Bohemia and Crystal
The Czech Tradition
Czech glassmaking has a very long sustained tradition and has also built an excellent reputation and enjoys a privileged position from medieval ages, and as a consequence has set the trends in art and technology across the world. Glass has been always evident within the territory of the Czech Republic dating from the second millennium B.C., with the first written evidence about it dating from the beginning of the 12th century A.D. The oldest known and documented glassworks in the Czech Republic dates back to the end of the 13th century, but in much earlier times, glassware ornamentation has been quite popular in both noble palaces and within houses of commons even with its high cost. Dating back as far as the Gothic period, Czech glass has been famous for its purity, advanced use of technology, originality of style and consequently has established the origins of the distinguished term "Czech glass" which has been known worldwide as a defining statement for quality through its prominent history to the modern times.
Illuminating Palaces and Fine Buildings
From early times candle chandeliers were prominent in medieval places of assembly. They generally took the form of wooden crosses with several of spikes to which candles were attached. The whole assembly was then hoisted to a suitable height on a rope or linked chain and suspended from a ceiling hook. Glassware termed "the Czech Baroque" engraved glass was traditionally a statement of dazzling luxury adornment found in important mansions of nobility together with honourable houses of commons across the world. Dating from the 1720's the Czech glassmakers have made fine ornamentation for kings palaces including famous chandeliers dressed with cut glass trimmings. This was the specialty of Josef Palme from Prachen in North Bohemia who is recognised as the first pioneer. From the 15th century, techniques advanced and more elaborate chandeliers types based on ring or crown designs grew in popularity as decorative features for palaces and the grand homes of the nobility, clergy and merchant class. Grand chandeliers made from Czech glass have illuminated the interiors of opera houses in Rome, Milan, Brussels, and luxury hotels in the USA from the early 1900's.
The Czech glass history has been characterised by Forest glass (known as Waldglas) which was made up to 1650 AD. The origin of the name Forest Glass was believed to have come from the greenish colour of the Czech glass of that time, and it was thought that the colour was a result of the lack of capability of the glass manufacturers to produce clear glass which were absent of impurities. Modern research has now shown , that this colour was an indicator of modern fashions and not a constraint of the manufacturers processes. This discovery was evident because czech Forest Glass appeared regularly even after the art of clear glass making was perfected and in addition the forest glass had a much more intensive green shade than would have resulted from the impurities alone. It is recorded in historical records that Glassworks started being built in forests, as workers searched for more wood to feed their furnaces and this is a far more likely origin for the name Forest Glass. In the strive to produce more glass even the darkest forests were colonised as they produced the sort after glassware.
For a chandelier to carry the label 'Bohemia Crystal', the entire chandelier must be made in the Czech Republic. Also, it must pass or exceed very strict quality standards set by the Czech authorities to enforce and protect the well guarded trademark 'Bohemia Crystal'. A basic definition of Crystal, is glass of superior quality which exhibits a high degree of brilliance. Crystal quality does vary as colour and brilliance is dependent on the composition and proportioning of raw materials together with the technological process adopted. These processes and crystal composition details have been traditionally kept a secret within the community so as to protect the important formulae. In order to give the crystal a dramatic and exotic appearance through light reflection colourisation, it is necessary to add a specific blend of colours to the basic crystal glass formulae which then produces transparent pink, pale blue, cobalt blue, ruby red, amber, topaz and olivine undertones. The technique to produce a richer design, is to provide more facets to reflect light and by increasing the precision of the cut more valuable crystals are created. The beauty of some Bohemia Crystal glass creations are further enhanced with gold plate and enamelled designs which gives them the ultimate statement of timeless beauty and elegance.