The Czech Glass Class

There are many things the Czech Republic is very well known for, one of them being Czech Glass. To be more specific, Bohemian Crystal. The production of Bohemian Crystal, from the Bohemia and Silesia regions, is a rich centuries-old tradition that is still thriving today.

man blows the glass in the Kvetna 1794 glassworks
A glassblower blows glass in the Kvetna 1794 glassworks in Strani, Czech Republic, which exports mainly to Western Europe and is the biggest exporter of colorful glass to the European market. Photo: Zuzana Gogova / Getty Images

If you have ever walked through Prague’s city center, you might have noticed the high volumes of glass on the shelves of souvenir shops. Maybe you’ve even bought a vase made of Czech glass. Well, what if we told you that there is an exciting story behind Czech glass. And no, they are not trying to be a competitor to IKEA.

The Celtic roots of Bohemian crystal

The story of that piece of glass you bought starts in the ancient times of the Roman Empire. During those times, the Celtic tribes of Markomania (what they called the Czechia back then) figured out how to utilize materials they found underground. Back then, the Celts made tiny beads from the glass they manufactured, which they shipped to markets across the Roman Empire.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Celts were pushed out by nomadic Slavs, who settled in what is modern-day Czechia. It looks pretty bad for your glass, huh? On the contrary! The Slavs picked up the skill of glass manufacturing, and they expanded the Bohemian Glass industry. 

Raise a glass for the Queen

The astounding success of Czech Glass would come in the 13th and 14th centuries and during the Renaissance era when Bohemian glass products made it to Italy. Until then, decentralized manufacturers and crafters tried to meet the demand for luxury glass from all of Europe without much success. The answer to this demand was the centralization of the smaller manufacturers into big glass factories. That is where the story of your glass piece begins.

Of course, there have been rough patches, like in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, all that is important is that the Czech glass industry survived and it’s doing well. Among the most famous glass producers today are Novosad, Moser (considered the most luxurious brand), Rückl (the glass from them is owned, for example, by the British Queen Elizabeth II), and Crystalex (the most prominent Czech producer of drinking glasses). In fact, Crystalex, owns the trademark for Bohemia Crystal. So, it is most likely that they produced your glass piece!

What’s that? Why is the glass called Bohemian Crystal? We thought you would never ask! Crystal, as in Bohemian crystal, means high-quality brinded glass. Well, now you know everything you need to know about that magnificent piece of Bohemian Crystal you bought.

Now it is up to you what you do with it. You can either use it or put it somewhere you can admire it daily. Because Bohemian Crystal is not a souvenir, it’s an investment.

Marek Koten

A Ph.D. student in economics, specializing in nuclear energy from the Czech Republic, he also serves as a political consultant to the Czech government and the U.S. Republican Party.

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