfume containers, and decorative cups ornamented with motifs and sculptures of human faces, animals and vegetal patterns.
Soon enough, blown glass replaced traditional pottery in the manufacture of tableware like serving dishes, drinking glasses, carafes, eating plates, etc…. However, the blown glass industry essentially focused on the production of luxury items such as glass jewelry sets, bracelets and perfume bottles with stunning colored geometrical ornamentation.
Blown glass crafts from Lebanonspread around the antic world thanks to the diligence of traveling merchants and sailors. The Lebanese craftsmen work was often copied by the Italians and namely by craftsmen from Murano. The latter continued to import from Lebanonraw materials needed in the manufacture of their well known glass crafts, and thus until the 19th century.
Nowadays, Lebanon accounts for four major blown glass manufacturing sites:Tripoli, Halat, Khayzaran and Sarafand.
NearTripoli, in Beddaoui, blown glass is manufactured in a gloomy archaic workshop where color is only brought on by the craftsman’s production of glass blown pieces aligned on improvised shelves. Glasses, vases, candle holders, bowls and ashtrays dispense a wide array of colors ranging from violet to turquoise, green and yellow.
The unique characteristic of the Beddaoui workshop is that it produces a particular glass material that is slightly opaque and sprinkled with tiny air bubbles, thus reviving an ancient and forgotten technique.
On the contrary, the Sarafand workshop (located at 14km from Sidon) manufactures a clear transparent glass that is free from air bubbles. Craftsmen from Sarafand also offer a new range of colors and shapes like traditional drinking bottles, jagged vases, glasses and pitchers.