Never Mind the Question – Here’s the Answer!

Theresa Green shares some personal experiences of working in ‘information’ at British Glass for over 30 yearsInformation Officer, Theresa Green shares some personal experiences of working in ‘information’ at British Glass for over 30 years. On occasion, it has been a little like Alice’s time in Wonderland – “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

The next time you have that irrepressible urge to find out how many parts per million of neodymium it takes to send a light bulb pink, just pick up your phone and call the Information Department at British Glass.  Not simply a Trade Federation, British Glass’ prestigious foundations lay in decades of research.  It’s existence was founded by Emeritus Professor WES Turner and other renowned glass technologists who formed  a glass research department within Sheffield University nearly a hundred years ago.   Over the following decades, the department built upon its success and eventually became a commercial entity, culminating with the opening of a new building and premises in 1959 when the British Glass Industry Research Association (BGIRA) was born.  Subsequently, BGIRA merged with the Glass Manufacturers Federation (GMF) in 1988 and became known as the British Glass Manufacturers’ Confederation (BGMC), taking on the role of Trade Association for the UK glass sector, but also retaining its research arm in the form of Glass Technology Services Ltd (GTS)

From my perspective, life in this particular Wonderland began in 1981.   Until then I, like most of the population, was oblivious to this substance we take for granted - glass.  Like most people, glass to me meant a few bottles of lager down the local, the new jam jar designed to look like a teddy, or my nice new double glazed windows, full-stop!  It was only after I began working in the Information Department at BGIRA that I gave this marvellous material a second glance – and wow, were my eyes opened!  I have, since then, dedicated the whole of my working life to exploring this material, from not only a scientific point of view, but also from the consumers’ who struggle to find links into the glass manufacturing sector – until they call British Glass, that is!

Counselling Service

Readers of this article are likely to be associated with the glass industry and therefore in a good position to find what you are looking for.  But pity the poor consumer.  Imagine you are looking for something other than glazing – pick up your local “Yellow Pages” - it won’t be much help!  Try the internet and it’s even more confusing! 

I receive many calls daily from people who have been ringing around the country for days trying to locate a glassmaker and can just feel the relief from them as they exclaim,  “At last, someone who understands!”  It’s almost like a counselling service - at least it was to the chap who asked one day if I could recommend a company who could remove a deep scratch from his television screen, he then went on to ask if I knew a glassmaker who could repair a crystal vase. Sensing his anxiety, I discreetly asked if there was a connection – the poor fellow then told me his wife had thrown the vase at him, missed and caught the TV! 

Satisfying Diverse Needs

Today's glass industry has never been so diverse.  Glass is making headlines all over the world with new products, new developments and new applications.  But many companies and individuals struggle to find the right manufacturer for their product – be it because of shape, size, quantity etc., and that’s where Information Services can play a big part.  Every day calls and emails come into “Information” and yours truly does her best to team up these new enquiries to one of our members.  It’s a successful recipe, as our members’ will confirm. 

However, not every enquirer is looking for 10M bottles or jars.  Many enquiries come from the “little” people, the one man bands or the householder looking for just one or two items, or a prototype.  Some items are required for research purposes, but many are simply looking for a repair, or to match up a piece of crystal, or more recently, new mothers looking for glass baby feeding bottles, not to mention other everyday items.  However, some requests are a little more unusual, and I have selected a few examples of these to give you a taste of how incredibly diverse the industry, and British Glass is.

Now, do I get great questions to test my abilities like “Why don’t they make the whole plane out of that black-box stuff?”  -  No, I don’t, but I was asked recently who could make a replica of an Ambrosia dish?  Nothing to do with rice puddings, but an ancient asymmetrically-shaped dish in the form of an oval bowl with an irregularly lobed rim and a small curling handle with a stemmed foot, first made around 1730. On the same day there was also the question of who could decorate glass articles by the Zwischengoldglas  method?  (Even I’m not that good enough to answer this off the top of my head, however, a quick visit to our in-depth library and archives confirmed that this is a gold leaf decoration process, hence, the query was passed on to our members who could help).

Then there was the call for a glass toilet with matching “designer” glass bath and sink.  And the email from a  television company doing a production of “Cinderella” wanting the glass slipper (within 24 hours of course).  Also the 60 x 30 foot glass “bottle” required to house a restaurant.  The enquirer wanting me to recommend a bottle wholesaler in Dallas, USA!  Then there’s the glass grand piano for a luxury liner - not forgetting the 10 foot glass bird required for decoration!   Although I do try to help anyone that calls, the request for plastic glasses was taking it a bit too far! 

Made to Order

As many of you reading this will know, the glass industry has the weirdest glossary of technical terms, with many strange and odd-sounding words.  A lady writing a book on Prince Rupert wanted to know where she could get a “Prince Rupert’s Drop.”  No, it’s not an ailment, but a curious tadpole-shaped hollow glass object which is not affected if struck with a hard blow on the bulbous end -  however, if the tail piece is broken the entire piece explodes with a noise into fine powder article  (due to different internal stresses).  As I explained earlier, no one goes away from here disappointed -  having had a word with our very obliging glass technologists (courtesy of GTS), to her delight, one was made for her.

Membership Focus

British Glass has the only dedicated library of glass and glass technology in the UK, holding important pieces of work and research gathered over the last 100 yearsBesides looking after consumer interests, our main priority is that of our membership, who are formed from a diversity of glass manufacturers from across all sectors such as container glass; flat glass; scientific and domestic glass industries. 

There are many benefits of being a member of a trade federation which you may be familiar with – such as assistance and help regarding legislative issues; standards; guidelines etc.  However, this particular trade federation offers many hidden benefits in the form of a wealth of in-depth knowledge, based upon its vast library and archives (incidentally, all available for members’ use). 

British Glass has the only dedicated library of glass and glass technology in the UK, holding important pieces of work and research gathered over the last 100 years.  Our library subscribes to most of the worldwide journals covering glass and glass technology.  Each day abstracts are created onto our in-house database – currently numbering nearly 30,000 abstracts – all of which are fully searchable by keyword.  Whatever query a member may have can be easily searched for, and a solution found in a matter of moments.  In addition to this our archives contains around 10,000 technical translations and research reports of major glass topics – not forgetting a worldwide standards archive which members can search and loan on request. 

Reproduction of this published material is provided courtesy of Glass Worldwide -

Published in Glass Worldwide - Issue 47, May 2013.

  • British Glass represents the interests of primary glass manufacturers and the glass supply-chain, from raw materials to retail and the end-consumer" credits="n/a" >
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On average, every family in
the UK uses around 330 glass
bottles and jars each year.

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