crown glass

 A distinctive feature on many classic Charleston exteriors is the wavy ripple in historic, hand-made glass, which adds a subtle charm to windows of various sizes and shapes.

 Glass making for much of Charleston’s early history was done by hand, heating combinations of silica and sand into molten globs that were then shaped by blowing through a blowpipe. Huffed and puffed into a flat circular-shaped mass known as a crown, the molten glass was then attached to a pole that as spun so fast that centrifugal force spread the crown into flat sheets that could be cut into panes.
 The spinning motion is what causes the slight ripple in historic glass, and would also occasionally cause air pockets to appear. These were sometimes cut out and used as panes in lesser windows, along with the part of the glass were the spinning pole had been attached, called the “bullseye”.
 A good example of these varying parts can be seen at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, whose second north side window still features a bullseye, two air pocket panes, and several others that ripple.
 Although hand-made glass panes can still be created by artisans who continue to blow glass today, any breakage of historic panes are easier to replace with modern glass, which is also more durable and better insulation.   

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