Swarovski and fine crystal are synonymous and when in Austria and the Tirol area, do take the opportunity to visit its facilities and Kristallwelten (Crystal world), located in Wattens, a small town just east of Innsbruck. Drop by on your own or take a tour out of Innsbruck – Kristallwelten, beginning with the fountain at the entrance, will amaze you.
Swarovski Crystal had its origins in Bohemia, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and is now part of the Czech Republic. Daniel Swarovski, its founder moved manufacturing from Bohemia to Watten, Austria in 1895 to take advantage of the hydro-electric power required by his newly patented precision crystal cutting and polishing machine. In fact, the fine gem quality of the Swarovski crystal products are a direct result of its precision cutting and polishing expertise.
Today, the Swarovski Crystal products, are known for their fine jewelry quality and the creations include; crystal glass sculptures and miniatures, jewelry and couture, home decor, and chandeliers. The Swarovski Group, of which Swarovski Crystal represent a major portion is a multi-billion dollar international corporation, with production facilities in 18 countries and distribution in 42.
To this day the company is still family owned and operated. Although Swarovski has ventures in quite a number of related (glass, crystal, cutting) products, including some of the finest binoculars and rifle scopes available, we’ll focus on the crystal end of the business.
First, let’s take a quick history tour of glass and crystal production and development in the region. Bohemia, has a long history with crafting glass and crystal, which dates back to possibly the 5th and 6th century when it was believed to have been brought to the area by the Celts. Bohemia’s expertise in producing crystal works was established throughout Europe during the 17th century when the formula for clarity, brilliance and rigidity of its crystal was developed and perfected. To this day the method and formula remains a carefully guarded secret. Swarowski’s contribution to crystal was the invention of a machine that allowed very precise cutting and polishing of the crystal. To this day, the process is a closely held secret. In fact the machines used are manufactured internally by Swarovski.
Let’s take a look at some of those products.
In 1931 it launched sew-on crystals studded ribbons, which was a huge hit with the fashion and accessory industry of the time, although new lines of shimmering ribbons continue to adorn many special gowns and coats today. Remember Liberace?
In 1956 together with Christian Dior, Swarovski launched the “Aurora Borealis” effect, which created a shimmering rainbow finish that enhances the sparkle of cut crystal. To this day, this continues to be a major product.
In 1965 Swarovski launched its crystal lines for chandeliers, with takers such as the Palace of Versailles and the Metropolitan Opera in NY. In 2007 it acquired Schyonbek Worlwide Lighting Inc. in the US, the market leader in premium crystal chandeliers. Just a note; Schyonbek, the same as Swarovski, also had its beginnings in Bohemia.
In 1965, Swarovski also started the manufacture of precision cut gemstones. Today Swarovski produces an extensive range of precision cut gems, from Sapphire and Rubies to Topaz and Mozambique Garnet. Also in the mix is Zirconia, a synthetic stone. The foregoing is just a sampling of Swarovski’s extensive collection.
1976 saw the introduction of decorative crystal figurines and the following year its jewelry collection is launched. Remember the mood stone (1972), that changed color as your mood changed?
The fist figurine created was a stylized mouse, which today along with many others has become a true collectible. In fact a replica version is still available today. Other popular figurines include the ladybugs and the limited edition Disney Collectibles. In all, the collection contains over 200 figurines, many of them limited edition and available to Swarovski Crystal Society (See below) members only.
1987 saw the launch of the Swarovski Crystal Society, a community for crystal enthusiasts. VIP treatment when in Watten, discounts and limited edition products are available to its members. And believe me, when visiting Crystal World, as a member, you do get treated well.
In 1995 the Swarovski Kristallwelten (Crystal World) was opened. This is a must see when in the Tyrol area.
Today there are close to 2,000 Swarovski and partner operated boutiques and product outlets world wide, along with its On-line Store.