Precious stones from the Bohemian Paradise

The brothers Jan and Václav Fišers from Turnov. Their alleged voyage to Venice, five years of efforts to seize the local secret of secrecy, return to Turnov, dozens of wasted attempts and then - finally success! In 1711 they made the first glass for the production of artificial stones.

THE GLASSHOUSE IN NOVÝ SVĚT

It was in 1712, when Elias Müller built his glassworks on the estate of the Harrach Counts in Jilemnice. It continued in the traditional production of glass, which was produced on the border of the Giant Mountains and the Jizera Mountains in the middle of the 14th century. Even today, you can see not only metallurgical production and blowing glass, but also a hundred-year-old grinding shop. It is driven by a water turbine and transmissions used to distribute the driving force.

ELIAS PALME

Elias Palme, one of the most famous luminaire manufacturers, continued the tradition of chandeliers in Kamenický Šenov. Industrial production of chandeliers was started in 1724 by Josef Palme in Prácheň.

ELDORADO OF BEADS AND SEED BEADS

Surely you would not find in the whole Principle and in the broad surroundings of a person who would say a crooked word about Jan Šourek. After all, it was as if he had come to the Principle of Prosperity and Welfare. As soon as he took possession of the reeve, life in the village began to turn for the better. He was one of the first to venture into the world for business.

JOSEF RIEDEL

Josef Riedel, king of the Jizera Mountains glassmakers, was born in Hejnice in 1816. He was the representative of the sixth generation of the glass family and imprinted his footprint indelibly on the slopes of the Jizera Mountains.

FRIEDRICH EGERMANN

JOSEF PFEIFFER

Josef Pfeiffer - Jablonec entrepreneur and mayor, who was involved in the development of jewelery exports. Everything is confirmed at the imperial court and in 1866 Jablonec became a town during his reign.

BLOWN BEAD and its way to the tree

People can make sense of time and numbers, but not us, beads. However, I have heard that they have been blowing me in the mountains for more than a hundred years. As a bead would put it, that is a long time. You, who have never seen how a bead is born, you don´t know how beautiful life can be....

MELTED GLASS SCULPTURE

In 1920 the first Czech glass school was founded in Železný Brod, thanks to which the town became a center of glass art.

Crystal Valley Weekend 2024 Live broadcast from the approval meeting for the inscription of handmade glass production on the UNESCO list! GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY CRYSTAL HELMET OF ST. WENCESLAS Trophies for the World Superbike Championship in the spirit of Czech glass art Traditional glassmaking regions on both sides of the border are connecting Palme Glass Trail World of Wonders - WOW Crystal Paradise "Handmade glass" awarded Preciosa Lighting installation at Changi Airport Czech Christmas decorations enchant the Netherlands Crystal reliquary of St. Zdislava for the Pope Preciosa Lighting at Designblok Crystal Train Crystal Trail Preciosa is a partner of the ballet performance of the National Theater 165th birthday of the Czech glass school in Kamenický Šenov Šenov design shines in Prague's PALLADIUM Museum programs for children online How did glass Christmas decorations get from Železný Brod to New York? Unveiling a unique glass sculpture Pearl Christmas decorations from Poniklá are on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity UNESCO LASVIT glass headquarters winner of the Dezeen Awards 2020 The winning work of the Crystal Master 2020 Turnov: Gloria musaealis 2019
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CRYSTAL VALLEY in 2024
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Manual glass production is Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
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Live broadcast from the approval meeting for the inscription of handmade glass production on the UNESCO list!
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Stations of the Cross at the Church of St. Anne
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GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY
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CRYSTAL HELMET OF ST. WENCESLAS
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Trophies for the World Superbike Championship in the spirit of Czech glass art
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Traditional glassmaking regions on both sides of the border are connecting
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Palme Glass Trail
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World of Wonders - WOW
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Crystal Paradise
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"Handmade glass" awarded
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Preciosa Lighting installation at Changi Airport
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Czech Christmas decorations enchant the Netherlands
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Crystal reliquary of St. Zdislava for the Pope
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Preciosa Lighting at Designblok
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Crystal Train
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Crystal Trail
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Preciosa is a partner of the ballet performance of the National Theater
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165th birthday of the Czech glass school in Kamenický Šenov
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Šenov design shines in Prague's PALLADIUM
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Museum programs for children online
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How did glass Christmas decorations get from Železný Brod to New York?
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Unveiling a unique glass sculpture
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Pearl Christmas decorations from Poniklá are on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity UNESCO
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LASVIT glass headquarters winner of the Dezeen Awards 2020
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The winning work of the Crystal Master 2020
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Turnov: Gloria musaealis 2019
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Inspired by Crystal Valley

Precious stones from the Bohemian Paradise

Mannerisms and the Baroque period. 

