The monastic order of the Benedictines is thought to have first attempted producing glass in an industrial manner within the territory of today’s Czech Republic. They were the first to produce glass for church and monastery stained-glass windows. The first commercial glassworks were founded in Bohemia during the first half of the thirteenth century.
The development of glassmaking in the Czech lands wouldn’t have been possible without sufficient deposits of suitable silica sand and supplies of wood, used as material for melting glass and fuel for the glassmaking kilns. The most suitable conditions were found in the area near today’s Czech borders, where there was enough material for construction of kilns, as well as the swift streams necessary to run glass cutting workshops and quartz stone grinders.
The history of Czech glassmaking during the Middle Ages is tied to the reign of King Charles IV, who invited Venetian glassmakers from the Murano island to Prague. They used local sources to produce stained-glass. However, Czech glassmakers of the time were also producing medieval chalices and other products from the green-tinted forest glass that became popular both at the courts of rulers and with customers far abroad, thanks to the gradual development of new glassworks and the efforts of their salesmen.
By the sixteenth century, over thirty glassworks were active in the region of today’s Czech Republic. Czech glassmaking found a great deal of support for development, particularly during the reign of King and Emperor Rudolph II. The arrival of many precious-stone cutters resulted in these artists also learning to cut Bohemian Crystal.
At the time, Czech glassmakers were already producing colorless glass perfectly suited for decoration. The properties of clear glass resembled natural quartz stone, so it gained the name of Bohemian Crystal. Caspar Lehmann, a gem and glass cutter working at the court of Rudolph II, is important to the history of Bohemian crystal. He advanced the technique for engraving glass to a new level, when he first used a cutting machine with copper wheels. Lehmann’s cutting machines gave birth to the massive success of Czech baroque crystal during the subsequent decades.
At the turn of seventeenth and eighteenth century, Bohemian crystal had practically no competition in Europe. It was more sought after by wealthy clients than the previously more famous Venetian glass. The area around the Czech borders became the production and trading center of the Czech glassmaking industry.
Just as in other artistic fields, Czech engraved glass became the carrier of many aesthetic approaches and trends, ranging from the ornamentally rich Art Nouveau at the end of the nineteenth century to the austerity of functionalism in the beginning of the twenties, as well as the many creative experiments of modern art.
Bohemian crystal was always identified by high quality, thanks to which it became renowned as a unique export item. Yet this success wouldn’t have been possible without the contribution of an army of artists, designers, traders and teachers who approached this material with the outmost honor and respect despite the whimsy of fashion over the years.
Although globalization made beauty secondary to floods of the ordinary and quality was often overlooked, Bohemian crystal again became a sought-after item, particularly with aficionados of beauty, delicacy, perfection and unique artistry.
CLARESCO Glass continues this long tradition in the production of Bohemian crystal, offering hand-blown and decorated glassware of many shapes and patterns. CLARESCO Glass emphasizes quality and precision, as well as fulfilling the desires of our most demanding customers.