Glassworking

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Glassworking is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

Release Notes: Created by GM Xynwen and released on May 5, 2022

Artisanal Glasses of Elanthia

From the desk of Isienaka, Chief Scholar of Atan Irith

Below is an excerpt from a budding scholar's dissertation on glasswork I felt may be of interest to my colleagues across the sea.

During my travels, I've come across several artisanal glassworking methods, and I wished to share this excerpt on some of the more unusual practices, for any as fascinated as I by the unique ways art takes form across our races and cultures.

Glass can oft be taken for granted now. It seems simple enough -- melted sand crafted into transparency as a window for our lives. Beyond simple utility, however, there is craft and the people who create art where once only function stood. From a secretive guild in Ta'Loenthra to skilled Winedotters, from the Yachan Dai to the sea herself, we find numerous examples of glass artistry. Here are but a few examples for your reading pleasure.

Chapter 6: Culturally or Regionally Significant Techniques and Styles

From "Glassworking and Glassblowing: A Comprehensive Examination of Elanthian Glass Techniques Across the Ages" by Isharaj Calikan, Scholar Apprentice, Order of the Sky and Cloud[1]

Arathiel

Arathiel, also known as firefly glass, is a glass technique originating with master glassmakers in Ta'Loenthra. It is a closely held secret of an ancient glassworkers' guild known as the Court of Amethyst Fire, and it is highly coveted by artisans of all sorts. Many have attempted to replicate the style, but none have succeeded; arathiel remains firmly within the purview of its guild, and they release in quantities of their own choosing in a timeframe of their own making.

Flame-like iridescence sparks inside each arathiel piece, typically a shade darker than the object's glass. Thus, a lavender arathiel bead may have a violet flame at its depths, or a pink trinket with a fuchsia flame, for example. When working in untinted glass, the natural spark is a bright green luminescence reminiscent of the firefly that gives arathiel its nickname. Each artisan capable of producing arathiel is considered deeply skilled, but a true arathiel master can work the inner flame into any hue they desire regardless of the rest of the object's color.

Some thickness in glass is requisite when crafting arathiel, so it will not be found in sheets or thin works, but rather in beads, charms, pendants, and trinkets for display. The nature of its creation necessitates smaller objects; anything larger than an elven child's hand will not hold the flame and becomes nothing more than pretty craftwork any skilled glassworker could create.

A Note on the Court of Amethyst Fire The Court is a secretive and elite guild dating back several thousand years. Membership is proffered by its leader, the Amethyst Flame, after approval by the Court's Firefly Council. Children showing specific skillsets may be recruited and trained from a young age (especially skilled children of current members), but most commonly, membership comes from masters of other glassworking guilds who are recruited away when the Court seeks them out.

While membership in the Court is not a secret, the names of the Amethyst Flame and the Firefly Council are. This precludes sycophants from attempting to ingratiate themselves with the powers of the Court.

Upon initiation, each guild member receives a small brand of a firefly over an inked amethyst flame on their inner left wrist. It is said that special alchemy goes into the flame's ink, allowing imitations to be caught and dealt with. In the rare case someone is ejected from the guild, an "x" is branded over their guild mark, so all other guilds know they have been found lacking. It is whispered, however, that very few live to actually be removed, as guild secrets must be kept at all costs.

Winedotter Specialties

Artisans of the Winedotter bloodline from Ta'Loenthra have developed a few of their own specialty glasses to great acclaim, and it is whispered that perhaps the elven works owe a great deal to Winedotter ingenuity.

Aragless

Aragless started out as an attempt to break the secret recipe for arathiel. The attempts were unsuccessful, but the end result equally beautiful. Made using alchemy, a touch of wizardry, and ancient glass techniques lost to the elves but retained and improved by Winedotters, aragless glimmers if there is even a hint of ambient light. The glass itself can be a variety of shades, but the glimmering effect is either gold, silver, or copper, depending on the materials used in creation.

