In October 2017, Crystalex celebrates the 50th anniversary of its modern existence. On October 28, 1967, a ceremony was held opening a vast production facility built on a greenfield site in suburbs of Nový Bor. Large part of glassmaking workshops of the then company Borocrystal was relocated to the premises in several stages. Thus, a new giant came into existence, with several thousand employees, the largest company all over the region. In addition to the construction of a brand new production plant, the town of Nový Bor itself also achieved a huge development. Hundreds of flats, nursery schools, and sports fields have risen there.
The glass industry in the area of Nový Bor, Northern Bohemia has tradition dating back to the 14th century. A huge boom of local companies had arisen since the 18th century, together with export orientation. Nový Bor has been (and it stays to be) a glass town, where dozens of glass factories, glass manufactories, and glass dealers have worked both in the town and in its neighbourhood. After World War II, most of the industry – including glassworks – was put under state control. Therefore, since 1947 the Borocrystal national enterprise had been operating in the region, joining together a number of previously independent glass workshops. In 1965, the construction of today’s Crystalex premises begun. The factory was completed in record-breaking time and it was inaugurated in autumn 1967, as stated above.
In the 1960s, Crystalex focused on traditional hand-made production. In 1972, the first automatic production line was launched; in the course of years, also others were added. In the 1980s, machine production prevailed, nevertheless, off-hand production and hand-made decorations remained as significant segments of manufacturing.
After so called Velvet revolution in 1989, the process of division of former large complexes and privatisation of former state-owned companies took place in Czechoslovakia.
During 1997, also Crystalex was privatized. The major companies in the utility glass business were then concentrated in Bohemia Crystalex Trading (BCT) group. In the BCT group were following glassworks: Crystalex in Nový Bor, Sklo Bohemia at Světlá, Kavalier at Sázava, and Sklárny Bohemia in Poděbrady. In 2008, the whole group was hardly hit by the global financial crisis, it went through a purgatory process and its individual companies were acquired by new owners.
New owners entered on Crystalex in September 2009 and this was the beginning of new era - Crystalex CZ newly. In 2010, its turnover exceeded CZK 0.5 billion (EUR 20 million) already, and it continued to grow dynamically in all subsequent years. In 2013, third melting furnace and new production lines were launched, including the L7 production line for big articles manufacturing. In 2015, Crystalex turnover exceeded CZK 1 billion (EUR 40 million). Crystalex has definitely re-entered the domain of major European manufacturers.
AUTOMATIC PRODUCTION DEVELOPMENT
1972 – 2009 period
Let’s take a more detailed look on the development of automatic machine production in Crystalex. In 1972, the first automatic production line (“LINKUŽ”) was launched successfully in glassworks, producing tumblers and stemware glass. The very first automatic suite was the Elizabeth line (1972), but the first to be really known and successful has been the Claudia set (1974), which is successful until now.
Step by step, dozens of production lines came into existence – most commonly bearing female names. Let’s name here not only Claudia but several other stemware glass suites designed before 2000 and produced up till now: Diana, Natalie, Lara (1997), Maxima, or Vintage (2000). This period also brought in popular tumbler lines: Ideal (1977), Gina (1980), Barline (1995), and Fleur (2000).
A vast number of other suites came into being, of course – e.g. Nancy, Romy, Brigitta, Natalie, Isabelle, Anna, Carmen, Olivia, Janet (or Domenica, if you know this name), Francesca, Maxima, or Julia etc.
The crucial moment was the launch of large articles production line in 1991, expanding the assortment range with vases, bowls, and decanting carafes.
Crystalex entered the new millennium with another very successful line Angela (2000/2001). Other significant suites from the period of 2001 - 2008 were Ultima, Club (2004), or Vicenza (2005) for instance; among the others were e.g. Vivien, Sarah, Lucy, Charlotta, Monica, or Bastia.
2010 - 2017 period
With the new owners (since 2009), a significant innovation wave comes that is also associated with technological progress, especially the technology of wiping. The first sets opening the new era were: Victoria, Sandra, and Viola. These new lines were officially introduced at the Ambiente Frankfurt Fair in February 2011. Victoria enhanced the range of suites with shaped stem and it started to be sold instantly in large quantities both in plain design and in different decorations, being mostly decorated with the technique of pantograph etching. Sandra and Viola were the first “wiped” suites – i.e. glasses that look more gracefully due to wiped joints of goblet and stem. In the coming years, this very segment has become the most dynamically developing group of articles.
