, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 489-492
Date: 28 Jun 2011

Is that stone genuine?

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Archaeologists are well aware that the main motivation behind the early production and use of glass was to imitate precious and semi-precious stones. As such, glassmaking, documented regularly since the second millennium BC onwards, represents one of the earliest and most unequivocal expressions of the old alchemical precept of ‘art imitating nature’. It is therefore surprising that glass has received such little scholarly attention by historians of alchemy and chemistry—generally more concerned with metal transmutation—and Beretta’s book is a welcome contribution to redress this historical neglect. In essence, the monograph presents a history of glassmaking from its origins in Bronze Age Mesopotamia and Egypt until the early modern period, placing particular emphasis on how practical experience with natural and artificial stones informed evolving theories of matter. The author thus makes a valuable attempt at linking technological and intellectual history—another approach that, with a ...