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Silicate glasses have existed for eons. The oldest specimens, which have been lying on the surface of the Moon for 4 billion years, display a wide range cf chemical compositions (Reid et al., 1973) and are a testimony of the early, intensive volcanic activity of our satellite. On the Earth the geological conditions for glass preservation are of course less good, bu; glasses bearing a few hundred million years are not uncommon. Better known are obsidians, which have been used very early by Man for making tools, or the basaltic glasses formed at the surface of pillow lavas when the magmas coming up at the mid-ocean ridges are suddenly cooled by oceanic waters (e.g., Langmuir et al., 1977). Geochemical interest in glasses dates back only to the 1970’s, however, and it mainly stems from the fact that glasses constitute a fruitful starting point for investigating the structure and properties of melts (e.g., Stebbins et al., 1995).

Ever since they were first produced in the Middle East 4000 years ago, glasses have indeed been known to form through cooling of liquids. Glasses, in fact, gained a widespread practical importance only at the beginning of the present era when a major technological revolution resulted from the discovery in Syria–Palestine that they could be blown. But it is much later that a great many advances in the understanding of their properties have been brought by their innumerable practical uses.

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