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XXI

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Mosaic glass

The mosaic glass making technique is used to form intricate patterns.  Mosaic glass has been made intermittenly for the last 3,500 years. 

The technique is a labor intensive process. Each item is individually and painstakingly handmade.   Long colored glass rods (canes) are arranged and bundled to form the desired cross-section pattern.  The rods are fused with heat and pulled to reduce the diameter and the pattern to a smaller scale.  The fused and pulled canes of glass are then cut into wafers, each piece bearing the original pattern in miniature.  Some of the many patterns produced included hieroglyphics, gods, animals, flowers (millefiori), and dramatic masks.  

The earliest mosaic glass, from West Asia and Egypt, dates to the bronze age, about 1500 B.C. 

Most Roman mosaic glass was produced from the first century B.C. to the first century A.D.  The latest datable Roman mosaic glass was apparently produced in Kenchreai, Greece in the late 4th century A.D.  There is no evidence that production continued after this date. 

The technique was revived, probably in Iraq, in the 9th century, and although is not common, pieces of Islamic mosaic glass have been found from Egypt to Iran.  Production probably continued into the tenth century.