Muranology, the first on line glossary about Murano Glass from A to Z: Letter N
Welcome back to Muranology! The letter “N” makes us move a step back in time, to the ancient era of the Glass, meeting the mysterious Egyptian word “Nṯr”, whose main meaning is “God”.
What does God has to do with the glass?
Apparently nothing, but curiously “Nṯr” also means “salt”. The Egyptians made a large use of sodium carbonate decahydrate (later called Natrium by the Romans), for the mummification of the bodies, for the glass production and other things. Wadi-El- Natrun is a desert depression area in Egypt very rich in natron. Natron is also the name of a salty lake in Tanzania, close to Kenya. “NA” (Natrium) today stands for Sodium in the International chemical periodic table! If you believe in the existence of the Devine (Nṯr), NA-natrium really seems like a gift of a God, as this is really the miraculous ingredient: sand, soda, fire…glass! It is hard to deny that there is an aura of mysticism around this subject.
Why the “salt” (sodium-natrium) was so important for the glass production?
It was and it is still a very important factor, as long as we stay in the tradition of the Mediterranean glass. A lot of things have changed throughout the centuries in the chemical compositions, but the soda ( Na₂CO₃), along with the potassa (K₂CO₃), still remains the indispensable ingredient to be added to the silica sand, because it makes possible to obtain a relevant decrease in the critical temperature for melting the sand, from around 1600 to 1000 °C, thus creating the basic incandescent and malleable mass.
Why is it important to get a lower temperature for melting?
We have to figure out the time when the furnaces were wood and coal-fired. Today an industrial oven can be much more powerful, surpassing 1.000 °C, but the real issue is the chemical composition of the incandescent mass, mostly made of silica sand, and its ideal degree of workability. Furthermore, could you imagine the bills?
What are the relations between Murano and the ancient glass? Stay tuned until the next letter “0” – origins…
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