Design Desná 1874 - 2017

Czech glass is known throughout the world for its craftsmanship and artistic qualities, and the Jizera Mountains belong to the traditional areas where skilled glassmakers can bring to life anything under the sky that the properties of this material allow. Artists have been creating pieces from this unique material for 170 years in Desná, pieces that have not only shape and style, but also a spirit. 

They are reminiscent of shimmering dew drops on the petals of a rose, which is how Baroque writer Bohuslav Balbín described the Bohemia. Despite all the historical events that have left an indelible mark on the Jizera Mountains, it is glass which connects both past and present generations in this region, regardless of their language or creed. Glass is, in fact, the vital essence of this melancholy region in Northern Bohemia: it is its alpha and omega, its history, its present, and its future.

Author of text: PhDr. Petr Nový

Vases Tranformation VH25590 a VH66, pressed glass, design Jaroslav Bejvl jr.
Vases Tranformation VH25590 a VH66, pressed glass, design Jaroslav Bejvl jr.

Tradition

FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE END OF THE 19TH CENTURY

Glass has been continuously produced on the Bohemian side of the Jizera Mountains for almost five centuries. It has survived all the turmoil that has befallen the region throughout these long years and it still provides a livelihood for many of the region’s inhabitants. The city of Desná, as we know it today, was formed in 1691. It now includes the
formerly separate municipalities of Potočná, Souš and Dolní Polubný, where the first chapters of glass production in the region began to be written. A glass factory founded by the entrepreneurial and well-travelled Bernard Unger operated in Potočná from 1786 to the early 1830’s. Unger also founded a glassworks in Souš, which operated briefly at the end of the 18th and dawn of the 19th century. Both glassworks primarily produced glass for jewelry. Pressed glass, glassware
and decorative glass was regularly cut and polished in Desná, however, it was not produced there for many years. One of the reasons for this was the existence of the nearby Nový Svět glassworks belonging to the Counts of Harrach, as well as the Riedel glassworks in Antonínov, Kristiánov, Nová Louka and Jizerka. It wasn’t until 1847, when textile entrepreneur Ignatz Friedrich founded a permanent glass operation in Dolní Polubný, that pressed and blown glass began to be made there. Still, it did not happen right away. Even this glassworks was intended to focus on jewelry components, which along with the textile industry began to transform this mountainous region into a showcase of the
industrial revolution.

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In 1849 Josef Riedel (1816–1894) purchased, with his own funds, the Polubný glassworks which had eight pots and one furnace heated directly by wood. Josef Riedel was also the director of his wife’s, Maria Anna Riedel, glass factories in Jizerka and in Antonínov (Riedel became sole heir of these after her death in 1855). The location of the Polubný glassworks was ideal for successfully expanding his business, because it stood on what was known as the Krkonošská Road. This road connected the Jizera Mountains to the world in late 1840’s and early 1850’s. After purchasing it, the new owner suspended work at the glassworks, fired it up again briefly in 1854, but then permanently closed it down in 1856. Two years later Josef Riedel set up his central operations in Dolní Polubný, adding a second furnace. It became such
a success that Riedel earned the nickname the “Glass King of the Jizera Mountains” from his contemporaries.

In 1860 nineteen glassmakers already worked in the glassworks, making glass rods as well as pressed glass (primarily chandelier trimmings), small bottles (flacons), and hollow glass. This production was transferred from the Antonínov glassworks, whose lease Riedel did not renew, as well as from Jizerka, which continued to make glass jewelry components. As a result, the Dolní Polubný glassworks produced 206 tons of hollow glass, 142 tons of flacons, 426 848 glass cubits (25.6 million pcs) of pressed glass, rods and tubes in 1860. The volume of production rose slightly by the next decade. In 1870 the seventeen glassmakers and their assistants produced 206 tons of hollow glass, 388 tons of flacons, and 478 578 glass cubits (28.7 million pcs) of glass rods and pressed glass in the factory’s two furnaces (then heated by wood fuel using the Siemens system). A third (1871) and a fourth furnace (1874) was added in short order at the glassworks. 

