The History of Glass-Ceramic: From Kings to Cooktops.

 

EuroKera glass-ceramic cooktops are the modern incarnation of a centuries-old tradition in glass innovation. Our parent companies – Saint-Gobain and Corning, Inc. – have been at the forefront of revolutionary glass solutions since 1665 and 1851. Naturally, there have been a lot of milestones during that time, including the development of:

  • The mirrored glass for the Hall of Mirrors in the Château de Versailles in 1684
  • Designs and materials used in the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs
  • Glass-ceramic material of superior thermal resistance and strength

The amazing thing is how hundreds of years of ingenuity in technology, art and glass manufacturing have come home to the modern kitchen.

It started in 1990, when French company Saint-Gobain and Corning, Inc. of New York formed a new joint-venture called EuroKera. The alliance brought together master craftspeople and engineers who would develop and manufacture the leading glass-ceramic material for cooking hobs and fireplaces.

Today, the latest iterations of EuroKera glass-ceramic are literally reshaping the way people move and live in their homes.

 

Mirror Glass casting at Saint-Gobain in the presence of director Pierre Delaunay-Deslandes. Photo Credit: Saint-Gobain

How it Started – Glassmakers to the King

Our roots were planted in 1665, when King Louis XIV granted exclusive rights to a French company to manufacture “mirror glass,” meant to rival highly acclaimed Venetian glass. The white mirror glass used for the windows at Versailles were blown in Normandy and transported in their raw state to Paris for transformation.

Some mirrors have been replaced over the years, but 60 percent of the original mirrors commissioned by Louis XIV are still in place.

The Royal Mirror Glass Manufactory, as the company was called early on, would establish itself in the small village of Saint-Gobain in 1695. And Saint-Gobain is the name that has endured throughout the centuries.

350+ years later, the manufacturing process for EuroKera’s glass-ceramic cooking panels still begins in France. We create “green glass” at our KeraGlass facility located in Bagneaux-sur-Loing, France, about an hour outside of Paris. The glass is then sent to one of our global transformation facilities where it is made into glass-ceramic and finished into quality products, including glass-ceramic cooktops.

 

Glassmakers for the Globe

The global obsession with glass and mirrors continued to grow throughout the 1700s. By the end of the 17th century, The Royal Manufactory was sending mirror glass to South-East Asia through the East India Company.

The director of The Royal Manufactory at the time was Pierre Delaunay-Deslandes, who humbly proclaimed, “When I left in 1789, it was said that the Saint-Gobain establishment was one of the most beautiful and most brilliant in all of Europe.”

During the French Revolution, glass smoothing and polishing workers left to join the Army, and factories were converted to make cannon powder. After the conflict, the company lost its “royal” monopoly, but fortunately, glass consumption was growing in Europe and the United States.

 

Photography of the construction site of Château-Thierry in 1989.

 

The name Saint-Gobain became known internationally, and in the late 19thcentury, began to expand into different geographic areas, and subsidiaries. At the end of the 18th century, almost half of its products were exported to England, the United States and the Austrian Netherlands (current Belgium).

On the eve of the First World War, seven out of the ten glassworks owned by Saint-Gobain were located outside French borders.

Saint-Gobain began to acquire new capabilities in glass along with holdings in various French companies. In the early 20thcentury Saint-Gobain decided to diversify, developing the production of window glass, hollow glass and optical glass by buying foreign processes and creating a research laboratory.

Beginning in the 1990’s, the Saint-Gobain group seized every opportunity to set up factories in new countries. Russia and the Eastern countries, China, India, Asia and South America opened new windows of opportunity.

 

EuroKera – First in Glass-Ceramic

In 1952, Dr. S. Donald Stookey of the famous Corning company in New York discovered a family of new material– glass ceramic – by accident. He had exposed a rectangular piece of glass to ultraviolet radiation and then put it into a furnace (he was trying to precipitate silver).  When the furnace overheated, Stookey expected to find a melted mass in the furnace.

Instead, what he found was that the glass not only didn’t break or melt, it stayed intact when dropped. It also retained its shape.

Stookey also observed that the glass had been converted into a fine-grained glass-ceramic that was nonporous, and apparently much stronger than the original glass. The potential for this new material was unmistakable.

In 1990, Corning and Saint-Gobain started a joint-venture that would leverage this exclusive knowledge and expertise in glass-ceramic – EuroKera.

 

Today, EuroKera’s glass-ceramic is present in millions of homes throughout the world.

 

The Ultimate Kitchen Cooktop – No Palace Required

King Louis XIV envisioned the spectacular Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. But he could never have imagined the designs in glass-ceramic available throughout the world today. In private kitchens, no less.

The quest for greater home livability – shared spaces, sustainability, comfort features and elevated design – is the new vision of luxury. And in the tradition of innovation, EuroKera’s glass-ceramic cooktops are at the heart of what’s on the horizon in the kitchen.

Connectivity, artistic illumination, dazzling displays, new forms and multiple-use surfaces – designers worldwide continue to look to EuroKera for ingenious glass-ceramic material. From 17thcentury Paris to kitchens around the world, EuroKera honors its legacy of visionaries.

Thanks to Maurice Hamon, Saint-Gobain’s expert historian. Learn more about Saint-Gobain’s history and The Corning Museum of Glass.

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