Vintage World
August 11, 2018
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“Like Sand Through the Hourglass…”

… but if its a real hourglass, it wouldn’t have sand flowing through it.  Sand is too course and uneven, it would wear away the neck of the delicate instrument making time readings inaccurate. Instead Sand Clocks are more likely to contain powdered marble, tin or lead oxides, and in ancient times, pulverized, burnt eggshell… But it wouldn’t sound as good would it… “Like powdered marble through the hour glass…” Nah, doesn’t sound half as romantic.

No-one knows when hour glasses were first used. Some have guessed as late as the 1300’s others insist that hour glasses have been around since ancient times as they seem to have been so embedded in culture that artists used an hourglass in Greek and Roman paintings and frescoes to depict the passage of time, a reminder of our mortality or the passing of wisdom. We do know when the hourglass was invented it was welcomed with open arms by sailors and ship’s captains. It’s predecessor,  the water-clock (Clepsydra), was completely unsuitable for a seafaring life, and the sand glass was a huge improvement due to lack of condensation and the ability to withstand choppy conditions. Importantly, sand wouldn’t evaporate or freeze depending on weather conditions. at around the 1300s we find that ships listed hour glasses among their orders.  They were being used in churches to time Sermons (Known as Pulpit Clocks) and in people’s kitchens to time the cooking. Very likely most homes had a large water clock for general time keeping.

The first sand clocks were made of two separate glass bulbs tied at the neck openings with cord and secured with wax. In 1760 makers began glass-blowing the whole instrument in one operation. This made the instrument more accurate due to more regulated pressure and less tendency to condensation

Now, the flow of time through an hour glass is a very delicate balance between the size of the glass bulbs, the grade of the ‘sand’ they hold, and the size of the ‘neck’. The bigger the glass bulbs, the more sand they can hold, the longer the time span. The size of the grain, and the ‘neck’ width determine the speed of the flow. So, hour glasses could actually be day-glasses, even year-glasses but more commonly ‘minute’ glasses.  At VNA we have Sand Clocks that measure anything from 3 minutes to an hour.  Our hour glasses are mounted onto brass frames in a beautifully crafted and polished finish.

Click on the Giftware tab on the homepage to access the varieties available and make your order.