Italian hourglass

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Early 19th century
Fruitwood, glass, sand, red fabric, twine
26 cm
12.7 cm

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This Italian hourglass is made of fruit wood, with a green and a white colored glass. The two round end pieces of the hourglass are connected by five baluster-shaped pillars, with a knob in the center. The hourglass is filled with a light sand and consists of two pear-shaped glasses connected in the middle with wax, red fabric and twine. Between the two parts of the hourglass is a metal disc in which a small opening has been made: just big enough for the sand to pass through at the right speed.

The running time of the hourglass, and therefore the time it indicates, is determined by the amount of sand in combination with the size of the hole in the disc between the two glasses: the larger the opening, the shorter the time indicated by the hourglass. Over time, the drilled hole expands slightly: the sand that continually runs past it somewhat abrades the opening. Thus, the older the hourglass, the shorter the hour becomes. The glasses with the disc in between are connected to each other with wax, which is covered with fabric and tightly wrapped with rope. This connection had to be air and watertight so that no sand could run out and the sand in the hourglass could not clump. Hourglasses were filled with finely ground minerals, marble, lead, tin, and naturally occurring sand, among other things. The material was boiled, pulverized and sieved several times to create a homogeneous mixture devoid of organic material. 


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