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Crackle glass was first developed and produced in 16th century Venice. Master Venetian glass blowers invented the process of briefly submerging molten hot balls of glass in very cold water, which resulted in the outer layer of the glass cracking. The process would then continue with the glass being reheated and blown into the desired shape. As the glass was shaped and expanded, the cracks would become larger, resulting in a distinctive crackled effect.
Pieces made by this method are sometimes called ice glass, craquelle glass, and overshot glass. Glass bearing this distinctive crackle pattern became very popular in the late 1800s. Many factories throughout the United States and Europe utilized the process from about 1920 through 1960, and much of the world’s crackle glass pieces were produced around this time. Very little new glass has been produced with this method since then, and the process is not commonly used in glass creation today.
Possibly because of the lack of current production, crackle glass has become a popular collectible. Most collectible pieces are transparent, allowing the effects of the process to shine through the piece. Some have additional painting and embellishment on top of the crackle effect, adding another dimension to the design. This style of glass was made in a variety of colors.
When someone touches the outside of a piece of crackle glass, he or she can feel the fractures along the surface. These fissures, however, are confined to the top layer of the glass. The inside will feel smooth and even, with no sign of cracks or crevices.
The smooth underside is achieved because the glass is reheated after being submerged in cold water. The reheating process seals the cracks caused by the drastic temperature change, resulting in a flat under layer, making the glass suitable for a variety of uses.
A wide variety of items were made from glass produced with this method. Crackle glass beads made into necklaces and earrings were fashionable in the 1950s. Other popular items include vases, bowls, and pitchers. Knickknacks like figurines and paperweights have also been made from it.
@irontoenail - You don't have to just use round beads. You can experiment with almost any kind of glass bead, as long as it is all one color. Multi-colored beads tend to crack in half.
You might even be able to get glass beads with holes in them to work, although some of them might also crack in half in the water.
Just be careful and keep a lid on the frying pan. Although I've never heard of one of them popping, I always do just in case.
It's less expensive than buying vintage crackle glass which is quite popular.
If you want to make your own crackle glass you can using round glass beads or marbles. It's a technique that's called "frying". You put the glass beads (which should be cabochons, beads without holes in the middle) into a frying pan and heat them on a high heat. Roll them around a little so they heat evenly.
Then tip them into some ice water, like it says in the article. They will crack on the inside, so it won't be exactly the same as crackled glass, but it will look almost the same. Then you can make your new beads into jewelry.