By Bertil Vallien (b. 1938) Sweden (Kosta) Kosta Boda AB 1978.

Glass In Sweden

Glass making has long been a traditional craft in the country, however the beginning of this craft came to the country later compared to other European countries. The history of Swedish glass making dates back to the 1500s when affluent nobility hired skilled glass makers, mainly from Italy and Germany.

Original glassworks were centred around Stockholm, however they soon expanded across the country and by the late 19th century most glassworks were in central southern Sweden, in the province of Småland. Småland was once the site of most of the iron works of the country and as they began to close, glassworks took over the sites of the iron works with the already set up infrastructure and they could re-hire the cheap labour force. To this day the majority of glassworks are still in this area, which is often referred to as the Kingdom of Crystal

Before the 20th century many workers in the glassworks industry lived in one roomed homes with their families. This was not an easy field to work in, as pay was minimal and working conditions were harsh with beatings and young child labour implemented. In the second half of the 19th century Swedish glass had started to be exported to different regions of the world. Yet it did only receive international acclaim from 1925 at the Paris World Fair.

The great depression of the 1930s and the two World Wars did interrupt glass exportation and various glassworks were closed. Yet things soon improved after World War II.

From the 1970s, competition from foreign markets led to changes and then in 1976 Kosta, Boda and Åfors came together to create Kosta Boda AB.

Kingdom of Crystal, Sweden.

In 1990, two of Sweden’s leading glassworks (namely Kosta Boda AB and Orrefors AB) came together to create Orrefors Kosta Boda AB. This new company comprises of 7 original glassworks and each one is encouraged to promote their individuality in glassmaking techniques. Smaller glassworks still however exist

The oldest existing glassworks in Sweden are Kosta (established in 1742 and it has been considered the leader in glass making in the country) and Limmared (established in 1741).

In the Kingdom of Crystal, visitors may try blowing, engraving and painting while there are also courses offered. Shops associated with the glassworks sell discounted glassware;there are also cafes or restaurants. Some large glassworks offer herring evenings. A variety of the items on display in shops are novice designs in the glass making craft.

As glass is such a major craft in Sweden, there is also the country’s largest museum dedicated to it, called the Glass Factory. The museum shows film clips of unique glass makers and the art of glass making. The studio in the museum is available for visitors to experiment with painting and engraving their own glass.

Today the Kingdom of Crystal is a geographical area covering 15 glassworks extending through the municipalities of Emmaboda, Nybro, Uppvidinge, Växjö and Lessebo in southern Sweden. Presently glassware made in Sweden is designed for daily use and for ornamental show pieces.

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