Cut Crystal Figurines
Crystal and glass figurines have been made through the ages. Famous producers of crystal figurines are for instance Lalique, Baccarat, Daum and Cristallerie d'Argues. These are beautiful sculptures made out of glass or crystal and they represent people, animals, flowers, etc.
But these are not the kind of crystal figurines we are talking about here. Cut crystal figurines are made out of full-cut faceted, lead crystal stones. Because the use of a high lead-content in the crystal, the light is reflected, actually diffracted, and this results in a beautiful palette of colours.
Basically, these figurines are composed out of cutting crystal lamp pendants and cut crystal beads, glued together in such a way that they represent for instance an animal or a flower. But that was basically. The modern cut crystal figurines are made of specially designed cut crystal components.
History of Glass Cutting
Bohemia was the area where most of the glass and crystal cutting was concentrated in the 19th century. They produced most of the crystal pendants for chandeliers and also the cut crystal beads and pendants for the jewellery and the fashion industry.
Cutting and polishing glass and crystal stones was a tedious job and needed many skills in those days.
The son of one of the best Bohemian glass cutters at the mid 19th century was a young man named Daniel Swarovski.
After a visit to an exhibition in Vienna in 1883, he became obsessed with the possibilities of electricity. He wanted to use electricity to power the tedious glass cutting process. He succeeded after nine years of experimenting! and could patent the first semi-automatic, electrically driven, glass and crystal cutting machine.
This was such a revolutionary invention that it changed the glass cutting industry forever. His machine could cut glass and crystal with much more precision and at much higher speed than the manually cutting method.
The Perfection of Crystal Cutting
After the invention of the electrically driven cutting technology, Daniel Swarovski did not stop inventing. He started a factory where he constantly improved the cutting but where he also mastered the making of flawless, high lead-content crystal.
His jewellery stones made him the number one supplier of the fashion industry in Paris. All the famous couturiers used his cut crystal stones and Swarovski became an established brand.
The Swarovski company never stopped developing new ways how to make better crystal and new ways how to cut crystal better. Needless to say that they are today still the no.1 crystal cutting company in the world.
The First Cut Crystal Figurine
It is not so long ago, actually in 1976, that the first commercial cut crystal figurine was made and, again, that one was made by the Swarovski company.
In 1976 the winter Olympics were held in Innsbruck in Austria, not far away from the Swarovski factories (Wattens, Austria). Swarovski designer Max Schreck made a mouse out of cutting crystal stones and it became a best seller during the games, immediately after it was launched into the market.
The reason why it took so long before the first cut crystal figurine saw the daylight is because there was, until the beginning of the seventies, no glue which could glue the stones together. The glue is a solution of an acrylate which hardens out to a clear acrylic substance under UV-radiation. That kind of Chemistry only developed after WWII.