Humanity has come a long way from inventing the wheel to the scientific dab rigs and percolator bongs.
Interestingly, people have been using bongs long before they were introduced in the form we know today. In fact, the use of pipes and bongs for smoking cannabis dates back to Ancient Asia — so does the use of glass.
So how come these two things had to wait until the late 60s of the 20th century to be finally combined and create the iconic smoking accessory that’s now available in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and designs?
Why did we have to wait so long?
Well, some things just happen — and you can’t explain why.
But the history of glass pipes is very intriguing in itself. In this article, you’ll learn everything about their past, current use, as well as the future perspective of the marijuana glass market.
Let’s travel back in time first!
The Origins of Glass
Glass can be naturally found around volcanoes and obsidian created from cooling lava. The first historical records suggest that the first glass tool was made in Mesopotamia around 2500–1500 BCE. The Mesopotamian civilization used the glass to create colorful beads — mostly white, blue, or yellow — which they further used for accessories and jewelry.
The art of glassblowing was developed in the Hellenistic Period of Ancient Rome. The Romans used diversified mosaic techniques known as “millefiori” to create distinct patterns for beads and pottery. The millefiori technique was completely forgotten by the 18th century, but received its second life a hundred years later. Millefiori means “thousand flowers” in Italian; it gave rise to the popular implosion-style marbles that you can see in many bongs today.
When Was the First Bong Invented?
People have been smoking dry herbs in Central Asia and Africa for centuries. However, recent archeological findings in Russia indicate that the tribal chieftains of the Iranian-Eurasian Scythe trybe once smoked cannabis from golden bong — which was about 2400 years ago.
These are the earliest records of ancient bong use. Before that discovery, the earliest known water pipes were found in an Ethiopian cave from around 1400 CE. Expeditionists found 11 bongs in the cave, many of which were extended underground for extra filtration and cooling.
Wondering how were the Ethiopian bongs made? They included ducts and bottles made out of animal horns and basic pottery — does the “gravity bong” name ring a bell here?
Even the Chinese Loved Bongs
The use of bongs spread to Central Asia in the 16th century. The word “bong” actually derives from the Thai word “buang,” which specifically described bamboo bongs that were commonly used in Central Asia.
There’s a theory that it was the Ming Dynasty in China that Introduced the use of water in bongs, spreading this technique via the Silk Road. Empress Dowager Cixi, one of the Chinese regents during the Quing Dynasty, was found buried with her three bongs.
So… Were Bongs Just Big Waterless Pipes Before the Ming Dynasty?
Back before some smart Asian decided to pour water into the bong, people have been using pipes for smoking weed quite regularly. Pipes were actually popular among every ancient culture, including India, Nepal, Egypt, Arabia, China, Thailand, Vietnam, and more.
Pipes were made out of virtually every natural material that could be carved into a bowl-shaped tool with a mouthpiece. In countries like China or Thailand, people smoked cannabis from wooden pipes.
India, on the other hand, invented something we know today as chillum. The chillum is a conical pipe, typically made of clay, which you pack with cannabis at one end, and inhale the smoke from your herb at another.
Finally, places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey were famous for hookahs, also known as the “shisha”. Similar to bongs, hookahs include water filtration, but the smoke isn’t inhaled directly through the mouthpiece. Instead, people use a fiber-made hosepipe to pull the smoke from the inside of the chamber.
At this point, you’re probably wondering when the bong met the glass. Well, let’s travel to more recent times.
The Rise of the Glass Pipe Industry
For many centuries, the bong industry flourished from the Silk Road to the rest of the world, especially as tobacco became a cash crop following the European colonization of America.
At the same time, the glass industry was going through its golden age, especially with the glass lamp shades from Louis Comfort Tiffany that conquered the market in the 19th century. But the real boom took place in the 20th century, with the introduction of the glass bongs in 1960s and 1970s.
Bob Snodgras was the man behind the great bong movement. He became the symbol the moment he designed glass bongs across the country during a Grateful Dead tour. Snodgras then moved to Eugene, Oregon, taking a student, hugh Selkind.
Snodgras used borosilicate glass, which is the cleanest and most durable form of glass. It was in Eugene where Snodgrass came up with fuming — the process that uses silver and gold to put colors in borosilicate glass.
The borosilicate bong grabbed Americans by the throat, with sturdy glass water pipes at the forefront of specialty stores. By the late ‘90s, even Tommy Chong hopped on the bandwagon, launching his own brand of bongs signed with his name.
Head shops started to pop up like mushrooms after a heavy rain.
The Glass Pipe Crisis
In 2003, a shadow began to loom over the glass pipe industry, when the US government spent around 12 million dollars to fuel an aggressive campaign against bongs, aiming at banning their sales. As a result, 55 retailers were shut down due to selling “drug paraphernalia”. At the same time, most “Chong Bongs’ were confiscated as well. Online stores, whose popularity skyrocketed at that time, were quickly removed from the web.
