The use of glass both decorative and practical goes back a long time, the Egyptians produced beautifully coloured small glass vessels and beads for jewellery in the mid third millennium BCE.
This subject covers many fields of interest and collecting. The manufacture of glass because of the heat involved has always been a slightly dangerous pursuit, for instance in Venice the production of the famous coloured glass was confined to the island of Murano in order to contain any risk of disaster to the city from the spread of fire. Today Murano glass has become a generic term for glass produced by many different companies on the island, these can range in value from a few pounds to tens of thousands of pounds.
Blown glass is seen as more desirable as it is hand made by a craftsman, whilst moulded glass is mass produced from a mould. Moulded glass will have smoother less distinct decoration, and often a seam from the mould, while cut glass will have sharper more distinct decorative features. Blown glass will have a pontil mark on the base, or an area where the pontil mark has been ground down. This pontil mark comes from where the rod that the glassblower has used to blow into the glass has been removed.
Glass paperweights have always been collected and the more rare ones can fetch high prices. this is a good subject to begin a collection as very little space is required for a good display, a small window with glass shelves fitted against it being a very effective way to catch the light and also an eye catching feature. Also many 20th century Art Glass pieces can today be bought for very reasonable prices and can be a cheap and effective way of adding touches of colour to a room.
Some of the most effective and intricate engraved glass was done by Lawrence Whistler, brother of Rex Whistler the muralist and illustrator. he managed to create the most amazing almost three dimensional scenes and vignettes on glass, in a similar style to his brother but using a completely different medium.
Glass making reached new heights during the Art Nouveau period in the late nineteenth century with such names as Lalique, Galle and Daum producing multi-coloured glass of great beauty. Many of these companies still exist today like Lalique and whilst buying glass from them new can often be prohibitively expensive examples from various time periods can frequently be found in Antique shops for much more reasonably prices. However generally the earlier the piece the greater the price, so do your research when dating an object and you will avoid paying too much for a later piece or may pick up an earlier piece at a bargain price.
Whatever your taste or budget it is possible to find a piece that will please, from an art studio vase to a Bristol blue glass lined salt cellar.