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The Glass Manufacture Roots of the dial glass

The commission at the end of the 1990s to gild the largest completely gilded building in the world was a technical challenge that led to new territory in the field of glass research. A glass coating had to be found that would bond with gold without absorbing the gold in the glass. A task that had been tackled 10 years earlier by one of the world’s largest glass manufacturers, but then abandoned after years of research. This intensive examination of the material glass, in order to thus permanently protect the gold coating of the Matrimandir, led not only to a deep knowledge but also to an appreciation of the material.
The story of the glass reads like a fairy tale from One Thousand and One Nights. Glass is a thoroughly mystical material, just like diamond. Glass was invented by the Egyptians, as a by-product of pyramid building, so to speak. The boatmen of the Nile, who brought limestone from the mountainous south of Egypt to the pyramids in the north, found this peculiar “gemstone” in their campfires, and were very soon able to produce this new type of stone themselves.

The pyramids of the ancient Egyptians are not only sacred buildings like temples, which appeared and still appear in every culture. The pyramids stand out among all the ancient buildings, or buildings in general. To this day, we don’t even know why they were built in the first place. All that is known is that they were the gateway to the other world for the pharaohs, from where they set out for the afterlife. Everything else is and remains a secret.

The fact that a new material is emerging from the activities surrounding these mystical and mysterious buildings has its significance. When something as massive as the pyramids manifests itself, there are forces and principles at work that not only have enormous assertiveness, but also enormous invisible substance: an occult knowledge, an underlying opening to other worlds, a connection to forces we do not know. In the environment of this manifestation there are certainly many as yet unknown elements that are stirred up and which, if one understands how to grasp them, develop their own identity. The discovery of glass is one of those “by-products” of the pyramids. The fact that glass made its entry into this world in the wake of the Egyptian pharaohs and their pyramids points to an inner proximity to these projects.

In other words, glass is a “mystical material”. Glass, like diamonds, has many chemical and physical characteristics. In terms of its molecular structure, glass is not a solid material. Pretty much all materials have three so-called “aggregate states”: solid, liquid, gaseous. Glass is, physically speaking, a melt, i.e. a liquid, although it is solid. It also changes shape over long periods of time. For example, the coloured glass panes on the old stained glass windows of Notre Dame or other medieval buildings are thicker at the bottom than at the top because the liquid glass, although solid, still flows. It just takes a very long time. In a way, glass is a liquid whose time has stood still. As a liquid, it is also transparent.

The more the research for the matrimandir on the connection of glass to gold progressed, the more the enthusiasm for this material grew. And so, at the end of the work on the Matrimandir, it became clear that what had been learned and loved could not simply be put aside, but that in future they would be active in two areas: with diamonds and with glass. The company Gold-in-Glass in Pondicherry was founded, and today operates as a 100% subsidiary of Aditi Diamonds. This is how a glass manufactory came into being that is at the forefront of the world’s glass art in terms of its knowledge and skill.

The art of making glass was probably one of the most closely guarded state secrets of the Egyptian empire and initially, of course, a state monopoly. When archaeologists led by Howard Carter opened the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen in 1922, they found two rings on the left hand of the young king’s mummy. A solid gold ring with a so-called “cartouche” and a ring with the most valuable gemstone in Egypt: with glass. The fact that the pharaoh’s ring was worked with blue glass and not with lapis lazuli proves that glass was more valuable than lapis in those days.

For the first two thousand years, almost half of its history, glass was used primarily as a precious stone or jewellery. Gold and glass were the two most valuable commodities in ancient Egypt for many, many generations. In their combination, processed as jewellery, they were for millennia the most coveted thing the peoples of the Egyptian empire could imagine. As the rings of Tut-Ench-Amun and many other finds prove, the ancient Egyptians achieved a variety of colours and a level of artistry in the processing of glass that we no longer possess today.

The long period of its history spent as a coveted gemstone, set in gold, has certainly left its mark on the occult environment of glass. Every material carries with it an aura of what it has done. The roots of glass, its history of origin in ancient Egypt, in one of the greatest mystical cultures of antiquity, its position as probably the most expensive economic good over a long period of time at the courts of the pharaohs, its proximity to gold, all this is still contained in glass.

The combination of gold and glass for the purpose of interior decoration experienced its first great flowering in ancient Byzantium, probably around 200 AD. Ever since gold has been processed, people have tried to make the effect of gold as large as possible. Pure gold is so soft that one gram of gold can be hammered out into a surface as large as a tabletop. Even in ancient Egypt, rings and other jewellery were often made of gold leaf enclosing a solid core of resin. The challenge to the goldsmiths was always: how can I represent the largest golden surface with as little gold as possible without the gold becoming unstable and too easily damaged. The Byzantines had a brilliant idea here. They made gold mosaic tiles with gold leaf overlaid with glass.

The only problem with this new technical process was the following: Glass absorbs metals in the molten state. If liquid glass were poured onto gold leaf, the gold would simply be absorbed into the glass and visually disappear. The Byzantines solved this problem by using a special, fast-melting glass called glass flux. Glass flow is rich in alkalis and thus becomes liquid even at very low temperatures. With this, gold leaf could be poured over without the cold gold being absorbed by the glass. The disadvantage: glass flow is not water-resistant and the gold tiles could only be used indoors. There, however, they hardly change over time. Today, almost two thousand years later, the first glass-gold-glass tiles can still be admired in one of the early Christian basilicas in Istanbul.
The result of 3 years of research on glass gilding of the Matrimandir was a gold tile, in which gold foil is melted into glass in a vacuum process. With this product the problem, a permanent gilding of 4500 square metres of gilded surface in a tropical-saline climate, was solved. At the same time, a new art form of glass and gold emerged, developing its own identity.

