People have been using glass to drink wine from since ancient times, but the modern-day design we think of – essentially a bowl, a stem and a base – is medieval. The glass as we know it probably emerged around 1400 in Venice.
Back then, Venice was the centre of the glassblowing world. The Venetians had learnt how to purify their alkaline source which meant that they could make “cristallo” – a very sought-after form of clear glass. However, when the Venetian glassmakers began to purify their raw materials to remove elements that caused discolouration, they inadvertently removed some of the things that were making the glass durable, like lime, which acted as a stabiliser.
This meant that the original clear glasses could start to deteriorate quite quickly in normal air.
The symptoms of "glass disease" were initially “weeping”, when moisture caused alkali to be leached out of the glass, and “crizzling”, a series of very fine cracks caused by the loss of alkali that eventually caused the glass to fall apart.