Of all the technological achievements of civilization, perhaps none so delights the senses as glass. For thousands of years, glass has been used to create jewelry, works of art, and functional objects of great beauty. In the bible, the value of glass is equated with that of gold and silver, and it was indeed treated by the ancients as a precious substance. The origins of glass are lost in the mists of time, but the Egyptians in the 4th millennium B.C most probably invented it. The roman naturalist Pliny attributes the discovery of glassmaking to the Phoenicians, and the cities of the Levant were famous as centers for the glass trade. The earliest glass was opaque, colored in a variety of rich hues that often imitated gems like lapis and emerald. The Egyptians used it extensively in jewelry and made little distinction between the genuine and the artificial gems. The art of glassblowing and the development of transparent glass both date to the roman period. From centers like Tyre and Alexandria, glass vessels were exported throughout the empire and as Far East as Persia and China. The Romans colored their glass in myriad shades, favoring blue, green and yellow, as well as clear. One of the most fascinating properties of glass is that, through oxidization, it acquires a rich iridescent patina with age. Brilliant as a peacock's tail, these glass jewels are pieces of history that appeal directly to the contemporary eye.