The practice of smoking has been around for almost as long as humans have, probably since the first caveman figured out how to work a box of matches.
However, pipes have come a long way since whatever that caveman was smoking out of, probably a wooly mammoth thigh bone. Although pipes, bongs and other smoking apparatus has historically been made out of an almost infinite variety of materials in the past, the unique art of glassblowing has made glass one of the most popular and prevalent materials in the head shop. Today, walking into a pipe and bong retailer is part art gallery and part science experiment as you take in the artistic and functional details crafted through the refined modern art of glassblowing. Almost any look and style of glass pipe is achievable, possibly even one that looks like a wooly mammoth thigh bone, but that would be a step backwards. Glassblowing techniques have evolved a long way over the centuries, and innovative developments are still being perfected and explored.
The first glass was made from molten sand and naturally occurring materials thousands of years ago, and was highly valued as precious because of the great skill and difficulty involved in making it. For millennia, glass trinkets were mostly small and costly things owned by royalty and aristocrats. The technique of creating pieces by forcing air bubbles into thick, viscous molten glass through a blowpipe was a revolutionary discovery pioneered by the Romans around 30BC. This breakthrough refined glassmaking enough that glassware became a common part of people’s lives, no longer just for nobles and the rich. Early glassblowing was so innovative and effective that most of the tools and techniques used thousands of years ago to make hand blown glass are still in use today.
Hand blown glass pipes have been made and used for as log as the technique has existed, and historians have identified ancient glass tapers used for smoking that suggest the practice is even older than blown glass. However, even though the tradition of using glass pipes goes way back, the practice was fairly uncommon until less than a century ago. With its booming counterculture and emphasis on artistic expression, the 1960s was the decade that saw more development in the area of glass pipe making than the rest of human history. New technology that created standardized glass joints made functional and attractive water pipes and bongs more achievable than ever, and the glass pipe industry grew quickly. With refined techniques making creation easier than ever, the industry began attracting artists who used their imagination and skill to make pieces that were beautiful as well as functional, and glass pipes became a unique art form as well as a highly preferred method of smoking.