Today Swarovski is a name synonymous with high quality jewelry and watches, but it wasn’t so before 1977. Not in a sense that the quality was any worse, but that Swarovski only made crystals and cut stones at first. The company’s founder, Daniel Swarovki invented and patented a stone cutting machine in 1891, and this was the foundation of the company. This machine allowed crystals to be cut to perfection with precision and uniformity; quantity was increased alongside quality.
Later, the company began producing glass as well. Swarovski’s glass supplier made moves in the direction of cutting stones of its own, becoming a potential competitor, and Swarovski sought and found autonomy in production.
Compliance to Military Orders or Closure
During WWI, “employees were conscripted into the army, and under threat of appropriation of machines for the armaments industry, production almost came to a stand still” (Swarovski: the Magic of Crystal by Vivienne Becker). Because Austria allied with Nazi Germany for both world wars, Swarovski was in a tough spot. Faced with closure or compliance, Swarovski supplied military equipment by producing grinding tools.
In 1935, Swarovski produced their first pair of binoculars, paving the way for their Optik brand. During WWII, once again faced with military orders or bankruptcy, Swarovski was forced to produce optical products in exchange for allowance of production of crystals. These crystals were then shipped mostly to America, which was tricky business mid-war. A trans-Siberian route was employed and the company was economically saved.
Swarovski on the Road
Not many jewelry or fashion houses lay claim to producing safety equipment, but that is what Swarovski started to do in 1925. The company began research into reflecting glass elements. Glass reflectors and reflective road markings utilize small glass beads, a specialty of Swarovski’s. In fifteen years, the company’s products hit the market and with continual improvements in technique and software developments, Swarovski’s various reflectives have come to be used in over 50 countries.
Swarovki’s pursuit of crystal perfection naturally led them down the path of chandeliers. In 1977 the company established a trademark and manufactured chandelier pieces of
unmatched weight and brilliance. The components are specially cut to refract light better and are finished with a coat of dust and moisture resistant material. Swarovski crystals now proudly hang in public spaces like the Metropolitan Opera House and the Palace of Versailles.
Swarovski produced grinding tools, binoculars, road markings followed by chandelier pieces and crystalline figures before finally branching off in 1977 to what we’ve come to love them for - jewelry.
Swarovski Crystal Rationing
Swarovski started out producing cut stones of the highest quality, and naturally, many jewelry and fashion houses came to them for their stones.
During the postwar era, legends like Chanel and Schiaparelli overturned the traditional order of jewelry and elevated costume jewelry to new heights. At the height of America’s costume jewelry craze, a prominent house, Trifari, relied on Swarovski to supply stones of a superior cut and exacting likeness. The company was attempting their version of the Van Cleef and Arpels invisible set stones.
Throughout the United States, the demand for Swarovski crystals was so great that the company needed more space and machinery for production. At some point a crystal rationing system was imposed to control the flood of orders. Swarovski was Austria’s largest earner of foreign currency at the time.
Elsa Schiaparelli herself visited the Swarovski plant to learn about the intricacies of the trade and get a better idea of what the future could hold for the costume jewelry industry.
No Money Can Buy Antique Swarovski Jewelry
If someone were to offer you antique Swarovski jewelry, you can send the scammer packing, as Swarovski simply didn’t produce jewelry before the late 1970s. Swarovski vintage jewelry pieces on the other hand are highly sought after and a good investment. DSF Antique Jewelry offers Swarovski brooches and earrings. These timeless jewelry pieces are beautifully crafted and in an excellent condition.