The growth and importance of hollow glass production began to gather steam in the 1870’s due to a long-lasting downturn in jewelry sales, and thanks to Hugo Riedel (1848–1883), the eldest son of Glass King and director of the Polubný glassworks (starting in 1871). It was Hugo Riedel who, on May 1st, 1873 designated one of the furnaces to
produce only exclusive hollow glass and flacons, which were in great demand worldwide. He brought in experienced glass masters from the Krkonoše Mountains: both from the famous Josefina glassworks, which worked at Schreiberhau (today’s Sklarzska Poreba in Poland) in nearby Prussian Silesia, as well as Temný Důl near Maršov. The products were finished in Harrachov-Nový Svět, Kořenov, and Hermsdorf (Jerzmanowa, Poland). In 1873, Riedel also participated in the World Exhibition in Vienna, where he was awarded a gold medal for his product range, which included the latest innovation – hollow decorative glass. The Riedel glassworks sold its hollow glass through its own international sales representatives, directly to its foreign partners in Germany, Great Britain and France, or to domestic merchants from Nový Bor/Kamenický Šenov and Vienna.

Soon after 1873, Hugo Riedel added a modern chemical laboratory and a small research and development workshop with two pots to the Polubný glassworks. This is where various colored glass inventions and technological improvements, which the company had patented, were developed. In 1876, Polubný, which had been operating with four furnaces since 1874, was the first glassworks in the Bohemia to switch to the indirect burning of brown coal (with the exception of one furnace). Consequently in 1880 the Dolní Polubný glassworks produced 830 tons of hollow glass, which accounted for nearly 60% of its total production (pressed glass accounted for 460 tons and glass rods just 20 tons). 

The glassworks, whose production of small bottles was transferred to the newly built factory in Dolní Maxov, was thus running at full capacity. The production of pressed perfume and spice bottles roseconsiderably – up to 1,998 tons – thanks to the new modern factory. In fact, the Jizera Mountains became a significant international manufacturing
center for these products in the 1880’s. This was a direct result of Wilhelm Riedel (1849–1929), the second son of the Glass King, who patented the technology of "using compressed air to shape hollow glass in metal molds" on September 23rd, 1879. This new method for pressing glass allowed larger pieces of functional glassware to be perfectly shaped with an imprint of the pattern found on the inner sides of the mold. The decorative pattern could then simply just be trued or polished. 

When Wilhelm Riedel became the director of the Polubný glassworks after the sudden death of his brother Hugo Riedel in 1883, he began to focus not only on decorative and high-end luxury glass design, but also on the development of colored glass. At that time the company started a bronze foundry in Dolní Polubný. In addition to producing metal molds and pressing tongs for pressed glass and jewelry, the foundry also made trendy metal décor (e.g. metal stands) for decorative and highend hollow glass. In 1886 Wilhelm Riedel was also responsible for the initiative to purchase the well-known yet indebted Vinzenz Pohl glass finishing plant for exclusive glass in Nový Svět with which Riedel had
previously cooperated. A year later Riedel also set up a second glass finishing operation right in Dolní Polubný (it was managed by the former head of the Nový Svět finishing plant that belonged to the Counts of Harrach).

In 1888, the Riedel glassworks successfully participated with their Polubný products in the Viennese Jubilee Exhibition which commemorated the 40th anniversary of the reign of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I. Just one year later the Polubný finishing operation introduced glass light rosettes onto the market (covers for Edison’s light bulbs), and over the next ten years, the Riedel company became wholesalers for this commodity. (At the end of the century they were
already offering their customers a product range of approximately 10,000 covers.) While in 1890 the Dolní Polubny glassworks sent out 1,501 tons of hollow glass into the world (almost 80% of their total production), in 1896 this figure had already reached 2,328 tons (which still remained 80% of their production volume). That year hollow glass,
including lighting, comprised over 20% of total Riedel production, and thus was one of the company’s important commodities. (As a comparison: Dolní Maxov was then producing 4,299 tons of flacons.) In 1899, a second two-furnace glassworks was built in Dolní Polubný. Intended as solely a hollow glass operation, the glassworks nonetheless also
produced glass bracelets (bangles) due to large demand from India. Between 1900 and 1901 the first Polubný glassworks was expanded with a fifth and sixth furnace.

