The word “crystal” comes from Greek and means the ice of Gods…
No doubt that when visiting Munich Residenz Museum, where all Bavarian kings used to reside before the museum was opened to visitors, crystalware got its special place in the museum’s section called “Treasures”.
The whole experience of listening to a guide during this visit inspired me to focus my blog on history of crystal drawing your attention to the rock crystal which was the original material for producing stunning cut crystal tableware including crystal centrepieces, vases and other extravagant vessels decorated with gold and jewels seen in the section.
Around the seventh century rock crystal allowed craftsmen for the first time to decorated pieces with rich cuts and facets. This is the time when royal families and aristocrats started consuming in style drawing more attention to opulent and richly decorated table accessories. Rock crystal had found its presence in various beads, figurines, and dishes often given as a special gift to royal families.
In 1200′s a Venetian Glassmakers Guild was established and it was here were Venetian glassblowers were commissioned by German and French kings to come up with new pieces to decorate palace’s rooms. Despite its endless beauty it become clear that cutting rock crystal was very time consuming and difficult. In attempts to imitate nature, man began making glass that was termed crystal by adding metals to change the character of the glass, and lead was found to be the most successful of these additives.
The crystal industry reached a new level in the mid-1500s when several leading glassblowers from Venice moved to London and found the favour of Queen Elizabeth I who promoted the art form.
Modern Lead Crystal
In modern times lead glass was first produced in the Netherlands. However, the technology which made the industry economically viable culminated in England where by George Ravenscroft who established his own glasshouse in London in 1673 and, shortly after, patented a process for making “flint glass” ( lead crystal).
Ravenscroft found that the addition of lead to glass during the melting process improved the quality of the glass. Technically speaking, lead glass is relatively soft and easier to cut, and its high refractive index gives it a brilliance that can be exploited by decorating the surface with polished wheel-cut facets.
Glass making is a 2,000-year-old process that has changed remarkably little in that time. Raw materials are essentially the same, although experiments over the years with the addition of lead to crystal have improved the product have changes as well. Nowadays, a number of factories substitute lead with other metals like barium. At Gurasu, we believe that lead is what gives the most appreciated weight and sparkle to the final piece.