Bohemian glass has always been recognized for its finest quality and attention to detail. The hand-worked twist on the traditional vase form, often involving decorative deformations and swirls, is what sets this technique from others.
The artifacts range from the classical vases, cups, bowls, and pitchers to chandeliers, jewelry, stemware, and figurines. In these glass artifacts, artisans often incorporate organic elements such as flowers, tree barks, feathers, ripples, and seashells. This technique requires both artistry of craftsmanship and artistic flair, as it involves not only cutting the glass into complex shapes, but also engraving, painting and adorning the pieces with intricate patterns. This unique glass-making technique acquired its name from the place of its origin, the historic regions of Bohemia and Silesia in the northern part of what today is the Czech Republic.
The region proved to be a fertile ground for the development of glass artistry, as it supplied the necessary raw materials, such as wood, flint, and limestone, which were easily available in the countryside. Unsurprisingly, to this day, this glass-making business makes a rather substantial contribution to the economy of the area, with local artisans producing exquisite artifacts of superior artistic value. The glass work was an important export item in the 17th and 18th centuries, the heyday of Bohemian glass. During this period, its popularity spread to neighboring countries, including Austria and Russia. But it was only a hundred years later that first glass-making schools began to professionally train artisans in this craftsmanship. With the emergence of those training institutions, the modern-day Bohemian glass was born. The change from the traditional approach was marked by focusing less on the features of the form and more on the characteristics of the surface. Notably, these glass artifacts are sometimes collectively referred to as Bohemian crystal, which can be rather misleading. Traditionally, crystals contain lead, while Bohemian glass contains none of that element. Instead, it uses the combination of potash and limestone to create intricate and durable clear-glass items. Whereas limestone was abundant in the region of Bohemia, potash was obtained from burning wood in firing kilns, thus maximizing the efficiency of the process. This accounts for a more resilient glass in comparison with glassware from Italy. The absence of lead compounds also makes these glass decanters and glasses safe to use for fine dining occasions.
Today, Bohemian glass is regarded as a genuinely distinct category of art, comparable to painting and sculpture. The tradition of Czech glass-making has become renowned craftsmanship, enjoyed and celebrated worldwide for its aesthetic experience rather than merely utilitarian value. Being a part of national culture, the splendor of Bohemian glass masterpieces can be admired in museums throughout the country, as these gorgeous glass objects remain a uniquely Czech contribution to the history of art. Smaller pieces also make excellent souvenirs, and while their value has increased over the years, tourists and collectors may still find fine pieces at bargain prices.