History

Past 

Glass has been present in the Czech countries from time immemorial. As the historic findings have shown, glass was processed here in a major scale since the time of the Celts already; at the beginning of Christian calendar, the ancient Romans named these countries Boiohaemum (home of Bois, later Bohemum, Bohemia) after one of the main tribes residing here. 

The wealth of sand and wood in the Bohemian basin and its unique position in the centre of the Europe have 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. Perhaps Venice only may take pride in such a long and uninterrupted tradition. 

The first glassworks were set up in the virgin forests on the border of 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 pauses, 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 recent museums. 

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. 

During the 19th century, the world glass industry witnessed important changes that influenced its following development. The glassworks left off their dependence on woods owing to railway transport and switching to generator gas heated furnaces, and they moved to industrial areas. 

 

Sklárna v roce 1877

Sklárna v roce 1877

In 1876, Poděbrady was a small town. The founders of the glassworks, brothers Augustin and Jan Gerhardt, were well acquainted with local landlord, Prince Ernest Philip Hohenlohe von Schillingfürst. This is probably why the glassworks was set up here, although there was lack of suitable raw materials and manpower was more expensive than in border areas. The construction began on 21st April 1876, and the factory, which was the most modern in Bohemia at that time, began to work in June 1877.  The main items produced were glass parts of kerosene lamps, inkpots, bottles, beer glasses, jugs and other table goods.

 

After only six years of its existence, the company „Gerhardt Bros“ broke down and Jan sold his share to his brother. Due to costly life of the remaining owner family, trying to be equal the prince’s level, and managing mistakes, the company run into debts and the glassworks shut down in 1886.

 

In 1893, the damaged factory was bought by the coal concern „D. Berl“ to lease and later sell it to the glass company „Josef Inwald“ of Vienna. The glassworks underwent a period of unprecedented prosperity under the new owner. New premises were constructed; etching workshop and glass-cutting shop were built at the turn of the century. In 1902, Josef Inwald was given aristocratic status and the glassworks was granted special privileges including the right to use the emblem of Austrian eagle. The owner has invested to other glassworks in the Bohemian area and he transferred his firm to Prague, the capital of young Czechoslovak republic, in 1922.

 

Sklárna J. Inwalda počátkem 20. století

Sklárna J. Inwalda počátkem 20. století

After his death in 1925, his second son, Oskar, took over the company. Under his management, probably the most important decision was made for future of the glassworks in 1927 – the enterprise started to produce lead crystal glass. There was significant increase of demands and that brought development and in effect, renewal of all premises.

 

The Depression of 1930s put an end to the Inwald’s concern. The glassworks in Poděbrady was bought by Česká eskomptní banka from Karlovy Vary, the factory was to be levelled and plots sold off to build family houses. Luckily, this was called off due to the cost of the project.

 

New director Leo Moser saved the factory and renewed its former fame for a short time. The firm stopped growing when he left Czechoslovakia due to imminent occupation. The glassworks was switched to production of war purpose articles and continued to decline. Ironically, the fire in 1941 helped the factory, due to the fact that at least part of its lead crystal production has returned back because of reconstruction of one of the two furnaces.

 

After the war, the plant underwent major refurbishment. An independent company Poděbradské sklárny n.p. was established on 1st January 1950, and press technology was introduced in the 1950s. Lead crystal production switched from 18% PbO to a more refined 24% lead crystal. In 1965, all the manufacturers of lead crystal in Bohemia and Moravia merged to form a single company Sklárny Bohemia Poděbrady.

 

Sklárna v roce 2009

Sklárna v roce 2009

Due to non-intensive development of glassmaking in Czechoslovakia, this company became a part of a mammoth concern Crystalex that incorporated the absolute majority of household glass making companies in 1975. The Bohemia trade mark was diffused across the entire utility glass of Czechoslovak provenience with the exception of heat resistant glass, every glass and crystal was exported through the monopoly enterprise Glassexport.

 

Still, this period brought also considerable benefits. A distinct development of automated production has taken place, and a worldwide distribution network was set up. The name Bohemia has strengthened its positions on world markets and it has gained extra position in Japan, Australia, the countries of Near East and former Soviet Union, and in some countries of Western Europe.
In 1990, the state monopoly was broken. The company Sklárny BOHEMIA a.s. became independent on 1st December 1993, however, their separate development did not take a long time. It became a part of glassmaking group, covered by the enterprise BOHEMIA CRYSTALEX TRADING in October 1999. After a financial collapse of this group in 2008, the production in Poděbrady glassworks stopped for the third time in their history.


Present 

A joint-stock company Crystal BOHEMIA was established on 28th November 2008 to renew the lead crystal production of glassworks in Poděbrady. Despite initial delay caused by running changes of corresponding legal regulations, it became the owner of the glassworks on 29th April 2009 and, on 21st October of the same year, the glassworks in Poděbrady began to operate again after a more than one year lasting shut-down.

Recently, Crystal BOHEMIA a.s. ranks among leading world producers of lead crystal and it is unambiguously the major producer in the Czech Republic. The company continues the rich history and extraordinary tradition represented by the oval blue and gold trademark BOHEMIA as well.

Crystal Bohemia, a.s., Jiráskova 223/19, 290 01 Poděbrady

Phone: +420 739 488 911 |  e-mail: company@crystal-bohemia.com