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Austrian Crystals

Austrian crystal is not a trademark in and of itself, but it might as well be. The generic term is indelibly linked with Swarovski crystals, produced in a factory in Wattens, Austria. The breakthrough that spawned them was more about mass production than individual beauty.

Swarovski was actually a German who invented an automatic crystal cutting machine while living in Prague, Czech Republic. His machine was patented in 1892, and Swarovski quickly became concerned that spies from other jewelry firms would ferret out his secret. Thus, in 1895, he moved his operation to Wattens, which offered the twin advantages of a semi-remote location and convenient water power.

Austrian crystal is man-made, essentially a creative cutting of hand-blown glass into every imaginable form of adornment. Swarovski's three sons have continued with the family business, branching out into everything from chandeliers to watches to computer parts to rhinestones and glass beads. What makes a Swarovski crystal unique is its composition. By adding 32 percent lead to the molten glass (a mix arrived at after considerable experimentation), Swarovski imbued his Austrian crystal with a high refraction rate. Later, he developed different chemical coatings to enhance color and sparkle.


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