Forest glass
Forest glass

The first country to seriously challenge the domination of Venice in glass making was Bohemia. The area was ideal for glass making because of its white sands and dense forests for fuel and potash.

In about 1670, Henry Lehman perfected a method of etching glass with fluoric acid so that the ornament showed smooth against a dull ground. Later in the same decade the famous Bohemian ruby glass was perfected by Johann Kunkel in Potsdam, The intensely strong colour was obtained with the recently invented gold chloride.

Then, in 1680, a Bohemian glassmaker produced a glass of greater clarity by replacing soda with potash and adding chalk. This Bohemian crystal glass was thicker, heavier and more resonant than Venetian glass. This made it suitable for cutting in the same way as rock crystal. Landscapes, sporting scenes, flowers, animals and coats-of-arms were among the many decorations carved on the glass. The most typical is a scene of stag hunting through the forest. By the end of the 17th century, engraving had supplanted almost all other forms of decoration on glass.

Bohemian glass was considered the finest in Europe until the 1730s when English flint glass, which had the power of dispersing light, superseded it. Bohemian glass continued to be manufactured and exported throughout the eighteen century because of its lower price than the English glass.

Ruby glass pitcher (1840-1860)
Ruby glass pitcher (1840-1860)

After the Napoleonic wars (from about 1815) coloured glass became fashionable. The Bohemians had always produced coloured glass, particularly red, in small quantities. In 1804, a black glass was produced and in the 1830s, an almost opaque glass marbled in strong colours was patented as “lithyalin”.

From 1815, cased or overlay glass, was produced. This consisted of layers of opaque coloured glass over a white- enamelled clear glass base. The glass was then cut or ground to produce a coloured decoration. Flashed glass, which is similar to cased glass but without the enamel layer, and stained glass wares were produced from about the same time.

The success of their decorated glass again made Bohemia the leading producing area in Europe throughout the nineteenth century. Bohemia remains a leading producer of table glass and chandeliers.


Bohemian glass available now
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