During the years 2012 to 2017, a number of new lines were introduced; only the most important ones are listed below. In 2012, they were the plain line Giselle, and a suite with courtly shaped stem, Elisabeth. In 2013, series Turbulence, Jive, and Lilly were introduced. The purely unique of these sets is the Turbulence set with a specially shaped plastic wave allowing better oxidation of wine without decantation; moreover, these glasses look great, too – so Turbulence has immediately joined the main productive lines.
Amoroso, Grandioso, and Waterfall were prepared for 2014. An important milestone was the re-launch of the line for large articles in 2013; so there are also new shapes of vases and decanting carafes in 2014 and following collections, in addition to traditional assortment range.
Novelties for 2015 were the Kate a Rebecca sets with wiped stems, as well as the historicist suite Grace with shaped stem. Grace immediately ranked to the best-sellers characterized with shaped stems, alongside Angela, Claudia, Elisabeth, and Victoria.
New suites Attimo and Bella were prepared for 2016. Tumblers Kate and Grace extended the assortment of tumblers, supplementing also formerly introduced stemware suites.
During autumn 2016, Crystalex launched a new modern line at the highest world level. Therefore, it released even four completely new sets at the Ambiente Fair in Frankfurt: Emma, Bravo, Jane, and Sophia, in February 2017.
In 2014, the HORECA programme was officially introduced – glass for hotels, restaurants, and catering - that exploited some ideas and products prepared during the years 2007 - 2008. The most important are stemware suites: Siesta, Harmony, Rhapsody, Flamenco, Bolero, and tumblers Siesta, Blues, Swing, and Jive. There are also decanting carafes, jugs, vases, bowls, beer programme and special goblets in our production range.
Crystalex has been traditionally really powerful in the field of decorations compared to its competitors. It exploits a variety of traditional decorative techniques – painting, cutting, engraving, screen printing, sandblasting, spraying, decals, diamond engraving, and pantograph etching. After 1989, expensive painting was gradually reduced. This was caused by the boom of family refinement plants, rising prices and changing customer tastes. Of course, a great influence comes from the retail network. Most of us do not perceive it at all, but the change from common specialized stores to today’s dominance of business chains is absolutely crucial.
At present, customers prefer simpler decorations. That means mostly rims and spirals, but also easier high enamel and relief as for painting. There is a constant interest in machine techniques of pantograph etching (decorations realized in our plant Karolinka by Vsetín), and diamond engraving. The spray technology has seen an extreme progress, both handmade and machine-made, used on stemware, tumblers and vases. Sometimes, spraying is combined with rims, diamond engraving or panto-etching. So the decorations live and grow, just they change as time goes by, likewise customers, shops, and the whole world do.
Annually, Crystalex prepares dozens of new decors – either according to customer requirements or for its own collections. The most successful decorations have also special packaging and we call them decorating projects. These are, for example, Rainbow, Gondola, Crazy, Neon, Love, Floral, Royal, Elements, or Spiral.
International Glass Symposium (IGS)
The company Crystalex is the founder of symposiums; in 1982, it came up with the idea to enable a creative meeting of celebrities of Czech and world glass art – giving artists space to create unique artefacts. Since 1997, beside Crystalex other organizers have taken part, at first the company Ajeto and Glass school, later other companies joined.
Since 2009, the town of Nový Bor has become the main organizer –with the support of the Liberec region. So far, the last IGS symposium took place in 2015. Yet 10 subject participated in it, and more than 60 artists from 23 countries in 4 continents took part in it: Czech Republic, Slovakia, USA, Japan, Brazil, Panama, South Korea, China, Israel, Turkey, Italy, Finland, France, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Great Britain, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Denmark, Slovenia, and Latvia. Crystalex provided its decorating works to the artists and to students of local schools, and also the final evening of the symposium took place in its premises. The next symposium is scheduled to take place in the autumn of 2018, again in a great style and large scale that is unparalleled in the world.
Nowadays, Crystalex CZ is the major producer of drinking glass in the Czech Republic, with a turnover of more than EUR 42 million and more than 800 employees. The basis of its production is now formed by automatic machine made stemware, tumblers, but also vases, bowls and decanting carafes. In addition to plain finish, it also offers a great amount of decorations – the most important of which are pantograph etching, diamond engraving, painting, spraying and screen printing. The company exports to more than 70 countries around the world – mostly under its trademarks "Bohemia Crystal" and "Bohemia Glass".
Over the past 50 years, Crystalex has completely turned from traditional handmade production into machine production, but it has retained a great deal and potential of decorations. Let’s wish many happy returns in the years to come.