It is often used in lanterns or lamps -- a single flame inside an aragless lantern gets amplified by a hundredfold. Trinkets made of aragless are also coveted and often stored in ornate, velvet-lined clockwork boxes when not displayed. Given the special nature of aragless, individual items made from it are smaller in scale. Anything larger than a small pane of lantern glass or a palm-sized trinket (as gnomes measure palms), and the aragless begins to lose its glimmering.

Vergless

Requiring masterful understanding of knitting, clockwork machinery, and glasswork, a vergless artisan creates stunning artwork of knitted glass. Intricate geared mechanisms are outfitted with heatproof needles, while copper vats hold molten glass. The artist coordinates the weaving of these molten strands with the clockwork needles into the desired piece of art. The resulting product has clearly identifiable knitted stitches and patterns. The most skilled workers of vergless craft intricate figurines or hangings, the glass stitching still readily apparent. Hand-worked vergless without the use of machinery is possible, but typically limited to small pieces that resemble actual knitted works, such as a small scarf or a pair of mittens.

Working in vergless requires significant advanced planning, with detailed drawings and schematics for the machines, glasses, and any dyes. The vergless artisan must work tirelessly until the piece is completed, or else plan on making several small vergless components and melding them together. The latter is frowned upon in most vergless circles, but it is not unheard of. It is always apparent where the melding occurs, and greater value is placed on unmelded pieces.

The largest work of vergless is believed to be "The Clockwork Wall" on display in a museum in Ta'Nalfein[2]. Done entirely in painstakingly small needles to create tiny stitches, "The Clockwork Wall" depicts the vergless creation process, complete with artist, machine and needles, and in-process product. It spans an entire wall and appears to be one unbroken project, as no fusing of pieces together is evident. The artist, Gretchelle Vyindote, has only this to say about it: "This piece is 'process creates art creates process yielding art,' as is apparent to anyone looking at it."

Seaglass

Seaglass (or sea glass) typically refers to the broken bits of glass that wash up on the beach after being polished and naturally frosted by the waves of the ocean. It comes in all colors, and most skilled artisans will work with what the sea has left them rather than trying to force it to their own needs.

For example, in Atan Irith, an irijveil is a seaglass anklet worn by sailors and lovers of the sea. Woven from an intricate blend of thin leather or suede strips, sometimes interspersed with thin, pliable metals, the irijveil is dotted with seaglass beads and charms and is said to impart luck to its wearer.

A Winedotter glassworker from a long line of skilled artisans possesses an ancient parchment describing an Ashrim elf wearing "the traditional seaglass ring of protection of his people." From the text of the parchment, one can glean the ring itself was carved with Ashrim runes and inset with polished seaglass. The phrase "his people" is ambiguous but more than likely references a clan, guild, or sailing cohort -- popular enough to be well-known at the time but not representative of Ashrim culture as a whole.

Along the margins of the parchment, someone other than the author has written, "geldithe?" The parchment's current owner believes that this refers to the name of that type of ring. In Elven, "geld" is often used to reference stone of some sort (see also the geldarald), and "-ithe" has strong similarities to parts of ancient elven terms for large bodies of water. Further research found one reference to a geldithe worn for luck by an Ashrim sailor; this was in an old journal in a private collection in Ta'Ardenai. Both texts appear to be contemporaneous with Ashrim times; as such, after review, it is felt that a geldithe is a seaglass-inset ring worn by some Ashrim for luck and/or protection.

Skyglass

Erithi glassworkers use similar techniques as found across Elanthia, but there are distinct styles, of course, and in the Yachan Dai, a unique specialty, skyglass, was developed. Its erithi term is va'eloth, but oddly enough, many erithi prefer the Common translation of skyglass to the erithi. At its simplest explanation, skyglass is specially treated glass inlaid with slivers of jadewood to create a window with intricate designs.

To understand skyglass, one must first understand its components.