Autor of text: PhDr. Petr Nový

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1900 – 1945

The strategic emphasis of Riedel hollow glass production was based on a selection of brightly colored glass, technical finesse and perfect craftsmanship. At the beginning of the 20th century Riedel designers and glassmakers quickly infiltrated the decorative world of Art Nouveau. Their etched laminated hollow glass and luminaries had exceptional quality – artistically and technically – and shone above Europe’s leading glassworks. The production of glassware also remained important: small crystal glass bottles, condiment organizers, stationary sets, etc. cast in or blown into metal molds were then finished with cutting and polishing. In this area, however, Riedel was a supplier of semi-finished products rather than producers and distributors of finished goods.

At the prestigious spring and autumn fairs in Leipzig, Europe’s most important commercial and promotional events at that time, the Polubný collections of electric table lamps, as well as new hollow glass pieces made from non-traditional colored glass regularly were appraised. There was, for example, opaque red Coraline (starting in 1903), or translucent red garnet (from 1904 onwards). The company also sent a hollow glass collection to the Provincial Exhibition of Czech Germans in Liberec, which took place in 1906. They were even co-organizers for the event, which precluded their products winning any awards. That same year, however, the senior director Wilhelm Riedel received the Commander’s Cross of the Franz Joseph Order (and his half-brother and successor Josef Riedel Jr. received the Order of the Crown) for
his contributions to the expansion of Austrian industry.

At the Liberec show, Riedel, and the 54 refineries that finished Riedel products, had their own dedicated hall. At its center stood the company’s oval Neo Empirical pavilion. Glassware, electric luminaries, clear and colored hollow glass (blank glass, laminated, cut, engraved, painted, gilded, matt, iridized and decorated with fused crumbs) as well as a rich assortment of glass bars, rods and tubes surrounded visitors. Richly cut and engraved crystal glass, innovations (also richly cut), opal glass, and a set of marbled glass in brown and blue-green hues with light and dark veins and partially highlighted with etchings represented the luxury high-end segment in the exhibits catalogue. In addition to the modern (Art Nouveau and Neo Empire) designs and innovations, the company also exhibited cut and painted opal glass (based partly on historic images). Bier steins with coats of arms painted in a Germanic style imitating the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, and a Neo Empire vase decorated with a portrait of Friedrich Schiller were also on display.

After 1910, Riedel also became known for its components of luxurious gold ruby glass, so reminiscent of the dark red gemstone, as well as topaz glass (invented in the 17th century by German alchemist Johann Kunckel). These products’ customers included prestigious companies like the glass finishing operations and trading company Karl Goldberg in Nový Bor, which successfully sold finished products under its own “Kunckelglas” brand. 

The production of hollow functional and decorative glass continued at the Polubný glassworks even after the First World War. In addition, in January 1925 Alfred Kunft, an academically educated artist and member of the Metznerbund Art Association became an employee of the Polubný glass finishing operation. Kunft’s first undertaking was to create a glass collection based on current trends for the Riedel presentation at the International Exhibition of Decorative Art and Industry in Paris, held from April 30th to October 15th, 1925. Riedel supplied the plates of ruby glass to line the Czechoslovak Pavilion at this exhibition and also donated a glass fountain designed by the renowned Prague artists Pavel Janák and Jaroslav Horejc.

In 1926 a large precision molding machine was installed in Dolní Polubný, which enabled a significant shift in the opportunities to develop the production of high-quality pressed technical glass, glassware and decorative glass. Customers included dozens of companies from the region who, after the mid 1920’s began to focus on art glassware
with designs often inspired by pieces created by the French glass visionary René Lalique. At the same time, however, distinctive and aesthetically interesting pressed decorative glass and glassware arose in the Jizera Mountains. This developed to meet the North American demand for items in Art Nouveau, Art Deco and functionalist styles.
The most popular of these collections were – and still remain today – pieces from the Jablonec companies of Heinrich Hoffmann and Curt Schlevogt (Ingrid Collection). Both companies systematically cooperated with professional Czechoslovakian and international designers. They also became well-known for their imaginative use of striking
glass that imitated jade, malachite, lapis lazuli and ivory. During the 1930’s the Riedel company also introduced their own art glassware designs, primarily in the form of table lamps and shades with figural motifs.

Starting in 1928, Tango glass was briefly produced in Dolní Polubný. This name, stemming from the then newly fashionable dance, consisted of layers of bright color tones, usually red and yellow, but sometimes also green or blue, combined with black, all hidden under clear crystal. Solitary decorative objects, drinking glasses, dessert sets, and toiletry sets were created from this material. Tango glass was destined predominantly for North American customers.

