The majority of ancient cultures produced glass in some form and used natural crystal for a variety of objects too. In fact, many historians believe that an early fascination with natural crystal lead artisans to experiment with adding different types of metal to glass to change its appearance.
Such glass experimentation became popular in Great Britain in the 15th century. Elizabeth I was a great fan of the art and supported several glassblowers who’d relocated to London from Venice.
This initial support for glassmaking set the stage for the erection of George Ravenscroft’s London glass house in 1673. Ravenscroft experimented with glassmaking, creating a product that he called flint glass.
Ravenscroft played with this early formula until he’d created lead crystal free of imperfections. Motivated by government excise taxes in the U.K., many glass houses moved to Ireland and other areas in Europe, where they thrived well into the 19th century. The production of lead crystal continues in many of these countries today and has expanded to new areas of the globe as well.