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Czech glassmaking


History of Glassmaking in Czech Republic

The glassmaking industry in the Czech Republic has a much longer history than most other countries and is famous for its beautiful and colourful glass which is well known all over the world.

Glass has been present in the Czech countries from time immemorial. As historic findings have shown, glass was processed here on a major scale since the time of the Celts. At the beginning of the Christian calendar, the ancient Romans named these countries Boiohaemum after one of the main tribes residing there.

The wealth of sand and wood in the Bohemian basin and its unique position in the centre of the Europe had offered glassmakers exceptional facilities. The origins of the contemporary glassmaking date back to the Gothic era, i.e. the turn of 13th and 14th centuries.

The first glassworks were set up in the virgin forests on the border of the Bohemian Kingdom, because of plenty of fuel and glassmaking additives. At first, the window-glass fabrication prevailed, being significantly supported by the Roman Emperor and Czech King Charles IV, who charged local workshops with production of stained-glass panes for the Prague castle. During breaks, the glassblowers were used to make glass vessels for their homes; therefore the owners of glass workshops aimed to employ their skills. Graceful goblets of greenish Gothic glass have become embellishments of many modern museums.

Bohemian glass-workers discovered potash combined with chalk created a clear colourless glass that was more stable than glass from Italy.

The popularity of the Bohemian glass has permanently increased during the Middle Ages; in the 16th century at least 34 melting works were documented at the Bohemian area. The artists from the whole Europe came to the country and the emperor Rudolf II granted two dynasties of glassworks masters the status of aristocrats. Bohemian glass and crystal became famous throughout the world and put also the Venice articles, previously reckoned to be the best one, into the shade.

Bohemia turned out expert craftsmen who artfully worked with crystal. Bohemian crystal became famous for its excellent cut and engraving. They became skilled teachers of glass-making in neighbouring and distant countries. By the middle of the 19th century, a technical glass-making school system was created that encouraged traditional and innovative techniques as well as technical preparation.