In this period the predominance that Venice had exercised in the world for centuries began to diminish. The preference grew in Europe and America for two types of glass, one with lead and the other with potassium. The first produced a heavier glass than Venice’s, but had a brilliance and softness that made it more ideal for cutting; the second produced a harder, very luminous glass. With the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which ratified the passage of the Spanish dominions in the Netherlands to the Hapsburg Empire, came the opening of the borders to Bohemian and German production. This political event impacted on the Venetian domestic market crisis, so much that the Senate issued a decree forbidding the production, sale or transit of glass from abroad across all the Republic’s territories; nevertheless the Bohemian glass continued to be smuggled in. Beyond these problems, a serious political crisis hit the Republic, which fell in 1797 under the Napoleonic offensive, and caused a paralysis of the glass industry from which it would recover only in the mid 19th century.
In the course of the 19th century there were no major changes with regard to production methods and tools, and even the advent of mechanization had no great impact on industrial glass. The glass industry went from being an uncertain and, in some ways, still mysterious undertaking to take on a more scientific character as the century wore on. In the design of the furnaces they studied methods to save fuel and maintain higher temperatures, to ensure a cleaner working environment and minimize contamination of the glass, and in the main foundries they began working with chemists. Thanks to this scientific and technical progress, the glassmakers were able to devote more time to experimentation and the realization of an infinite range of colours, shapes and decorative techniques that characterize the glass of the 19th century. In the first quarter the prevailing fashion in Europe was for cut glass. With the adoption of steam as an energy source, the engraver was able to control the speed of his wheel with greater precision in a way that allowed deeper diamond cutting and the development of more elaborate motifs. Only progress in the field of stained glass in Bohemia and France was able to undermine the popularity of cut glass. After the International Exposition of 1851, England developed an original and elegant kind of etched glass, inspired by classical antiquity and the Renaissance, in which the incisions were made with acid. So it was that England, for twenty years, leapt to the highest production level. Also Venice, in the meantime, under the leadership of Antonio Salviati, came into vogue with the revival of the art of enamelling. Stained glass came back into fashion thanks to the renewed interest in Gothic art and architecture, and the general idealization of the Middle Ages by the Pre-Raphaelites.
Around 1870, came the manufacture of better quality glass and a huge range of colours. The invention of the “press to form” in the United States of America in 1820, which enabled America to have a determining role in later years, marked the beginning of mass production. The glassmakers, thanks to the rapid succession of innovations and the development of communications, produced items with a wide variety of colours and decorations.