An explosion of emotions, dynamics, monumentality, never-ending decorativeness and ostentation. The enchantment of symmetry, roundness and expressivity. Drama. The wave of motion. When the Baroque entered Bohemia, it brought the popularity of gold and precious stones. Gold went mostly to churches, diamonds onto necks, fingers and dresses of wealthy citizens. Precious stones took over jewellery production. Beautiful sets of diamonds were completely necessary for social court life. Women, as well as men, were embellished with jewellery.

The interest was tremendous, the whole of Europe longed for precious stones. The centre of stonemasonry is Prague, but it turns out that Turnov is also starting to play a significant role and will soon outrun Prague. Cutters and grinders meet on the main square with goldsmiths, silversmiths, traders and prospectors who set out for a trip to Kozákov to find precious stones, and to the Jizera Mountains and the Giant Mountains as well. There is a functioning grinding workshop, the first-ever workshop of its kind in Bohemia, in the post Battle of the White Mountain era. The 17th century slowly comes to an end, yet the interest remains. The demand is so high that stocks or new findings of precious stones are not enough.

People are extremely creative creatures. Humans always know what to do, especially if money, living and success are involved. On the banks of a Venetian lagoon, an idea was born. If we don’t have enough precious stones, let's imitate them using glass. The success was immense, and the producers from Turnov noticed that. They are not going to let anyone take their prosperity and prestige! And so, they soon start to produce glass compositions in Turnov and cut them into artificial gems. How did it happen? Only God could judge. Maybe, two brothers were involved - Jan and Václav Fišer from Turnov. They visited Venice to obtain its heavily guarded secret, then returned home and tried and tried. After dozens of failures, they finally succeeded! In 1711, they produced the first glass for the production of artificial gems. It is just a legend, and we have no proof, but it was probably like that. However it may have happened, soon firemen, lab technicians and composition grinders joined the cutters and grinders of precious stones. Stonemasonry has now two branches – “hard”, which processes and refines semi-precious and precious stones imported or found in a local area, and “soft”, which works with glass.

People from Turnov did it their way. They were accustomed to the high quality of hard processing, and they did the same with glass processing. And it paid off. From the very beginning, they aspired for the most perfect imitation of precious stones. It didn’t take long before they were melting glass that could imitate diamond, topaz, aquamarine, sapphire, lapiz lazuli, turquoise, hyacinth, amethyst, cornelian, opal, olivine or smaragdite. The success of these imitations was great. And when they perfected the glass composition imitating Czech garnet, which was getting more and more popular, there wasn’t any competition for some time. First, the world acted like these stones are real – hush – we know – but soon, a new fashion discipline was born, which brought cheaper and accessible jewellery to the market. And “Turnov stones”, became magnificent – a great material, cut and ground perfectly.

The Czech language gifted these stones with a beautiful name – some of them are called “karmazínky”. A beautiful word like those from nursery rhymes. These artificial stones had several advantages over real stones. The cost certainly was an advantage. The second benefit was great variability. The final form of the stone could be processed colour-wise and shape-wise according to the customer’s idea and preference. Lab technicians were searching all the time for new forms, colours, shines and properties of glass – it was new alchemy. They were using metals to colour the glass and later salts. It was a never-ending exploration. Sure, there were some errors with no results. Sometimes, these mistakes led to a fundamental discovery. They say the famous garnet glass composition from Turnov was created when someone inadvertently dropped a piece of steel into hot glass.

