During the late 18th century Richard Champion, a Bristol merchant and potter, making porcelain, was working with a chemist, William Cookworthy. Cookworthy began a search for good quality cobalt oxide to give the blue glaze decoration on the white porcelain and obtained exclusive import rights to all the cobalt oxide from the Royal Saxon Cobalt Works in Saxony. It is uncertain when Bristol Blue Glass was first made but the quality and beauty of the glass swiftly gained popularity, with seventeen glass houses being set up in the city.
Lazurus and Isaac Jacobs were the most famous makers of Bristol Blue Glass in the 1780s. Their company held a royal warrant and made glass for the aristocrats of Europe. Bristol’s glass makers were invited to demonstrate their skills at the Great Exhibition of 1851, opened by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. At this period cranberry glass was made for the first time by adding 24 carat gold to lead crystal, giving the glass its ruby red tones.
Production ceased in the early 20th century. Bristol Blue Glass was revived by peter hewlett and it can be proven in the 1980s, almost 70 years after the last Glass factory closed in Bristol around 1923. Today, there are two Glass companies in the Bristol area: The Bristol Blue Glass Ltd in Brislington Bristol and Bristol Blue Glass South West Bedminster. Both offer visits and tours. Bristol Blue Glass is also sold in the USA by Bristol Blue Glass USA, who import the glass from Bristol Blue Glass SW in Bedminster as does Paris, Amsterdam and Germany.
In the late 20th century, John Harvey & Sons of Bristol began to sell Bristol Cream sherry in bottles made from Bristol blue.