Glass

SPECIAL REPORT/GLASS MANUFACTURING: Gorgeous Glass

February 1, 2008
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D. Swarovski & Co.’s Helmut Swarovski recently received the prestigious Phoenix Award for contributions to the glass industry.

In October 2007, Helmut Swarovski, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of D. Swarovski & Co., was named the 37th recipient of the Phoenix Award, which is given to recognize the Glass Person of the Year. Swarovski was unanimously selected for the award in recognition of his many contributions in the fields of glass melting with optical purity, design and automation of crystal grinding and polishing technologies, and precision faceting and surface polishing.

He has spearheaded the family business’ expansion over the past 30 years. It is now the largest manufacturer of cut crystal in the world, supplying industries such as fashion, fashion jewelry, and chandeliers and art objects, and manufacturing diverse consumer products sold under the company’s brand name. The technologies for crystal glass production have been perfected over many years under Helmut’s guidance.

While accepting the prestigious award at a black tie dinner at Le Pré Catelan in Paris, France, he said he was deeply honored and pleased that Paris was selected as the city to host the banquet. Helmut thanked the committee members for traveling near and far, and said it was a sign of how important and distinctive the Phoenix Award is. “Paris is the capital of luxury and fashion and is exactly the place where the Swarovski journey began,” he said.

Helmut Swarovski accepting the Phoenix Award and Glass Person of the Year honors.

The Beginning

Daniel Swarovski was born in 1862 in Georgenthal, Northern Bohemia, an area where glass manufacturing reaches back well into the 14th century. His focus was on ornamental, decorative glass elements for the jewelry and fashion industry. Daniel began to mechanize his handicraft of faceted crystal jewelry stones, and he invented an automatic glass faceting machine. The technical breakthrough resulted in a product that was superior in efficiency, appearance, price and quality.

In 1880, the 18-year-old Daniel went to Paris to introduce his product and his new idea. In the fashion capitals of Paris, London, Vienna and New York, diamonds were la rage, and the demand for imitation diamond jewelry was tremendous. He recognized the potential for his invention and began to develop a brilliant crystal cut stone, resembling diamond, which later developed into the Chaton, the classic Swarovski-Stone.

Years later, to safeguard the fruits of his hard work and the advantage he had won over his competitors in Bohemia, Daniel decided to move to Wattens, Austria, near Innsbruck in the Tyrolean Alps. There he found waterpower and labor for an industrial operation, and the factory was operational within weeks. Production went well and his crystal stones (pierres taille de Tyrol) were supplied to dealers back in Paris for worldwide distribution.

Swarovski manufacturing facility in Wattens, Austria.

Swarovski Today

Helmut Swarovski is the great-grandson of Daniel Swarovski. Helmut received his degree in industrial engineering in Munich, Germany, in 1967, and has been responsible for the company’s worldwide manufacturing, management, new business development, and research and development since 1970. He was named managing partner in 1978.

Today, the Swarovski group of companies includes Tyrolit, an abrasive manufacturer with manufacturing centers in 15 countries, and Swarovski Optik, a premium brand of binoculars and sports optical equipment. With consolidated sales of $3.6 billion, Swarovski produces optical-grade crystal in Wattens, Austria, and finished products in many other countries. Sales offices and Swarovski stores are located in 160 countries, and the group employs some 22,000 people worldwide.

For more information, visit www.swarovski.com.

SIDEBAR: The Phoenix Award

In May 1971, representatives of 19 major suppliers to the glass industry met in New York City to form an association for the express purpose of recognizing outstanding individuals who have made noteworthy contributions to the glass industry. As a result of this meeting, the Phoenix Award Committee was born and soon adopted a code of bylaws with the following preamble:

It is the purpose of the Phoenix Award Committee to select, each year, a person now living who has been active in and has made contributions to any phase of the glass industry. This may be in the field of science, production, or education relating to glass, and shall include glass containers, fiber glass, scientific glass, flat glass, tableware and electronic glass… As a symbol of this Award, the recipients shall be presented with a glass sculpture representing the mythological Phoenix Bird.

Committee members serve for a period of four years, and six new members are elected each year to replace those whose terms have expired. Membership is on an individual, not corporate, basis. Members must be employed by a company that is a supplier to the glass manufacturing industry.

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