While the global economic crisis strengthened the Polubný companies’ orientation to technical and specialty glass with high added-value, hollow and molded glass did not disappear from their product offering. On the contrary, new production was set up to make machine-pressed bottles and toiletry sets along with cast glass table lamps and sconces.
Evidence of the technical progress of the Riedel company could be seen in the creation of an almost five and a half meter pressed relief called Earth and People which was designed by Jaroslav Horejc for the Palace of Nations in Geneva.

After 1938, when Germany occupied the Czechoslovak border, including the Jizera Mountains, everything changed. Soon afterwards the Second World War began. Riedel now had to first and foremost produce for the military. This included the factories in Dolní Polubný. Rather than focusing on decorative hollow and pressed glass, though it still
continued to be produced to a limited extent, the Polubný glassworks produced ship signal lamps, optically polished prisms for submarine and tank periscopes, glass components for land mines, and optical glass for weapon’s sights. Starting in 1944, radar screens in the respectable size of 76 cm x 54 cm – 50% larger than were being produced
by Riedel competitors internationally – were added to the production line. Glass fiber also played a significant role in the company’s production during the first half of the 1940’s. This, however, was produced at other Riedel facilities.

1945 – 1989

The surrender of Nazi Germany on May 8th, 1945 meant not only the end of World War II in Europe, but also of the Riedel enterprises in the newly re-established Czechoslovakia. Polubný glassworks had operated continuously without a break until April, 1945, when the supply of coal and raw materials for glass had been stopped. On May 24th, according
to President Edvard Beneš’ Decree No.5 of May 19th, 1945, the management of the company fell to a committee made up of employees. Production was partially restored on July 30th, and on August 1st, 1945 the acclaimed glass engineer Stanislav Bachtík became the national administrator, a post he held until 1951. Along with the Riedel family, the state-run administration also forced most of the Czech-German employees to leave.

The first major contract for the glassworks came during 1945 from the Soviet Union, which paid an advance of over 36 million Czech crowns. During 1946 the situation amongst the glassmakers stabilized, the vacancies in the company having been filled with Czech workers. At this point the Polubný glassworks continued to concentrate on the development of television screens and, as a result of the focus of the post-war Czechoslovak economy on heavy industry, the share of technical glass. The production of this grew at the expense of the traditional products
such as jewelry, glassware and hollow glass. This situation lasted until 1952, when the process of delimitation of television screen and other technical product manufacturing began, and this production was transferred to other glass factories in the country.

During 1946, the Czechoslovak glassworks, large glass finishing factories, and jewelry facilities in various regions were centralized into newly formed national enterprises. On January 1st of that year, the following state-owned enterprises were formed in the Jizera Mountains:

  • Sklárny a rafinerie, dříve Josef Riedel Dolní Polubný (Glassworks and Finishing, formerly Josef Riedel – Dolní Polubný)
  • Spojené sklárny jablonecké (United Jablonec Glassworks);
  • Jablonecký sklářský průmysl (Jablonec Glass Industries);
  • Krystalerie (Glassware);
  • Kovová bižuterie (Metal Jewelry);
  • Skleněná bižuterie (Glass Jewelry);
  • and Preciosa.

A central governing body, the Generální ředitelství československých závodů sklářských (General Directorate for Czechoslovak Glass Factories), was established in Prague for the glass industry. The complete nationalization of, and monopoly on glass export did not come until after the communist coup in February 1948.

Merging companies into manufacturing complexes under direct state supervision continued in the ensuing years. If one were to follow the events that directly affected the Polubný companies, a mention should be made of the Spojené sklárny jablonecké (United Jablonec Glassworks) which had already taken over Jablonecký sklářský průmysl (Jablonec Glass Industries) in 1949 so that two years later they could create the new state-owned Jablonecké sklárny Dolní Polubný (Jablonec Glassworks – Dolní Polubný) together with Sklárny a rafinerie, dříve Josef Riedel Dolní Polubný (Glassworks and Finishing,
formerly Josef Riedel – Dolní Polubný). Thus, in 1951, a dominant near-monopoly arose for the production of technical glass, pressed glass, glassware, and jewelry rods and tubes in the Jizera Mountains.
The Polubný group consisted of three plants: the Stará huť (the Old Glassworks which made pressed and machine-pressed glass), Nová huť (New Glassworks - hollow and technical glass) and Josefská huť (Josefská Glassworks - specialty glass – this was built in Desná in 1912). When the historically protected Old Glassworks burned to the ground in 1955, a modern glass factory was built in its place. This was gradually equipped with belt and tank glassmaking furnaces.

