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With the invention of lead glass by George Ravenscroft in the 1670s, clear glass vessels became cheaper, more robust, and were produced in larger numbers than before. Until then, the manufacture of high-quality glass was dominated by Venetians, who used a mix with manganese oxide called cristallo for their luxurious clear glass. The trade in Venetian glass profited from the fashion, for those with sufficient disposable income, to use glass rather than precious metal vessels to drink wine and ale from the late fifteenth century onwards. 

William Harrison, in his 1586 Description of England, observed: ‘It is a world to see in these our days, wherein gold and silver most aboundeth, how that our gentility, as loathing those metals (because of the plenty) do now generally choose rather the Venice glasses, both for our wine and beer […] And as this is seen in the gentility, so in the wealthy communalty the like desire of glass is not neglected.’ A century later, this desire was more than fulfilled by English glass manufactories, which quickly adopted Ravenscroft’s formula and began producing lead glass for the domestic and European markets. The early vessels, like this ceremonial goblet, copied the delicate and elaborate designs of Venetian models, but later designs were simplified and developments were made in the creation of air twists in the stems. Lead glass was also easier to engrave, resulting in a secondary market for English glass comprising engravers from the continent. English manufactures expanded across Europe in the eighteenth century until competing centres were set up in France, Germany, Hungary and Norway by the end of the century.