Sunday, May 2, 2010

Old "Roman" Glass Recycled for Jewelry. PLEASE share your thoughts and opinions.

In the past view years Roman glass from Afghanistan has been on the market. It is described as old shards coming from ancient sites in Afghanistan, reshaped and sold as beads or jewelry elements. Some of the glass certainly seems to be very old, not necessarily "Roman" but could possibly date from that period. Finds of glass that old have been excavated in Afghanistan. The encrustation on some of the pieces illustrated below do look authentic to me. The colors are also appropriate and the surface of these pieces looks consistent with old glass that has been prepared for reuse.

I am NOT an expert but have seen a lot of ancient glass over the years. However, I am also aware that there is a lot of new glass reputed to be "Roman" or ancient that has been created to look that way. I'll post a photo when I get my hands on a sample. The practice of recreating Roman or ancient glass has been going on for many years. The way new encrustation looks and adheres to the surface is very different from the ancient glass surface. The encrustation is interlocked with the surface of the glass underneath. The surface often displays notable iridescence.

Below are pieces that I believe is old glass, whether of the "Roman" glass type or later. You'll be able to see bubbles, striations and encrustation on the surface of the glass. Some samples show a rough irregular surface that would result when encrustation is cleaned off. The encrustation on these pieces compares favorably with authentic Roman glass. Others exhibit a faint iridescence.

A couple pieces, though similar in color and showing striations and bubbles, have a very shiny surface. These could be new pieces. Front and back and edges are shown of some samples. Edges can be seen in some of the group shots.

The technique used to make new glass look old was described to me briefly as follows:
New glass is coated with fingernail polish, heated to a high temperature and then treated with acid. The encrustation resulting will be on one one side of the glass.

How accurate this is I have no idea. It does not have details on temperature and applying treatments.

This "necklace" is composed of recycled glass shards and portions of an ancient tile.

Glass courtesy of Afghan Tribal Arts.

Much as been written about ancient glass. Production and distribution of glass in the Roman period extended from Europe to Southeast Asia. It has also been recycled for reuse throughout that period as well as in modern times.

A good resume is given in Wikipedia:

More about glass:

For glass with a provenence, see below. Because glass of this period was traded widely these glass pieces are good comparisons. While we may not always know the exact site, such pieces are authentic. There is a good supply of ancient glass as it was a common product in Roman times.

Good Roman glass generral reference:


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Happy Mango Beads said...

Great article, pictures and references. Your tile and glass necklace is exquisite! Thanks for sharing!

Deerwoman Designs said...

I just posted a bracelet I made from one piece of Roman glass on my Etsy and Bonanza sites. It will be up soon on Artisans Market as well.

Deerwoman Designs said...

@Happy Mango Beads. THANKS so much. The "necklace" you mention was not made by me, nor do I still have it. It was lent to me by Afghan Tribal Arts to photograph for this blog post, and then was sent off to someone who had already bought it. It was temporarily strung. I don't know if it was taken apart to create other things or not. But I agree it is beautiful.

If you are interested in acquiring Roman glass it is available through Afghan Tribal Arts and Silk Road Treasures, though I don't think they still have anything like this.

Rayela Art said...

Nice post, Anita! I just started listing some "Roman Glass" for Afghan Tribal Arts on Etsy and was looking for some background info. Your post came in number 2 after Wikipedia! Pretty good! I used "roman glass afghanistan" as the keywords...

So, check out the text I used for our listings:

New or old, I love the textures and irregularities.... Very cool. Just probably not worth the hundreds of $ some people are asking for...

Anonymous said...

I was at the Quartsite jem show yesterday and bought some roman glass. It mesmerized me. The seller was from Afghanistan. I was wary of course. Knowing nothing about roman glass. I immediately looked it up. It was awesome to find your site with the pictures. With the pieces bought (180 strands) there is a few varieties one where the glass definately looks ancient but other pieces look much newer. Now I will be prepared. Wikipedia has a good history of roman glass and your photos are awesome thanks.

daniell marco said...

i would like to see more of your roman glass jewelry final work!!

Deerwoman Designs said...

I just went back and looked at all the comments. Thanks so much for your comments and I am glad this blog hlps. When I worked at the metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC I worked in both the Islamic and Ancient Near Eastern Art Departments. I was able to see numrous new pieces that had been made to look ancient, most prominently metalwork and glass. We had an excellent conservation department with sophisticated tecniques and equipment to examine such pieces. i learned a tremendous amount, though that was years ago. It is important to note that sellers of ancient work throughout the Near and Middle East were very skilled at making new things look old and this was WIDELY practiced. It goes back many years and of course still goes on. You only know for sure if a particular piece is ancient if it has a provable provenance, for example excavated and recorded at a site or can pass sophisticated physical examinations.

For those interested, I do have some jewelry items made with what I believe is ancient glass in my Etsy Shop Deerwoman Designs. I will make more in the future but I do not have a large supply of this glass.


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