Jadewood
In the mountains of Atan Irith grows a type of modwir known as jadewood, named for the color of its wood. The heartwood of a jadewood modwir is a dark jade green with a silvery cast to its grain, and it is a common material amongst the erithi for woodworking and adornments. It also possesses inherent properties that, when combined with the right bit of alchemy, strengthen the finished skyglass windows.

Jadewood Oil
When pressed, the wood produces a fragrant oil with several uses, including incense, bath oils, and perfumes, as well as for woodworking and in the making of skyglass.

Jadewood oil used for personal products, such as incense, candles, and bath oils, has a fresh, evergreen scent, somewhat akin to cedar twisted with bergamot. Alchemically treated jadewood oil is used for woodworking and skyglass, its naturally green tint made clear and its scent gone.

For woodworking, it adds a lustrous sheen to the wood and provides a protective barrier to the finished product. When mixed with molten glass, it serves to strengthen the finished product, rendering the finished glass unnaturally strong and resistant to breakage.

Creating Skyglass
The basic premise behind skyglass is to create a pane of glass imbued with jadewood oil, and while it is still molten, work in bits of polished jadewood to create an intricate design. The finished pane is then optimally placed for sunlight to strike it and create a shadow of the design on a floor or wall of the building. The projected design is considered part of the artistic process, and great care is taken in the positioning of the projection and its surroundings; designs on walls and ceilings are created to enhance the skyglass shadow.

Skyglass Usage
Many public buildings in the cities of Atan Irith exhibit a skyglass window or two. Perhaps the most famous is found in Eloth-Ra at the library. When the sun hits the window set high in the library’s atrium, the entire far wall is covered in shadow bookcases filled with books, some even bearing readable titles. Another building holds a skyglass recreation of the city outlined against the mountains, while a third is known for its detailed recreation of a lotus-filled lake.

If infamous is more one's style, then no better example can be found than the one at a notorious inn of pleasures in Nathal-Ra. With a domed glass ceiling over the foyer, the inn features several skyglass panes casting twining figures upon the tiled floor. The floor is arranged so that the shadows hit white marble and are each surrounded by crimson marble in a decadent display of shadow and color. As the light moves, so too do the figures.

And finally, for sheer intricacy, the summer home of a master skyglass artisan has six skyglass panels arranged to hit the sun at different times to create a cascade of knotwork shadows framing pictures hung about the walls. As the sun changes, the knotwork shadows appear to flow from one picture to the next.

Skyglass in Miniature
Recently, artisans have taken to recreating famous skyglass window designs in smaller pendant forms to be used in necklaces, earrings, and other adornments. While this trend lacks the artistic shadow component of traditional skyglass windows, it has been embraced as an evolution of the art form, and many erithi who travel enjoy taking a piece of home with them in the form of skyglass jewelry.

Summary Table & Restrictions

Item Culture Usage Rarity and Restrictions
Arathiel (also firefly glass) Elf, Loenthran Small, solid glass objects Rare, must be supplied
Aragless Burghal gnome, Winedotter Small panes of glass Rare, must be supplied
Seaglass (also sea glass) n/a Typically smaller beads and pendants, small items as-is from the ocean Common
Skyglass (also va'eloth) Erithi, Yachan-originated Artistic window panes/skylights; sometimes mimicked in jewelry Uncommon to rare, must be supplied
Vergless Burghal gnome, Winedotter Knitted glass, smaller objects Uncommon for smaller objects, very rare for large pieces.
  1. The Order of the Sky and Cloud is an academic sect originating out of Eloth-Ra. Its members tend to focus on studies outside Atan Irith and are encouraged to travel widely before submitting any dissertations.
  2. The location of "The Clockwork Wall" in Ta'Nalfein is a source of great consternation amongst Loenthran museum officials, but it was personally donated by the artist, and she refuses to display it in Ta'Loenthra for unknown reasons.