Handmade Crystal

To begin a piece a glassmaker inserts a blowpipe into a furnace with a glob of glass, shaping the glass by spinning the pipe while blowing the entire time. This is called "offhand forming" and will result in a bubble of molten glass.

To produce bowls, vases, or other hollow items the blower produces a large bubble at the end of the blowpipe. A master craftsman shapes the glass with special tools, all the time keeping it in motion.

Some glasses are not shaped by hand, but inserted into a mold and then blown to easily form the piece. Stems are shaped by hand from globs of molten glass added to the bowl, a technique that takes decades to perfect.

Cheaper glassware is created entirely with machines to create consistent, if unremarkable, products.

The stemware is slowly cooled in a "lehr", a temperature controlled kiln that cools a piece gradually to prevent the glass from cracking. Next the caps -- where a piece was removed from the original blowpipe-- are carefully removed. This creates the "pontil mark", a small indent at the bottom of glass, which also serves as an easy way to identify high quality glassware from its less expensive alternatives.