Throughout the socialist period in Czechoslovakia the Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks) were also largest producer of chandelier trimmings in the country. More than half of their production was exported to several dozen countries. Their sole domestic customer was Lustry (Lighting) in Kamenický Šenov, the national company established
in 1947 which was a direct successor of Elias Palme & Co, the largest interwar Czechoslovak manufacturing and chandelier exporter. 

Hand-decorated exclusive hollow glass, which had been produced in Dolní Polubný since 1873, disappeared from the glassworks’ product line. Luminaries had also not been produced for several decades there. On January 1st, 1953, however, the state-owned company Krystalerie (Crystalware) was merged into Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks). This brought the glassworks a wealth of prewar metal molds for pressed and blown glass, from which it greatly benefited. The molds came from 73 confiscated and nationalized companies: mostly cutting and finishing plants from the Jizera Mountains, including famous companies such as Josef Schmidt from Dolní Polubný, Johann
Umann from Potočná, Gebrüder Feix from Albrechtice, and Desná cutting factories that belonged to the Jablonec companies of Curt Schlevogt and Eduard Dressler.

In the spring of 1958 Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks), along with other specialty state enterprises in the region, became part of the Výrobně-hospodářské jednotky Sdružení podniků jablonecké bižuterie (Association of Jablonec Jewelry Companies Manufacturing-Economic Unit (MEU)). In 1965 this changed to the Průmysl jablonecké bižuterie, oborové ředitelství (Jablonec Jewelry Industry – Sector Head Office); in 1978 it became Jablonecká bižuterie, koncern, generální ředitelství (Jablonec Jewelry Group – General Headquarters); and from 1988 to 1989 it was the Jablonecká bižuterie, kombinát, generální ředitelství (Jablonec Jewelry Complex – Directorate General). A number of decision-making responsibilities were thus transferred to the MEU, which brought, on the one hand, the possibility of large investments into the modernization of many facilities. On the other hand, because of the focus on bulk orders, it meant a gradual decrease in product range.

Czech pressed glass and glassware flourished in international markets after the 1950’s. The pre-war selection of small functional glassware, decorated imitation cut glass and art glass remained the core of the Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks) product range. While standard products were sold by Skloexport as part of the FEIX Collection (named for the famous prewar manufacturer Gebrüder Feix from Albrechtice), art glass and glass figurines were sold under the ARS RELIGIOSA and JADE brands. (JADE was rebranded as INGRID in the 1960’s.) There were, however, big changes in the collections of the former Jablonec company Curt Schlevogt, as similar products from other companies was added into the mix. Some pieces that were pressed solely from crystal and clear glass before 1945 began to be produced
from opaque glass (jade, lapis lazuli, etc.), which often considerably destroyed their artistic style.

New glassware designs also made their way into the Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks) production. For example, between 1957 and 1960 the company’s designer, experienced glass artist Václav Plátek, designed a collection of ashtrays made of cut, engraved and matted glass, which won awards at practically all the large shows in which Czechoslovakia participated in the 1950’s. The most significant of these was an honorable mention from EXPO 58 in Brussels. They were also exhibited at the exhibition of Czechoslovak glass in Moscow (1959) and the XII. Triennial in Milan (1960). Glassware was also designed by Skloexport designers, including Karel Koňák. From 1957 to 1959 Koňák’s successful designs included a set of ashtrays in the form of stylized animals and small candlesticks in simple, unctionalist shapes. Other artists from Skloexport, such as Václav Hanuš and Jiří Zejmon, also contributed to Jablonec Glassworks with individual designs.

