Where do cut glass figures come from?
cut glass figures
Crystal and glass figurines have been made through the ages. Famous producers of crystal figurines are, for example, Lalique, Baccarat, Daum and Cristallerie d’Argues. They are beautiful sculptures made of glass or crystal and represent people, animals, flowers, etc.
But these are not the type of glass figurines we are talking about here. Cut glass figurines are made from full cut faceted lead crystal stones. Due to the use of a high lead content in the crystal, light is reflected, actually diffracted, and this results in a beautiful color palette.
Basically, these figures are composed of cut glass lamp pendants and cut glass beads, glued together in such a way that they represent, for example, an animal or a flower. But that was basically. Modern cut glass figurines are made from specially designed cut glass 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 cut glass beads and pendants for the jewelry and fashion industry.
Cutting and polishing glass and crystal stones was tedious work and required a lot of skills in those days.
The son of one of the best glass cutters in Bohemia in the mid-19th century, he was a young man named Daniel Swarovski.
Following 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 process of cutting glass. He did it after nine years of experimentation! and he was able to patent the first electrically powered, semi-automatic 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 much more precisely and at a much higher speed than the manual cutting method.
Crystal cut perfection
After the invention of electrically powered cutting technology, Daniel Swarovski did not stop inventing. He started a factory in which he constantly improved the cut, but also mastered the manufacture of flawless high lead crystal.
His jewelry stones made him the number one supplier to the fashion industry in Paris. All the famous couturiers used their cut crystal stones and Swarovski became an established brand.
The Swarovski company never stopped developing new ways to make better crystals and new ways to cut them better. Needless to say, they are still the number 1 glass cutting company in the world today.
The first cut glass figure
It wasn’t that long ago, precisely in 1976, that the first commercial cut crystal figurine was made, and again, that was made by the Swarovski company.
In 1976 the Winter Olympic Games were held in Innsbruck, Austria, not far from the Swarovski factories (Wattens, Austria). Swarovski designer Max Schreck made a mouse with cut crystal stones and it became a bestseller during games immediately after it was released on the market.
The reason it took so long before the first cut glass figurine saw the light of day is because, until the early 1970s, there was no glue that could hold the stones together. Glue is a solution of an acrylate that hardens to a transparent acrylic substance under ultraviolet radiation. That kind of chemistry only developed after World War II.
The smaller version of the original mouse is still available and is sold under the name “replica mouse”. The replica mouse is no longer alone. Swarovski’s collection of cut crystal figurines continues to grow and the beautiful cut crystal figurines depict themes from the world of flora and fauna, childhood memories, Christmas themes and more.
Famous brands of cut glass figures
The most famous brand is undoubtedly Swarovski. There is a whole army of collectors of some 325,000 people who are members of the Swarovski Crystal Society. Being a member of the world’s largest collector’s society makes it possible to purchase limited editions. Limited Editions are special models that are only produced in limited numbers.
Many companies have started making cut crystal figurines after Swarovski started their collection. And many of them have stopped after a while.
Making cut glass figurines is not just gluing on some stones. The companies that survived the last four decades and still make cut glass figurines are the companies that put a lot of effort into design and quality.
Preciosa from the Czech Republic is one such company. They have a huge collection of beautifully crafted figurines and they also use the finest crystal for it. After all, Preciosa is the number 2 crystal cutting company in the world and they have a name to uphold.
Crystal World is another top brand. This company, with a team of Japanese designers, has already been making beautiful pieces since it was founded by Rudy (Ryuyu) Nakai, in 1983, in the United States.
In Egypt it is the Asfour company. Asfour is like Swarovski and Preciosa is also a giant crystal cutting company. Asfour also manufactures high quality crystal and designs beautiful crystal figurines.
You will find other glass figurine producers in other countries, but they are generally not as specialized as the four companies above. China and Türkiye have quite a few producers of crystal figurines. Some of those companies have good models, but for most of them crystal figurines are not their core business and they usually offer a range of other crystal products alongside the figurines.
Cut glass figures have a magical attraction for many people. The clarity of the material, the light breaking into many colors and the timeless designs make people want to surround themselves with them.
What once started as a single-glass mouse in Austria in 1976 is now collected by hundreds of thousands of people around the world and brings joy to many every day. We can only thank the innovative and world famous crystal cut company Swarovski for inventing cut crystal figurines that add that special touch to many people’s lives.