Swarovski beads: the best glass beads you can get. Probably you don’t expect a blog post about Swarovski beads from me. Since I am specialized in handmade unique and exclusive jewelry, made of gemstones and silver. And Swarovski beads are no gemstones. And you are right: you will not find many pieces of jewelry made of Swarovski beads in my collection. Still, the Swarovski bead deserves a blog post and a lot of appreciation. It is a very high-quality glass bead in stunning colors, beautifully faceted. You can say that Swarovski beads are gems of glass.
From the dream to become a violist to the best glassmaker in the world!
Once upon a time, that is in the 19th century, there is a man, called Daniel Swarovski. He dreams of being a violist. He is born in the northern part of Bohemia, which is now the Czech Republic. In this region, the famous Bohemian glass was found. And many people worked with that glass and made a living out of that. Like producing jewelry, hair accessories, etc.
The father of Daniel owns a small glass factory. And like many others, he lives from his glass products, which are not exceptional. They don’t differ from the glass products that others in this region make. Daniel could not follow his dream and becomes an apprentice in the factory of his father. Later he is sent to Paris to become an engineer.
The influence of George Frederic Strass
To understand the development of Daniel’s ideas you have to know that about one century before he is born, there was a very famous jeweler, called George Frederic Strass. He copies the shape of a diamond in glass (which was a fraud of course). And the strass diamonds become very popularly as decoration of clothing.
The invention of the great machine
As an engineer, Daniel is interested in machines. And on an electrotechnical exhibition, he sees a machine that can grind glass. He doesn’t not like that machine, and he decides to improve it. It takes him nine years before he can present an electrical machine. A machine that can grind a large amount of crystal and stone, all of the same size and all of the very high quality. With this machine he starts his business in 1895 in Wattens (Austria), working with rhinestone and crystal. He starts in Wattens because that is a place in an area with a lot of local hydroelectricity. What means cheap energy for his machines.
He produces luxury fashion items made of glass or crystal, like jewelry, sculptures, and miniatures. And another part of his business is producing highly technical items, like telescopes. But for this blog post, it is important that he starts producing high-quality beads.
How to make the perfect Swarovski beads?
Making a machine that can grind glass in high volume is not all it takes to make a high-quality bead. Daniel Swarovski works very hard to make his machine perfect. He tests a lot to find out the right proportion of the right component to make the right glass. This is necessary to create glass that he can cut and polish with a machine. That glass has to be very strong to survive in a machine.
He tests his material further because he wants to make glass that refracts light in a rainbow spectrum. Therefore Swarovski coats his glass with a special metal. And all his inventions create a great collection of special high-quality beads.
Swarovski beaded necklace
Special bead lines
Like the ‘AB’ (Aurora Borealis) bead line, which is coated in a way that the surface of the bead gets a rainbow appearance. And Swarovski has a lot of special bead lines where he uses this technique. Other bead lines are coated twice, like the ‘AB 2x’: very durable and with a beautiful effect. Then in his collection are faceted beads with different shapes, round beads, cabochon with a flat back or elements with Swarovski beads in or on them.
And every time he invents a new product or a new technique, he makes jewelry out of it and sends examples to fashionistas in St Petersburg and Paris. And they are excited and the designers want those crystal ‘diamonds’ for their clothing. Business is going well for Daniel Swarovski and his products get the name ‘Swarovski’.
The Swarovski beads are one of the most successful mass made products in the world!
The popularity of the Swarovski beads goes sky high. Especially when the fashion houses of Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli start to use the Swarovski beads for the decoration of their new clothing lines. Everyone wants a dress with that luxurious glance, not coming from real diamonds. But from those high-quality diamond-shaped Swarovski beads, that were a lot more affordable than the real diamonds. Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich order a gown decorated with Swarovski beads.
You see the use of strass beads or elements only in very cheap clothing or outfits. It looks a bit cheap compared with the Swarovski beads. The strass elements are not used so often in the fashion industry anymore. Couturiers like Christian Dior, Vivianne Westwood, and Yves Saint Laurent used the Swarovski beads. And those fashion designers make the name of Swarovski more elaborate as it already was.
Necklace and bracelet made of turquoise, Thai silver, and Swarovski beads
It stays in the family
In the mid of the last century, the grandson of Daniel Swarovski introduces the multi-colored Swarovski crystals. And makes the Swarovski product even more famous. This development is very important for the people who made their own jewelry. Now they can choose from a lot of colors and shapes. All to make the pieces of jewelry, that are made of these Swarovski crystals more unique and more exclusive. They can get hold of Swarovski beads that look exactly like diamonds, emeralds, sapphires or amethysts. And these beads are not only used in jewelry or fashionable dresses. But also on phones and even a scooter was decorated with Swarovski beads.
Of course, the marketing of the Swarovski beads is important. You have to convince jewel designers and fashionistas that using the Swarovski beads is good for their business. Therefore Swarovski designs in 2004 a star for the Christmas Tree on the Rockefeller Centre in New York. That star has a diameter of 2.7 meters (9 foot) and weighed 250 kilos (550 pounds) and it is completely covered with Swarovski beads and elements. Imagine what a beauty that is.
The sons of Daniel Swarovski join their father in the business. And they continue to produce beautiful beads, ornaments, and even lenses and telescopes. In 1988 the Swarovski products are symbolized as a crystal swan, the symbol of elegance and grace.
Until today the Swarovski factory is a family business. Today his great-granddaughter continues the work of her great-grandfather. That must be an honor. Because she is working on the dream of a man that accomplished such a lot: inventing the machine that can grind glass in huge amounts. Make crystals of high quality with all the same size and shape. Introduce a new product for jewel designers and fashionistas, but also for the home-based jewel makers. And already for more than 100 years. A remarkable story of a remarkable man.
Brooch made of agate, Swarovski beads, and Thai silver
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