Further organizational changes in the Jablonec Glassworks occurred in the 1960’s and 70’s. First Nový Bydžov (1965), Miroslav (1969) and a new plant in the Slovakian Medzilaborce (1971) were added to the “Desná in the Jizera Mountains” in the company’s name. With the transformation of the national enterprise to a national Group in 1978, the company acquired a glass finishing plant for finishing beads in Zásada from Železný Brod via transfer. While there were other internal reorganizations (the largest was in 1974), the company’s product portfolio remained de facto unchanged except for one important addition. Along with the traditional product range (jewelry, chandelier parts and trimmings, and glassware which consisted of machine-pressed and machine-blown glass, as well as hand-blown and manually pre-pressed glassware) the company began to once again make its own chandelier and lighting designs. In 1975 and new type of chandelier was even designed in the Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks) – one whose appearance was dictated by the predominant trimmings being produced. New sconces and table lamps were designed where a modern
new corpus was combined with traditional chandelier trimmings. Between 1971 and 1977 production of chandeliers increased tenfold at Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks), with nearly 70% of it being destined for export.

In 1961 Václav Hanuš joined Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks), where he designed glassware for the next twenty-five years. He was considered a prototype designer who first and foremost respected opportunities at the glassworks and in market demand. Hanuš is the artist behind hundreds of designs, many of which were a commercial
success on the Czech market and abroad. He was perfectly in tune with not only the current design trends, but also the manufacturing processes. He was thus able to creatively exploit the rich store of pre-war molds which the company possessed. Hanuš continued the rich glassware tradition in the Jizera Mountains, which he not only managed to keep alive, but enriched with new ideas and artistic style. Upon his retirement, Josef Kruml, who unfortunately no longer had
quite as many opportunities as a designer in the company, took over from Hanuš.

FROM YEAR 1989 TILL PRESENT

At the beginning of 1989, České peličky Zásada (Czech Beads – Zásada) and Jizerské sklo Lučany nad Nisou (Jizera Glass – Lučany nad Nisou) were separated as autonomous national companies from the state-owned Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks). In 1992 the first one merged with the Desenské sklárny (Desná Glassworks) (which had also left Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks)) and the two formed a joint-stock company called ORNELA whose headquarters were established in Zásada. The production of glassware thus continued in the Polubný glassworks and local cutting factory. ORNELA invested into new designs when artist Rony Plesl created a set of fancy bottles and jardinières between 1998 and 2000. ORNELA then created the DESNÁ brand in 2000, which included all of the  successful pre-war designs of art glass. Two new collections, DESNÁ Gallery and DESNÁ NEW CENTURY followed in short order. The first comprised of limited editions; the second focused on modern design. Artists from several studios were invited to cooperate: Ingrid Račková and David Suchopárek (IRDS studio), as well as Ilona Staňková Dagmar Šubrtová, Jiří Dostál, Vladimír Komňacký and Václav Hanuš. ORNELA also focused on the production of historicist colored, painted, blown glass for a brief period in the 1990’s.

When ORNELA became a founding member of the JABLONEX GROUP joint-stock company in 2005, it did not spell good news for the further development of glassware. The new company did not fair well, and during the global economic crisis it closed its doors. PRECIOSA from Jablonec nad Nisou became the new owner of the factories in Desná and Zásada, creating the PRECIOSA Ornela joint-stock company in 2009. PRECIOSA Ornela has, in recent years, once again begun to offer its customers traditional glassware. Currently, in collaboration with external designers Jaroslav Bejvl Jr., Jan Vacek and Martin Šmíd, the company is looking for new ways to use the artistic and technical riches of these Polubný glassworks.

WHAT IS CRYSTALWARE?

Jablonec crystalware is an internationally unique phenomenon, whose exclusivity is founded on the balance between manual and machine production as well as its design, which takes advantage of this uniqueness. In other words, the uniqueness of glassware lies in the fact that the technical processes used in its production can be done faster and less expensively with larger production runs without excluding the glassmaker from the process. Moreover, the end result is comparable to more exclusive hand-made pieces without a decrease in quality. It is not surprising that thanks to the inventiveness of the glass technologists, engineers and glassmakers form Jizera Mountains, along with the foresight of local entrepreneurs and salesmen, these types of bottles, inkwells, ashtrays and table accessories dominated the world market. 

Vases Tranformation VH25590 a VH66, pressed glass, design Jaroslav Bejvl jr.
Vases Tranformation VH25590 a VH66, pressed glass, design Jaroslav Bejvl jr.

