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SHADES OF BLUE

THE ROLE OF COLOURED GLASS IN YOUR TABLEWARE COLLECTION

If the homeware shelves are anything to go by, coloured glass trends are like the tide, rolling in and out of fashion as they pass from designer dinnerware to the mainstream, to boho-chic, and eventually, to the realm of student flat staples, by which time of course the cycle starts all over again. But the psychology behind coloured glass is hugely fascinating – as is its history – and as part of your tableware collection, can elevate your dining experience to great heights.

JAN | Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen | SHADES OF BLUE

Various studies have been conducted on the influence of colour on our experience of food and beverages, all of which were conclusive: it is so powerful that we even perceive a difference in taste when drinking the same beverage from a different-coloured vessel. When served the same beverage in green, yellow, red and blue glass, the majority of subjects chose blue as the most thirst quenching. So, the next time you’re choosing the right water jug for your outdoor summer lunch, give the shades of autumn a skip and bring out the blues.

Traditionally, when tinted with an intense, deep blue hue, the glass got this pigment from cobalt oxide – found in copper and nickel ore – which was first used to tint glass in ancient Mesopotamia around 2,000 BCE, and later made its appearance in Ancient Egyptian pottery around 1,500 BCE. From there, it became more widespread in the Aegean region, and eventually found its way into Chinese porcelain from the Yuan and Ming dynasties, maiolica during the Renaissance and Dutch Delftware. Although it was also used in painting, the colour tended to fade over time, and was more effective as an underglaze in ceramics.

There was even a brief period following the 1870s when a former US Army general turned inventor named, Augustus James Pleasonton of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, popularised the theory that if you grew grapes under panes of blue glass, they would grow “better”. He even applied this theory to breeding pigs, whose roof he constructed of blue and violet-tinted glass. It remains unclear why violet applied better to pigs than to grapes. He went on to convince the physicians at Pennsylvania Hospital of the health benefits of basking under blue light, claiming it sped up patient recovery (based on the recovery of a woman and her premature baby post birth), as well as curing lower back pain (not upper back pain, mind), baldness and insomnia.

But no matter what our relationship with blue glass over the ages, we’ve always been drawn to it. Perhaps it is its resemblance to the sky or great big masses of water that has a calming effect on our psyches, or perhaps we’re drawn to its magic. It doesn’t occur readily in nature, after all. For the most part, what stains the sea and sky cobalt is a mystery to us.

The psychology behind the colour blue is multilayered. In food, it is often considered an appetite suppressant, but weaving the colour into your table décor creates accents of refreshment and calm – palate cleansers for the eyes. And while coloured glass is having a moment right now, it is best confined to cocktails, juices and water. Wine, on the other hand, is best enjoyed in a clear glass, where it can show off its intricate hues, an important part of the enjoyment of wine.

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