Where do cut glass figures come from?

November 24, 2021 0 Comments

Cut glass figures

Crystal and glass figures have been made over the centuries. Famous producers of crystal figures are, for example, Lalique, Baccarat, Daum and Cristallerie d’Argues. These are beautiful sculptures made of glass or crystal and represent people, animals, flowers, etc.

But this is not the type of crystal figures we are talking about here. The cut crystal figures are made from faceted and cut lead crystal stones. Due to the use of a high lead content in the crystal, the light is reflected, actually diffracted, and this results in a beautiful color palette.

Basically, these figures are made up of cut crystal lamp pendants and cut crystal beads, glued together in such a way that they represent, for example, an animal or a flower. But that was basically it. Modern cut glass figures are made from specially designed cut glass components.

History of glass cutting

Bohemia was the area where most of the glass and crystal cutting was concentrated in the 19th century. They produced most of the crystal chandelier pendants and also cut crystal beads and pendants for the jewelry and fashion industry.

Cutting and polishing glass and crystal stones was a tedious job and required a lot of skill in those days.

The son of one of the best Bohemian glass cutters of the mid-19th century, he was a young man named Daniel Swarovski.

After visiting an exhibition in Vienna in 1883, he became obsessed with the possibilities of electricity. I wanted to use electricity to power the tedious glass cutting process. He did it after nine years of experimenting! and it could patent the first semi-automatic, electrically driven glass and crystal cutting machine.

This was such a revolutionary invention that it changed the glass cutting industry forever. His machine could cut glass and crystal with much more precision and at a much higher speed than the manual cutting method.

The perfection of crystal cutting

After the invention of electrically powered cutting technology, Daniel Swarovski did not stop inventing. He started a factory where he constantly improved the cut, but also mastered making flawless high-lead glass.

Its jewelery stones made it the number one supplier to the fashion industry in Paris. All famous couturiers used their cut crystal stones and Swarovski became an established brand.

The Swarovski company never stopped developing new ways to make better crystal and new ways to cut better crystal. Needless to say, they are still the world’s # 1 glass cutting company today.

The first cut glass figure

It wasn’t that long ago, actually 1976, that the first commercial cut glass figurine was made and again that one was made by the Swarovski company.

In 1976, the Winter Olympics were held in Innsbruck, Austria, not far from the Swarovski factories (Wattens, Austria). Swarovski designer Max Schreck made a mouse out of cut crystal stones and it became a bestseller during games immediately after it was released.

The reason it took so long before the first cut glass figure saw the light of day is because, until the early 1970s, there was no glue that could hold stones together. Glue is an acrylate solution that hardens to a clear acrylic substance under ultraviolet radiation. That kind of chemistry only developed after WWII.

The smaller version of the original mouse is still available and is sold under the name “replica mouse”. The replica mouse is no longer alone. The collection of cut crystal Swarovski figurines continues to grow and the beautiful cut crystal figurines depict themes from the world of flora and fauna, childhood memories, Christmas themes and more.

Famous brands of cut glass figures

The most famous brand is undoubtedly Swarovski. There is a whole army of collectors of some 325,000 people who are members of the Swarovski Crystal Society. Being a member of the largest collectors society in the world allows you to buy limited editions. Limited editions are special models that are produced only in limited quantities.

Many companies have started making cut crystal figurines after Swarovski started their collection. And many of them have stopped after a while.

Making cut glass figures is not just gluing on some stones. The companies that survived the last four decades and still make cut glass figurines are the companies that put a lot of effort into design and quality.

Precious from the Czech Republic is one of these companies. They have a large collection of beautifully designed figurines and they also use the best glass for it. After all, Preciosa is the world’s # 2 glass cutting company and they have a name to keep.

Crystal World is another leading brand. This company, with a team of Japanese designers, has already made beautiful pieces since it was founded by Rudy (Ryuyu) Nakai, in 1983, in the United States.

In Egypt there is the Asfour company. Asfour is like Swarovski and Preciosa is also a giant crystal cutting company. Asfour also makes a high quality crystal and they design beautiful crystal figures.

You will find other producers of crystal figurines in other countries, but they are generally not as specialized as the previous four companies. China and Turkey have quite a few crystal figurine producers. Some of those companies have good models, but for most of them, glass figurines are not their core business and they usually offer a range of other glass products alongside the figurines.

Cut glass figures hold a magical attraction for many people. The clarity of the material, the breakdown of light in many colors and the timeless designs make people want to surround themselves with them.

What once started as a monocrystalline mouse in Austria in 1976 is now collected by hundreds of thousands of people around the world and brings joy to many every day. We can only thank the world-renowned and innovative Swarovski crystal cutting company for inventing the cut crystal figures that bring that special touch to many people’s lives.

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