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In terms of manufacturing, Jablonec crystalware always profited and benefited from two basic components: high quality glass and precisionmade metal molds. Premium-quality crystal glass were already being

melted in the Jizera Mountains during the 19th century. This glass could be shaped, without major complications, by blowing, molding and pressing. Once made, these products were hand-cut, or just smoothed
or trued, which allowed for lower prices without a substantial decline in quality.

In addition to cutting, the finishing process used in the manufacturing of glassware includes polishing and matting. The historically popular engraving and decorative painting is almost never used today (especially
gold-plating or colors spraying using a stencil). Instead, sandblasting is used today.

Although colorless glass dominated Jablonec crystalware, transparent and opaque colored glass was commonly used. Today the most popular colors include transparent fluorescent uranium yellow (Anna
Yellow), a refined blue whose components include rare minerals (e.g. alexandrite), an elegant green and a distinct red. Jade (imitation jade and malachite) and lapis (imitation lapis lazuli) are the most fashionable
of the opal tones.

Today Jablonec crystalware is identified by its two main production processes: cut and pressed glass. The first is basically blown glass shaped using a metal mold and then processed further with different
décors and finishes. The second uses pressing technologies with the help of pressing molds with stamp or pliers. An essential and indelible part of this process is still, in this case, artistic design and an accomplished
glassmaker.

Crystalware can be divided into three main product groups. The first are flacons or bottles of all shapes and sizes. (The area where these were traditionally produced was Josefův Důl, Albrechtice in the Jizera Mountains,
Smržovka, and Tanvald.) The second group consists of glass for chandeliers (produced in Smržovka and Desná). The third comprises glassware in general: glass objects for the office (paperweights, inkwells, rulers), various small decorative and utilitarian objects made of glass, but also drinking glasses, vases etc. (made in Desná). Initially bracelets – bangles – were part of glassware (produced in Janov). Thanks to their incredible popularity this, however, evolved into its own industry before the end of the 19th century.

Dining

salt bowls • salt and pepper shakers • spice jars  condiment holder  condiment and seasonings jars (salt, sugar, mustard, tea, jelly, honey, etc.)  cookie jars  cutting boards • cutlery  toothpick holders  wine corks with glass handles  coasters  beakers and cups • carafes (water, wine, rum, liqueurs, whiskey,
etc.)  cocktail and soda swizzle sticks and tubes

Skin & Body Care

perfume bottles  spray bottles  compacts • comb holders  ring stands  toiletry sets  small scent bottles  toothbrush holders  powder and bath salt jars  soda-lime bottles  aromatic lamps

Desk, Office and School

paperweights  inkwells  rulers  pen and fountain pen holders  pads for pens 
deleters  smoothers  boxes for postage stamps  notepaper containers  desk sets

Lifestyle, Leisure and Business

vases  candlesticks  cigars and cigarette boxes  cigar and cigarette holders  cigar and cigarette lighters  ashtrays and holders for lighters  promotional items  souvenirs  display stands  hood ornaments

 Lighting and its Components

table lamps and simple chandeliers • chandelier trimmings and components  bowls for candles  technical glass  glass for metal applications

Autor of text: PhDr. Petr Nový

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Design Desná

Desná Glass

170 YEARS ON THE EDGE OF ART, CRAFT AND INDUSTRY

During the second half of the 19th century the Jizera Mountains became the heart of the world’s jewelry production, and hollow and pressed glass from the region’s glassworks was, unjustly, overshadowed. Most of the functional glassware became part of the ‘general Jablonec product offering’, just like glass bangles had. By 1873, however, the Riedel company in Dolní Polubný had already developed their own collection of blown, hand-decorated, and exclusive glass. Its designers found inspiration both in the Bohemian glassmaking tradition and in France, which for decades led the world in trends and styles. The results were technically advanced, perfectly shaped and decorated items that would certainly be of interest to today’s museum curators, art historians and collectors. Electric lamps and pressed glass also became important products for Riedel by the end of the 19th century.

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When the Riedel company in Dolní Polubný was nationalized in 1945, their exclusive handmade glass disappeared from its product line. The production of crystalware, however, expanded. Designers Václav Plátek and Václav Hanuš brought with them a new direction, especially Hanuš, whose flair for impressive yet practical shapes shone in both pressed glass and glass blown into metal molds (so called “angular cut glass”).

