Glass is one of the world’s most versatile materials and is an ever present feature of modern life from drinking vessels and phone screens to solar panels and medical vials. Made entirely of raw materials found in nature, glass is one of the most environmentally friendly materials available. It is sometimes referred to as the eternal material as it can be continuously reused and recycled which reduces waste, cuts CO² emissions and saves raw materials.
Celebrations are taking place across the world this year to mark the Year Of Glass, including in the Czech Republic! Let’s discover more with David Pastva, the manager of Crystal Valley region, the glass heart of the country, that lies only few hours drive away from the capital, Prague. Tourists can not only have the authentic glass workshop experience, but also explore further the spectacular mountain ranges in the area or head to Liberec, the historic centre of the region. Visitors to the Crystal Valley have the opportunity to admire the art of master glass craftsmen at the glassworks in Lindava or Harrachov, discover ornate Christmas decorations in Poniklá on the slopes of the Giant Mountains and take part in jewellery and stove workshops in Bohemian Paradise.
“Coincidence brought me to the glass. While studying at university, I often hitchhiked. I once stopped a car with a German licence plate. The man was a German originally from northern Bohemia and his wife an American from California. They flew to Dresden and then went to visit the city of Jablonec, where the most beautiful Christmas decorations in the world are made. I thought ‘So they fly across half the world to discover Czech glass up close?’. That experience made me fully aware of the uniqueness of local glass production…At the time, I had no idea that I would have the honour of becoming the manager of such an amazing project as Crystal Valley.” concluded David.
The history of glass making in the Czech Republic
Glass making is synonymous with the Czech Republic and is one of the country's best preserved crafts, dating all the way back to the 12th century! The art of glass making is a key part of Czech history, having had a major glass making hub in the Bohemian region for several centuries.
As David Pastva stated: “The products were initially rather primitive, but became much better over time. German settlers began arriving in the Kingdom of Bohemia particularly in the 13th century, bringing with them their knowledge of glassmaking. Many of first glassworks were created deep in the thick forests, making only rosary beads and first goblets and cups. Then, during the reign of Charles IV, typical tall flute goblets were made and later also stained window glass.”
Czech glass makers are known for their craftsmanship and expertise throughout the world, consistently producing the finest, beautiful glass products. The most iconic Czech glass is crystal, which is more brilliant and stronger than other glass and is used in the production of the best glasses and chandeliers. Czech crystal can be cut into beautiful forms and they are among the most distinctive and traditional souvenirs you can buy in the Czech Republic. Czech glass can be found across the world in some of the world’s most lavish locations, from Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna to the presidential palace in Abu Dhabi and even the Palace of Versailles!
The glass heart of the Czech Republic lies in the North of the country, in the picturesque region between Kamenický Šenov and Harrachov, where dozens of manufacturers, glassworks, jewellery studios and museums are open for visitors. Welcome to the Crystal Valley, where the production of glass and jewellery have been connected with the region for centuries.
Like whiskey to Scotland or watches to Switzerland, the glass making tradition is a core part of the Bohemian region's identity. Bohemian crystal was first produced in the second half of the 17th century and, due to its immense popularity, within the next hundred years Bohemia had become the most important exporter of glass in the world. Glass jewellery was first produced in 1711 with drinking glasses coming shortly after in 1712. Christmas decorations have been in production without interruption since the middle of the 19th century.
This rich history of glass production in Northern Bohemia is reflected in the hundreds of workshops and the diversity of glass and jewellery production still operating here to this day. Northern Bohemia has a higher concentration of glass, chandelier and fashion jewellery companies than anywhere else in the world. The Crystal Valley connects glass and jewellery art and over 200 companies are based in this unique area.
The iconic Preciosa company is one of the oldest glass making operations in Central Europe with its factory in Prácheň near Kamenický Šenov opening back in 1724, almost 300 years ago! Preciosa's Bohemian crystal chandeliers soon became the choice of the wealthy aristocracy. From the French King Louis XV, through the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa to the ruler of the Ottoman Empire, Ottoman III, all were proud owners of Czech crystal.Today, it is a leading international glass manufacturer, designing unique awe-inspiring chandeliers and elegant jewellery, and a core component of the Crystal Valley.
Year Of Glass events in 2022
To commemorate the Year Of Glass, events will be taking place throughout the year. These will include the summer festival Crystal Valley Week and the annual Crystal Valley Weekend in the autumn. The Crystal Valley Week festival will be taking place in Liberec between the 23rd and 28th of August and will showcase the craftsmanship of Czech glass making with workshops, design exhibitions, fashion shows, glass installations and much more. Meanwhile, the annual Crystal Valley weekend will take place from the 12th to 13th November with more than 50 glass workshops, ateliers and museums open to the public.
Modern glass making
Glass continues to play a significant role in Czech society and is an inseparable part of modern life. Czech glassmakers remain at the forefront of this now global industry, renowned for their expertise and skill. In recent years the Lasvit glass factory in Nový Bor has produced exquisite trophies for the winners of the Tour De France as well as the BRIT Awards. Meanwhile the Rückl glass factory in Nižbor produces trophies for prestigious events such as the Miami Open tennis tournament and the Czech Lions, the Czech equivalent of the Oscars!
From Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty collection to Kylie Minogue’s Glastonbury outfit, just like 300 years ago Czech glass is still the gold standard for glass craftsmanship. The tradition of glass making continues to be passed on through generations and numerous glass making schools are still operating in the Czech Republic. Czech glass making is adapting and innovating to secure the future of the industry.