Irregular bands of colored glass snake across the surface of this tall, elegant vessel. The opulent gold bands are in fact gold leaf sandwiched between layers of colorless glass. Gold band glass was a luxury ware and this alabastron, or perfume flask, would have been owned by a prosperous Roman woman.
The term alabastron comes from alabaster, the material from which containers of this shape, used for perfume and scented oil, were originally made in Egypt. In the Roman Empire, the use of gold band glass was initially limited to the creation of alabastra, but the medium was gradually adapted for the creation of a variety of other shapes.
Gold band glass is a type of mosaic glass created by fusing together a series of thin glass rods or canes. Each distinctive band of the alabastron--for example, the blue band laminated with a white stripe--was originally an individual cane segment. Once the different colored canes had been made, they were placed side-by-side and heated until they formed a solid disc. By carefully reheating the disc, the glassmaker could push and pull the molten glass so that it flowed into the banded pattern encircling the vessel.