Bohemian glass: the history of Czech crystal

History of Czech glass

In Europe, the history of widespread glass production begins in the 17th century with a then-unique lead oxide formula. Lead radically changed the production of glassblowers of that time. Now the products were not only practical, but because of the new properties, crystal things began to be better polished, and faceting began to give amazingly beautiful results.

The very same word «Bohemian» has roots in the historical roots of the country. The Czech Republic was not always the Czech Republic, and it was formed from several regions. That’s just its modern western part and was called Bohemia during the time of the Celts. At that time, glass was such a rare material, and there were so few craftsmen, that crystal was valued very highly and only very wealthy people could afford it. Most often, only the court nobility could buy a glass product for themselves.

Since the 12th century, the craft of glassblowers has gained experience and masters, and by the 14th century, glass becomes available to a much larger circle of people, but is still little used in everyday life. It is very fragile for the Middle Ages and still not cheap.

чешское стекло

The first Bohemian dishes were not highly artistic. The pioneer who gave Bohemian glass an element of luxury was the court jeweler Caspar Leman, who served with Rudolf II. He applied the ancient Roman glass carving technique to crystal things, which later glorified Bohemian crystal throughout the world. With the tools available to Lehman, he managed to achieve such beauty of the products that made them look like diamonds, and this already attracted all kinds of connoisseurs.

Not a small contribution to the beauty of Czech Bohemian glass was made by nature itself. The sands of this area have a minimum amount of impurities from iron oxides. By adding lead, quartz, beech wood ash and barium to such a glass mixture, glassblowers achieved maximum beauty and subtlety of products. For centuries, masters have passed on their knowledge to students, accumulating invaluable experience over generations and improving techniques for working with such excellent raw materials. As a result, transparent faceted glass, classic smooth glass, and painted Bohemian glass are valued all over the world.

Varieties of Czech crystal

Czech glass is very rich, beautiful and expensive in color. Color diversity is achieved by coloring the layers of the original transparent material using the layering technique at high temperatures. The color spectrum in production is achieved using chemical compounds:

Manganese — spectrum from pink to purple;
Cobalt or copper oxide — a spectrum from delicate blue to deep blue;
Tenorite — from light yellow to black;
Copper ions — red spectrum.


Most of the products for export have dyeing or two-color carving. An artistic chip on a glass or vase, for example, reveals the lower transparent layer underneath. In addition to color layers, both transparent and colored crystal products can contain gold and silver inserts, be inlaid with stones and have an outer layer of painting.