“Are you here, Frantisek? “, echoed through the workshop. “Come in Václav”, someone replied from around the corner. “We are about to open”. The furnace was sleeping on the other side of the room. The furnace was cooling down on the third day. Soon they are going to break those bricks that the Fisher brothers had used to brick up the hot muzzle filled with clay jugs full of matter ready to be transformed into a glass composition. “Just a moment”, said František and sat by the table. “I want to go over the purchases”, he was looking at the paper covered with dense notes. “Borax was brought yesterday. It got more expensive - a pound is worth three gold pieces.” Václav murmured: “It is expensive, but stones get much better fire than when we used saltpetre, which was very cheap.” František pointed to the paper again. “Minium and saltpetre will arrive from Prague later in the evening; marl will arrive tomorrow from Hesse. It is further than Dresden.”  “Are there enough jugs?”, asked Václav. “There is a full shelf of those from Silesia. We´ll see how they work." The workshop was silenced. Then, František got up and started to walk around the workshop nervously. “Today, almost everybody has the pliers we have created. It is infuriating. I would have never thought they would be so successful.” Václav nodded grimly. Really, who could have known that their invention would be so ground-breaking? And yet it was so simple – wooden pliers with fixed metal moulds. All you had to do was to squeeze the glass, tip the finished piece and then just cut and grind it. It was a huge time-saving. “There are more and more stones. The prices are going down. They now melt and press everywhere, even in the mountains” murmured František unhappily, but Václav burst out: “Have you heard about the proposal of the mayor´s son-in-law? František nodded. “Yes, I have heard about that, but they will never allow his Grace the Count to do that. That would destroy us all. “If only” growled Václav. “It´s time”, he said, “let´s open”.

Perhaps, we should explain what the proposal was about and who the son-in-law of the local mayor was. His name was Jan Modestin. He was a businessman in Prague, and he came to Turnov to see his father-in-law with huge plans. He wanted to build a great factory for the production of glass compositions. The material would then be given to local cutters, and he would sell the final stones. The whole plan was worth a lot of money - fifty thousand gold pieces! However, in one year, the material was supposed to leave the factory with double value and Modestin would get some fifteen, or maybe up to thirty per cent profit. František Fischer was right, after all, Count Valdštejn rejected this project, and so they continued to produce the glass composition in the same way.

To produce glass was one thing, but to cut and polish it was another. They cut the stones with sandstone sanders, exactly how real precious stones were cut. Polishing was done with grinding discs from poplar wood and tin. There were all kinds of shapes, gradually one of them turned out to be the most successful – the “chaton”, with eight flat areas on top and the bottom. The demand was very high. It looked like the stones from Turnov couldn’t be dethroned. Venetian glassmakers were very angry and irritated, but there was nothing they could do. Turnov´s products exceeded them, especially in quality and often in range. Nevertheless, the deathblow came from somewhere else, from Paris. There, Joseph Strasser, a former Viennese, and Paris jewellery maker launched his “Štrasy”, in French “Pierres de Strass”. Behind them, there was his discovery of high- lead glass. Stones cut from this composition glittered and refracted light unusually.  Fashion changed again, and everyone wanted strass. In Turnov, they were sounding the alarm, but to no avail. The prices fell to rock bottom – goods that were worth fifty-seven gold pieces were now worth only one. It looked like the end of Turnov´s trade with glass stones.

However, they shouldn’t have underestimated the stubbornness of the fierce stonemasons. They searched and searched until they found it. As in the case of the Venetian secret years ago, they now discovered the secret of strass. They immediately started production and trade as well. And they achieved prosperity very quickly. In the year 1772, export from the Czech Kingdom was more than one hundred and thirteen thousand gold pieces, which was roughly one-third of the whole export of glass products.

The Baroque was slowly leaving, and many other different styles started to come to Europe. The popularity of jewellery remained intact. In the next centuries, they were producing beautiful imitations of precious stones in Turnov and other parts of the Crystal Valley, especially in Jablonec. The technology evolved, and machines entered production in the second part of the 19th century. In Jablonec, the machines started to be used half a century later. Even today, only fifty per cent of jewellery stones are processed using machines – the rest is handmade. Yes, the Baroque tradition remained even in the third millennium, today, the Preciosa company is in charge of the production of glass stones. And the company honours the tradition of its Baroque predecessors. It owns roughly a quarter of the world market! And the biggest competition? Swarovski. An Austrian family company, which comes from … where do you think? Of course, from the Crystal Valley.