Even after privatization in the early 1990’s the pursuit for novel design did not disappear from Desná glass. External designers brought new ideas on how to add to the company’s existing collections with current and trendy products. This continues to this day.

One hundred and seventy continuous years of glassmaking tradition in Desná translates to seventeen decades of stories about glass. For this reason, seventeen special pieces were chosen to represent this long period’s essence and character. They all come from the collection of the Museum of Glass and Jewellery in Jablonec nad Nisou, which has both a showroom of hollow and pressed glass from the former Riedel company as well as numerous examples of the glasswork’s production from the Second World War to the present.

Autor of text: PhDr. Petr Nový

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Limited Collection

Ashtrays, 1957-1958

Ashtrays, 1957-1958

Design by Václav Plátek

+420 488 117 525

Pressed and Cut Glass

Krkonošská 733
468 61 Desná

vaza-hanus_t

Vases, 1965

Design by Václav Hanuš

+420 +420 488 117 525

Glass Blown into a Metal Mold and Cut

Krkonošská 733
468 61 Desná

Vases, 1966

Vases, 1966

Design by Václav Hanuš

+420 +420 488 117 525

Krkonošská 733
468 61 Desná

vazy-1970-hanus

Vases, 1970

Design by Václav Hanuš

+420 +420 488 117 525

Glass Blown into a Metal Mold, Polished and Matted

Krkonošská 733
468 61 Desná

Since 2009 the glass factories in Desná have been owned by PRECIOSA ORNELA Ltd. The company began systematically cataloging the inventory and documenting the condition of thousands of metal molds stored at the Polubný glassworks. During this process an idea arose:  to ​​place select designs, which emerged after 1945, back into circulation as it was routinely done to fill in the product range in the interwar years. In cooperation with designer Jaroslav Bejvl Jr. and Petr Nový, the curator of the Jablonec Museum of Glass and Jewellery, PRECIOSA ORNELA staff began a two-year project to create several fashionable limited collections that would meet current trends as well as business and production parameters. Five unique pieces and sets designed by Václav Plátek and Václav Hanuš from the 1950’s to the 1970’s made the final selection. Each is an artistically sophisticated and timeless design rather than the initially intended nostalgic retro-style. Instead they meet all criteria for contemporary design. They are also imaginative yet functional. They tell a story and evoke emotions: not just about the period in which they were designed and the people who lived in that time, but also about us and how we view the world. 

Autor of text: PhDr. Petr Nový

Authors of works

Václav Plátek

(1917 - 1994)

Glass and Jewelry Artist, Designer, Glyptic Artist, Illustrator, Art Educator.

Václav Plátek graduated from the Železný Brod School of Glass and the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague (under prof. František Kysela, 1935-1940).  After 1948, he sequentially held the post of Chief Artist at a number of local companies including Borské sklo, Železnobrodské sklo, and the Ústřední výtvarné středisko pro průmysl skla a keramiky (Central Art Center for the Ceramics and Glass Industries). Between 1957 and 1960 Plátek designed glassware as the company designer at the Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks). After leaving this company, he worked as a docent at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague (cutting and engraving, glyptics, and design of household glass, 1960-1977). In 1982 he was honored as an Artist of Outstanding Merit.

Václav Hanuš

(1924 - 2009)

Glass Designer and Artist

Václav Hanuš graduated from the Turnov School of Jewelry (1939 - 1943) and the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague (under prof. Karel Štipl, 1943-1949), where he served as an Assistant Professor and Artistic Fellow (1949-1954).  During his studies he worked at the Lobmeyer Studio in Kamenický Šenov, at the Josefodol Glass Factory in Světlá nad Sázavou, and at the Rudolfova Glassworks in Dubí near Teplice, where he subsequently worked as a designer from 1955 to 1957. Later Hanuš worked as a designer for Skloexport (1959-1960) after which he became the head designer at the Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks) up until his retirement (1961-1985). Afterwards he continued to cooperate with the glassworks and its designers as well as working as a glass artist on his own.  In 1993 he received the Masaryk Academy of Arts Award for his contribution to art. 

Contacts

PRECIOSA ORNELA, a.s.

Krkonošská 732

468 61 Desná

 

glassshop@preciosa.com

+420 488 117 525

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