The Roman Empire had fostered unexcelled glassmakers, but many of their techniques were forgotten with its decline. Over the centuries, nearly all of the techniques were revived and some further developed by Muslim glassmakers.

The many methods include the millefiori technique, overlay glass, sandwich glass, marvered and pinched glass, luster and enamel decoration, various kinds of cutting and engraving techniques, and methods for making simpler types, such as blown and molded pieces.


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Islamic Art: Glass

Item no. 8 of 34

Bowl, blue-black and white glass, millefiori technique

Iraq?; 9th-10th century
H: 3.9; Diam: 13.8 cm

The millefiori technique, which takes its name from the Italian word meaning “thousand flowers,” reached a culmination in the Roman period, but is also known from Sasanian Iran. The technique seems to have been rediscovered by Islamic glassmakers in the 9th century, since examples of millefiori glass, including tiles, have been excavated in the Abbasid capital of Samarra. Islamic glass in this technique is fairly rare, and all the extant pieces belong to the early period. Millefiori glass is made by melting together glass threads of different colors into rods, which in turn are cut into pieces and placed side by side in a mold to be melted together.

Inv. no. 33/1978