Where Do Cut Crystal Figurines Come From?

Cut Crystal Figurines

Crystal and glass figurines have been made through the ages. Famous producers of crystal figurines are for instance Lalique, Baccarat, Daum and Cristallerie d’Argues. These are beautiful sculptures made out of glass or crystal and they represent people, animals, flowers, etc.

But these are not the kind of crystal figurines we are talking about here. Cut crystal figurines are made out of full-cut faceted, lead crystal stones. Because the use of a high lead-content in the crystal, the light is reflected, actually diffracted, and this results in a beautiful palette of colors.

Basically these figurines are composed out of cut crystal lamp pendants and cut crystal beads, glued together in such a way that they represent for instance an animal or a flower. But that was basically. The modern cut crystal figurines are made of specially designed cut crystal 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 the cut crystal beads and pendants for the jewellery and the fashion industry.

Cutting and polishing glass and crystal stones was a tedious job and needed much skills in those days.

The son of one of the best Bohemian glass cutters at the mid 19th century, was a young man named Daniel Swarovski.

After 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 glass cutting process. He succeeded after nine years of experimenting! and could patent the first semi-automatic, electrically driven, 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 with much more precision and at much higher speed than the manually cutting method.

The Perfection of Crystal Cutting

After the invention of the electrically driven cutting technology, Daniel Swarovski did not stop inventing. He started a factory where he constantly improved the cutting but where he also mastered the making of flawless, high lead-content crystal.

His jewelery stones made him the number one supplier of the fashion industry in Paris. All the famous couturiers used his cut crystal stones and Swarovski became an established brand.

The Swarovski company never stopped developing new ways how to make better crystal and new ways how to cut crystal better. Needless to say that they are today still the no.1 crystal cutting company in the world.

The First Cut Crystal Figurine

It is not so long ago, actually in 1976, that the first commercial cut crystal figurine was made and, again, that one was made by the Swarovski company.

In 1976 the winter Olympics were held in Innsbruck in Austria, not far away from the Swarovski factories (Wattens, Austria). Swarovski designer Max Schreck made a mouse out of cut crystal stones and it became a best seller during the games, immediately after it was launched into the market.

The reason why it took so long before the first cut crystal figurine saw the daylight is because there was, until the beginning of the seventies, no glue which could glue the stones together. The glue is a solution of an acrylate which hardens out to a clear acrylic substance under UV-radiation. That kind of Chemistry only developed after WWII.

The smaller version of the original mouse is still available and is sold under the name ‘replica mouse’. The replica mouse is not alone anymore. The collection of cut crystal Swarovski figurines is still growing and the beautiful cut crystal figurines depict themes from the world of flora and fauna, childhood memories, Christmas themes and more.

Famous Brands for Cut Crystal Figurines

The most famous brand is, without any doubt, Swarovski. There is a whole army of collectors of about 325,000 people who are a member of the Swarovski Crystal Society. Being a member of the largest collectors society in the world makes it possible to buy limited editions. The limited editions are special models which are produced in limited quantities only.

Many companies have started making cut crystal figurines after Swarovski started with their collection. And many of them have stopped after a while.

Making cut crystal figurines is not just sticking some stones together. The companies who survived during the last four decades and who still make cut crystal figurines are the companies who put lots of effort in design and quality.

Preciosa from the Czech Republic is such a company. They have a great collection of beautifully designed figurines and they also use the finest crystal for it. After all Preciosa is world’s no.2 crystal cutting company and they have a name to keep up.

Crystal World is another top brand. This company, with a team of Japanese designers, is already making beautiful pieces since it was founded by Rudy (Ryuyu) Nakai, in 1983, in the United States.

In Egypt is the company Asfour. Asfour is like Swarovski and Preciosa also a giant crystal cutting company. Asfour also makes a high quality crystal and they design beautiful crystal figurines.

You’ll find other producers of crystal figurines in other countries but usually they are not as specialized as the four companies above. China and Turkey have quite some producers of crystal figurines. Some of those companies have nice models but for most of them, crystal figurines are not their main business and they usually offer a range of other crystal products alongside the figurines.

Cut crystal figurines have a magical attraction to many people. The clarity of the material, the breaking of the light into many colors and the timeless designs make people want to surround themselves with them.

What once started as a single crystal mouse in Austria in 1976, is now collected by hundreds of thousands people around the world and brings joy everyday to many. We can only thank the innovative, world-famous crystal cutting company Swarovski for inventing the cut crystal figurines which bring that special touch to many people’s life.