The glass pipe industry was estimated to be worth nearly $1 billion a year at that time.
Like a Phoenix from the Ashes
Glass pipes managed to endure those dark times, and as cannabis started to gain social acceptance thanks to its many medical benefits, the industry received its redemption story. Pipes and bongs are now legal for tobacco use; But worry not, nobody’s going to ask you “Sir, do you swear to your mother’s name that you won’t use this double-cooler tri-percolator scientific glass bong for smoking marijuana?”
You can shop through our collection of glass pipes and bongs to find the best device for your toking needs, and you won’t need an underground network to be able to enjoy smooth, cool, and flavorful hits.
Now that we’ve made it through the history of glass pipes, let’s take a look at the industry from today’s perspective.
The Present: What Does the Modern World of Pipes Look Like?
The abundance of glass pipes can be overwhelming for new consumers. These smoking devices are available in a plethora of shapes, sizes, designs, and functions.
If you’ve never used a glass pipe before, this section is just the perfect place to get started.
Below we cover the most common types of glass pipes — we’ll break them down into three main categories.
1. Hand Pipes
A hand pipe is arguably the simplest smoking devices made from glass. They can be as simple as one-hitters or take forms of animals, everyday objects like fruits and vegetables, or be crafted into artistic masterpieces.
Most pipes don’t have any special features, but if they do, it’s usually a spiral mechanism that creates a longer route for the smoke to pass through before it reaches your mouth.
These pipes consist of three basic elements — the bowl, stem, and mouthpiece. The bowl is where you pack the weed; the stem holds the smoke and the mouthpiece is where you place your lips over to inhale the smoke.
If you want a real piece of art, browse through our selection of handmade glass pipes.
2. Bubbler Pipes
Bubblers are similar to hand pipes. They’re almost the same size, but they have one feature that separates them from their classic counterparts — it’s the bubbler part.
The bubbler is a small chamber that you fill with water. When you inhale your herbs through the mouthpiece, the smoke gathers in the chamber below the bubbler, where it gets cooled and filtered by the water.
The element that allows for collecting the smoke in the chamber is known as the carb. It’s just a small hole on the side or back of your bubbler pipe that you seal with a finger and release once enough smoke has gathered inside your piece.
Bubblers combine the portability of hand pipes with some of the filtration provided by bongs.
Speaking of which…
The bong is the king of all glass pipes. Put simply, it’s a large device with a cylindrical tube and solid base that holds enough water to cool and filter the smoke. Bongs can range from simple models to advanced units with high-tech filtration systems and extra cooling elements.
The main advantage of bongs over hand pipes and bubblers is the volume of smoke you can gather in the chamber of your bong. The high after a bong session is both more potent and longer-lasting, not to mention the explosion of flavors from your favorite strain.
You can find mini bongs, standard bongs, double- or triple-percolator bongs, and even gargantuan pieces designed exclusively for some of the most seasoned weed veterans.
At FatBuddhaGlass.com, we make sure that everybody finds a bong that’s tailored to their preferences.
Why is Glass Superior to Other Materials?
Glass isn’t the only material used for making pipes. They can be molded out of plastic, metal, or silicone, but none of them even close to the quality of borosilicate glass.
Why is that?
There are two reasons why glass is superior to other materials.
First, glass doesn’t interact with the flavor of your smoke, allowing for the cleanest and smoothest hits.
Secondly, and more importantly, glass doesn’t transfer any chemicals to the smoke unlike plastic or aluminum. In other words, glass is the safest of all bong materials from the consumer’s perspective.
Not to mention that borosilicate glass is extremely durable.
The Future: What Can We Expect from the Glass Pipe Industry?
Pipes have come a long way from what they looked like in Ancient China to what they are today. It seems that the next step forward in the evolution of glass pipe is strongly connected with dab rigs.
What are dab rigs?
These are just scientific water pipes made specifically for dabbing cannabis concentrates. Aside from the classic elements of the bong, dab rigs come equipped with dabbers (the tool for picking up concentrates), nails (the heated element which lights your dabs), and torches (the heating tool).
Dab rigs work by flash-vaporizing the herb, which gives the user the flavors provided by vaping, combined with powerful hits similar to those achieved with the bong.
There’s also an abundance of smoking accessories designed for glass pipes and bongs. For example, you can buy special adapters that allow you to attach your vaporizer to the pipe or bong and make enjoy cool vapor with even more flavor inside of it.
Last but not least, we have joint bubblers. These little pieces work like regular bubbler pipes, but they hold a joint instead of sheer ground flower. Joint bubblers are perfect for those who savor the old tradition of rolling cannabis into paper but can’t stand the harsh smoke any longer.
When did you get your first glass pipe? Was it a simple piece or something special? Share your stories!