Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Scenic hiking routes surround the stately Altenhof Castle in Austria. The routes are just a sampling of the breathtaking beauty that helps define the ambience of this centuries-old landmark.

Owned by the Salburg-Falkenstein counts, the refurbished castle and its grounds house terraced gardens, garden halls, tennis courts, a golf course, and a sauna. Austria is also the home base for the Swarovski brand.

In the last several months, I have featured quite a few designers who implement Swarovski Crystals in their extraordinary pieces.

I thought I would do something a little different today by writing a feature on this longstanding manufacturer and supplier of some the world's most beautiful crystals, rhinestones, and glass beads.

Born in Goergenthal, Bohemia in 1862, Daniel Swarovski I was the offspring of a glasscutter who owned a small factory. Once Swarovski reached his late teens, he  learned to masterfully cut glass by hand while apprenticing in his father's factory.

Intrigued by innovation, he attended an electricity exhibition in Vienna; the experience ignited his imagination. He quickly began to lay out plans to create an automated machine that cut crystals. Within nearly two decades, the machine's specifications were to Swarovski's satisfaction and he acquired a patent.

With the assistance of a financier, Armand Kosman, and Swarovski's brother-in-law, Franz Weis, Swarovski established his crystal cutting company in 1895. The city of Georgenthal was already renowned for its crystal cutters, and Swarovski set up his factory in the Austrian Alps away from the prying eyes of competitors. The Alps was also a prime location due to its water;  a necessity to power the company's massive electricity needs.

In the early 1900s, the Swarovski company initially supplied their impeccably cut crystals to Parisian fashion designers who used the brilliant colored glass beads, crystals and rhinestones for formal wear. With the development of more sophisticated grinding tools, by 1931 the company began creating crystals that were fused onto ribbon fabric.

The company implements special metallic coatings that provide a powerful gleam to the crystals and glass beads. Among its most popular coatings is the Aurora Borealis, which provides iridescence.

Presently designers such as Martin Adams, Anton Hirzinger, Roland Schuster, and Stephen Webster (England) have collaborated with the company creating spectacular jewelry, sculptures, and figurines.

The company's other product lines include Tyrolit, which creates cutting tools; Signity specializes in gemstones; Swareflex provides items for road safety; and Swarovski Optic creates optical equipment.  These collective product lines form the Swarovski Group.

Crystallized Swarovski Elements (the official brand name) is sold worldwide in 673 stores.
Photo 1 (top right): Swarovski Red Crystal Necklace and Earring Set (inset photo of earrings)
Photo 2 (bottom right): Green Roselia Bird Figurine in Jonquil Crystal
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