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Czech Bohemian glass: Tracing the origins of a collector’s piece

Czech Bohemian glass: Tracing the origins of a collector’s piece

With a long and illustrious history, Czech Bohemian glass, known for its intricate designs and crystal clear finish, has become a sought after collector’s piece - especially one-off decorative Bohemian glass chandeliers and pendant lights. Made from potash, a potassium-rich mineral derived from the ashes of burned wood, combined with a chalk compound, Bohemian glass bears a striking resemblance to the glass made from natural mountain crystals.

The tradition of glassmaking first started in 1548 in Crystal Valley in Bohemia, the westernmost region of the Czech lands, using the natural mountain crystals. Then, in 1688, Michael Müller developed a method of creating man-made crystal glass using potash and chalk - his technique was then used by most Bohemian glass factories leading to the birth of Bohemian crystal glass making. This unique glass was also used by Caspar Lehmann, a gem cutter in Prague, who adapted it to the technique of gem engraving with copper and bronze wheels. This led to the former Czechoslovakia becoming the key source of this decorative glassware as well as gaining an international reputation in the Baroque style with its vibrantly coloured glass. The technique was then thrusted into a new age by Daniel Swarkosvki, born in Bohemia in 1862, who in 1895 invented a way to cut Bohemian glass crystals by machine and founded the well-known company that bears his name.

The first Bohemian glass lamps and pendants were created in Kamenicky Senov at the end of the 17th century. The first bohemian glass chandelier factory was founded in 1724 by glass cutter Josef Palme in Prachen. Moving away from coloured Bohemian glass and back into its original transparent variant, Josef created one-off pieces for royalty such as Prince Eugene of Savoy, Hof Castle and Archduchess Maria Elizabeth. Mass production of Bohemian glass fittings, and the continued use of transparent glass, began at the birth of light company Eliase Palme & Co in 1849 and continued post Second World War when all chandelier companies were put under joint administration under a new name by the state, Lustry Kamenicky Senov, who produced Bohemian glass lighting and chandeliers for domestic use and the USSR.

A photo dating back to 1947 of the Eliase & Co lighting factory in Kamenicky Senov.

Around 1960, glass chandelier production consisted of ornate ‘Theresians’ inspired by the 18th century Bohemian chandeliers made for Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. The chandeliers consisted of metal arms lined with decorative glass mouldings which Bohemian glass crystals hung from. This later developed into a more retro style, popular within hotels, where hand blown glass globes would be suspended on a metal rod - like our unique 1960s Lustry Kamenicky Senov Czech chandelier featuring five striking Bohemian glass globes. Traditional decorative glass etching continued in the 1960s but started to include geometric shapes, as seen on our 1960s Czech glass pendant lights composed of open-bottomed glass shades salvaged from a larger Lustry Kamenicky Senov chandelier once installed in a civic building in Prague. 

Production of Bohemian glass has a very long tradition which incorporates a variety of different techniques, styles and colours. Still regarded as some of the highest-quality glasswork in the world today, we are proud to keep this long lasting tradition alive through salvaging and restoring these unique and one-off Bohemian glass pieces. 

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our Czech Bohemian lights by Lustry Kamenicky Senov here

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