Hobby Beading: What is a Czech Bead?
Glass making and glass bead making within the Czech
Republic is dated back as far as the early bronze age, when the region
was settled by Celts who possessed the skills of glass-making and
enameling. Not only were the Celts involved in bead making and glass
making, but so were the Monks in Benedictine monasteries. A glass
mosaic titled “Day of Judgment” which embellishes the golden gate of
St.Vitus's Cathedral in Prague is a testament to the skill of these
Czech glass can be found in Corinthian
excavations dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries. During this
time, the art of glass making ceased to the solely the milieu of Monks
and it moved out into the forests where many cottage glass-works arose.
Vast quantities of wood were needed to fuel the furnaces, so the
densest forests became the centers for this early art form.
forest glass-works created "forest glass" of a greenish color created
by imperfect refining of raw the materials potash and quartz sand—the
main ingredients in glass.
In 1588, Emperor Rudolf the 2nd
invited Mr. Ottavio Miseroni, the first person to perfect the art of
cutting and shaping diamonds, to Prague. Miseroni opened a workshop for
cutting diamonds. With his diamond cutters, he discovered a way to
decorate glass by using stone or copper wheels. Engraving was born. The
most important craftsman in Prague to come from Miseroni's workshop was
Caspar Lehmann, who became an Imperial Court engraver. Rudolf the 2nd
became a generous sponsor and Prague became the center of this new
glass craft. From Prague, the craft spread to all of Europe.
the 1600s, the popularity of engraved glass continued to increase and
by the end of the 17th Century, Czech glass achieved world wide
recognition. Particularly fire-polished beads, have been produced in
the area of the Czech Republic for over 200 years. This craft started
as a cottage industry with the forest glass makers, but today the art
of crafting Czech faceted beads is done in a factory.
such a huge part of Czech industry that the Soviet Union created a
state agency called Jablonex to distribute the beads. The breakup of
the USSR saw a resurgence of onesproduced in cottage industries. Today,
there are many companies that export Czech facetted beads to over 80
countries. The small enterprises are greatly assisted by the fact that
Jablonex is no longer taking on any new United States clients.
most common shape for the Czech bead is round, although the fire
polished beads are more oblong. They are available in other shapes,
too: bicone, rondelle, roller, roundlet, pear and parachute. The fire
polished ones come in a variety of colors. The richness of color is one
of the earmarks of Czech beads.
Most people think all fire
polished beads come from the Czech Republic. In the last ten years or
so, India has begun producing them too. Fire polished beads are
distinguishable by there soft rounded edges on the face.