The History of Bohemian Glass - Coloring with Chemistry

Some consider that Bohemian Glass may be epitomized by the deeply colored, iridescent glassware and lighting designs that sprung from the likes and inspiration of Loetz. Others will recall more traditional cut crystal glass prisms often used in chandeliers, though perhaps of a lesser quality than the present day recognized market leaders. Few however would ever dispute the extraordinary beauty and sheer variety of glassware and lighting products that Bohemian Glass artisans, and artists alike, have brought to the lucent world of glass. Glassblowing, and not just in Bohemia, was both an evolving, living art and a family heritage-business that maintained and preserved its skills for centuries through secrecy. Fathers passed their knowledge to eldest sons who would adapt and enrich the process. Occasionally pioneers would create more significant breakthroughs and there was perhaps no Bohemian greater than Egermann.

The Marble Glass of Bedrich Egermann

In the early 19th Century, it was Bedrich Egermann of Bohemia who discovered and was the first to establish a way of adding an orange and red glaze to glass. Methods for removing the base glass colors of green to produce virtually clear crystal prisms had long been established; as had the use of cobalt, copper and other elements to create striking deep blues, translucent reds and the like. The introduction of this particular color glaze was a major innovation and brought him instant fame, though he was soon to make a second and even greater discovery that would propel him firmly into the industry’s lime-light. He later invented a way of manufacturing “semi-precious stones” with a substance he called lithyalin glass, also referred to as marble glass. This ability to re-create the likeness of semi-precious stone was to open a floodgate of creative innovation, sending ripples around the glass world. His contribution even reached back to other international glass-blowing communities in the Middle East, Italy and England – centers that previously had inspired and contributed to the blossoming of Bohemian glass itself.

Illuminating Bohemian Artisans and Artists

Several decades after Egermann, the international spotlights and glass Objet D’Art experts were again focusing their attention on Bohemia. This time it was on the glassworks company that became synonymous with the name of Loetz. Under the guidance of then factory owner, Max Ritter von Spaun, together with director Eduard Prochaska, the company focused on producing new types of imitation semi-precious stones. They developed innovative techniques that raised the quality and future standards of their industry. The iridizing effect, for which Bohemian glass is now renowned, had been discovered some decades earlier, but it was the Loetz glassworkers that were able to create a production line of truly exquisite masterpieces. It held up a beacon for the industry to follow. Others immediately imitated and mirrored their creativity and approach of combining the skills of artists and sculptors with the ever-increasing dexterity of their glassblowing artisans. It was a small renaissance with many adepts deeply immersed, refracting and alchemically refining the essence of their imagery, whilst others reflected back their ideas. From the crystallizing of all this mirage-like activity, the Art Nouveau movement was born and continued to flourish for but a short few decades. Loetz had raised the standards expected of glassworkers, and though the Art Nouveau period waxed and waned, the huge variety of styles seeded at that time, bore fruit then, has since, and will continue to bear offspring.

High-Lighting Qualities of Glass

Bearing in mind that the value we attach to anything has both a subjective (“I find this object pleasing”) and objective (“Other factors verify its worth”) quality. Whilst many people consider the greater the age of something as more significant than (and over-ride any of) its manufacturing defects, others think the opposite. Consider the dazzling beauty of a pristine crystal chandelier made with brand new Swarovski Strass crystal prisms and their swirling rainbow reflections. Few viewers would argue that it appears far superior if compared with an antique Bohemian crystal glass, which may have possible yellow discoloring and bubbling of a glass pendalogue or bobesche. Yet the owner of the Bohemian glass or even a Murano crystal chandelier may adore those visible imperfections as a guarantee of its uniqueness or antiquity. Nowadays, factory production standards of glassware are so high that people do have a choice between obtaining a new and flawless product or an older objet d’art made by real hands and not spinning cogs. Whatever our choice, having a deeper knowledge and history of the product gives us that further perspective to add to our appreciation. And by the way, did you know that the now world-famous Swarovski glass-cutting family also came from Bohemia, as do the Schonbeks, one of the world’s recognized leading manufacturers of crystal chandeliers, who frequently use the Swarovski crystals within their scintillatingly beautiful products.

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Julian Pollock is an internet publisher with a lighting news site on a variety of related topics. These include exploring research into environmentally supportive lighting products as well as aesthetically pleasing and traditional categories such as Italian glass chandelier and the more contemporary colored glass chandelier to mention but a few.

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