Even if the mysticism of its creation and its three millennia old early historical phase has been forgotten today, and even if most people today see glass primarily as a technical material, glass still has this magical element and a peculiar attraction for people. There were and are only a few manufactories in modern times that could and can draw from this depth of glass, such as Venetian glass art, Murano glass, Tiffany glass art, old Bohemian crystal glass art, Pate Verre art, Bavarian glassblowing art and the art of combining glass with gold, the art of gold-in-glass.

Gold-in-Glass sees itself as a craft style that is not only based on a new technical element – the vacuum fusion of gold and glass. Gold-in-Glass does involve the most modern glass fusing process currently available. But the aesthetic component of gold-in-glass art is rooted in the tradition of ancient glass art. The combination of the two elements gold and glass, as found in interior design in ancient Byzantium 2000 years ago, is a style element that has its roots in both modern times and antiquity.

This is also clearly expressed in all the artworks of Gold-in-Glass craftsmanship. Whether as jewellery or as interior decoration, as a façade element or as an object of everyday life
Life, an Egyptian or oriental flair in the style is immediately perceptible to every sensitive and art-savvy person.
Today, a well-coordinated team in Gold-in-Glass, under the artistic leadership of a Swiss, the technical guidance of a Russian engineer and a German, not only produces gold tiles for temple roofs. The highest quality tableware made of pure gold and glass, jewellery made of coloured glass combined with gold and many other articles of glass art are also produced in Pondicherry.

The classic gold tile, as used at Matrimandir, has since found its way onto the roofs of Indian temples, into corridors, swimming pools and bathrooms of villas in Ibiza, into façade elements of hotel lobbies and conference rooms worldwide.
The development of the dial glass was not a quick fix, but took many years. The first patent submission took place on 24 March 2002.

What is interesting about the invention of the dial glass is the double root from the same basic historical substance. Both the classic dial and the glass itself originate from ancient Egypt.

To read about the history of the dial, please refer to our book “The Philosophy of Time”, chapter 33, page 232. The dial of today’s classic wristwatch goes back to the dials in public places in ancient Egypt, where the time was calculated with the help of a water clock and every hour, a timekeeper moved a hand in front of an oversized dial by one hour.

Since not only the dial was invented in ancient Egypt, but also the glass itself, two elements from the same nursery meet here and result in a new element for the classic watch: the dial glass.
The Niveau élevé glass manufacture, Gold-in-Glass in South India, is proud to have contributed to the development of this “seventh element” of a classic watch.

The fact that a transparent glass, born at the same time and place as the division of time, the dial, merges with it into a single entity, the “dial glass”, and that this new element emerges in the environment of time, again in the environment of the Matrimandir, a wholly exceptional building, is no coincidence. There are parallels here that cannot be explained but cannot be overlooked either. The dial glass, as opposed to the dial, holds the division of time in full transparency and allows us to look through the division of time to the flow of time, to the moving hands. The dial glass as a carrier of the structure of time, a liquid whose time has stopped, through which we perceive our events, our passage of time, our life, has great symbolic power.
In order to properly grasp the depth of this symbolism, we need to go back a little. What are we ourselves actually? We ourselves, if we take it very seriously, are actually only our consciousness. The philosopher who best summed this up was Descartes, with his beautiful sentence: “I think, therefore I am”. What is behind this sentence? Descartes asked himself “What am I?” In this context, two options initially presented themselves:

a) I am my body.
b) I am my spirit.

How can I now determine whether I am primarily my body, whether my “I” is my body, or whether I am my spirit, whether my “I” is located in my spirit? To find this out, Descartes does two experiments. He imagines if he could still be “himself” without a body. So he blocks out his body in his consciousness, and finds that he is still “thinking”, that is, that his consciousness is still there, he still “is”. Then he does the second experiment. He tries to block out the mind, the thinking, and just be his body. And here he is now losing his “I-feeling”. Descartes thus concludes that his “I”, i.e. himself, is located in his consciousness and records this in the famous sentence: “I think, therefore I am”.

Descartes was right in principle: the “I”, we ourselves, are our consciousness, not our body. But now comes the next question: What actually is our consciousness? If we analyse our consciousness with similar acuity of mind, then an inventory of consciousness first brings to light that consciousness is that area of us in which we perceive the world, our lives and ourselves. Consciousness is the instrument through which the “self” experiences events, i.e. the passage of time. The symbolism of the dial is now exactly the same. It is the instance through which we perceive the course of the hands, i.e. the flow of time, which places our perception into a system, an order, a valuation, which defines our perception as what it is for us. Without the dial glass, we would see the hands, but without knowing where they are, their perception would be meaningless. Only the evaluation makes the perception what it is. So it is the dial, which in the world of time, or in the world of the clock, is symbolic of our consciousness and thus symbolic of ourselves.

The fact that the dial in the Niveau élevé watches is above the hands, i.e. above the passage of time, and not behind it, is the whole essence of the Niveau élevé watch philosophy. It is the fact that we put ourselves above the course of events, that we ourselves are not carried away by external circumstances, that we try to preserve our identity and our integrity, our independence. We are ourselves, we are the primary instance. The events, our compulsions, obligations, circumstances, lie deep underneath and do not touch us. We are above what is going on. The absence of problems is not a precondition of joy, the outer peace is not a condition for the inner peace.

We are masters of our time.