Glass is found everywhere in modern-day life – windows, tabletops, ornaments, jewelry, watch faces – and it has had a prevalent role to play in human history for the past 6,000 or so years. Archaeologists are pretty sure that the first glass was created in 3500 B.C. in Mesopotamia.
Ever since humans figured out how to smoke tobacco, we have been fashioning methods to smoke it. The term “bong” comes from a Thai word, “baung.” The “baung” is the name for the bamboo tube used for centuries by people in Thailand for smoking tobacco.
Glass pipes made mainstream headway in the 1960s as a tool for smoking tobacco. One of the things that made helped glass as a pipe material take off was the innovation of standard sized glass joints for water pipes. Before the joints were standardized, the tapered joints were rough and less effective. Using mold-blowing, common sizes were created and implemented in the pipe industry.
Since the 60s, there are glass pipe improvements being made regularly. Because glass is such a versatile material, it can be formed to accommodate any dream a pipe fitter can concoct. Some new glass pipe designs are so complex that only a master glass smith can fashion them.
A documentary, “Degenerate Art,” details the world of the glass smiths fashioning glass pipes. The art form took off exponentially in the 1990s, and glass pipes have grown more popular ever since. One of the advancements the early nineties saw was the addition of gold, silver, or cobalt metal vapors to the glass blowing process. The result of doing this is that miniscule amounts of metal ends up trapped in the glass. When not in use, the metal gives the glass a very faint tint. When in use, though, the tar in the smoke coats the interior of the glass and provides a backdrop for the flecks of metal, making the metal boldly stand out. These “color-change” pipes were a hot commodity, and they are still sought after today.
Glass bongs aren’t only for tobacco smokers:
Glass bongs can also be for the artistically inclined. Yes, there are glass bongs made purely for decoration. Because of the ancient history of glassblowing, glass bongs are in an elite class of handicrafts. It takes even the most experienced glass smith a tremendous amount of time, effort, and finesse to craft a gorgeous glass bong. For the labor of love alone, a handmade glass bong, particularly if it is free-blown, is a prized possession worth showcasing.
Online glass art shops list hand pipes, bubblers, and ashtrays alongside abstract art, bracelets, and decor.
There are many non-smokers who have – and even collect! – bongs. Bongs are attractive to look at, and their diversity makes them a visually compelling collection to have. Who knows? Maybe some people even repurpose them as flower vases, water carafes, or fish bowls!
The upswing in the glass pipe industry has been a propelling force when it comes to new innovations in the craft of glassblowing.. Without glass pipes, glass blowing wouldn’t have advanced the way it has over the past century. If anything, glassblowing may have fallen to the wayside without assistance of tobacco. Without a reason to revere the art form, people may have see it unnecessary to keep around such an ancient method of shaping glass. However, because of the role glassblowing plays in the creation of bongs, it has been instead lifted up as a worthwhile and revered endeavor.