IN 1674 George Ravenscroft, an English glass merchant, was granted a patent for the discovery made at his factory in London that adding lead oxide to the melt resulted in a clearer, more durable product. Thus was born lead crystal, and with it the fashion, in England, of drinking wine from glass vessels rather than, say, pewter ones.
Wine glasses have evolved since then, of course, and one aspect of this evolution is of particular interest to Theresa Marteau and her colleagues in the Behaviour and Health Research Unit at Cambridge University. Dr Marteau suspected that glasses have got bigger over the years, and that this may have contributed to the increased drinking of wine in Britain—an increase that has been particularly marked in recent decades.
As they report in the BMJ, a medical journal, she and her team obtained data on glass volumes going back to about 1700 from sources including the Royal Household (which buys a new set for each…Continue reading