200-year-old Czech glassworks saved from closure
Just days after Czechia’s centuries-old hand-made glass production was registered on the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage, one of the oldest glass factories in the Czech Republic was forced to close its doors. Fortunately, a new buyer appeared on the scene in time to save the craft, which has been handed down from generation to generation since medieval times.
When the tradition of hand-made glass production made the UNESCO list of cultural heritage in December of last year, master glassmakers around Czechia were popping champagne bottles to the future of the Czech glass making tradition. However, the mood in the Kvetna glassworks –one of the longest running glass factories in the country – was somber. Its 82 highly skilled employees had been given notice just ahead of Christmas, since its then owner Cerve Bohemia announced it was closing production due to high energy costs.
Several efforts to save the company failed, until the Czech industrial and real estate holding AF Group pitched in –buying the glassworks for what it described as “ a unique opportunity to help preserve a traditional craft famous the world over.” The kilns were relit and the company fully renewed operation on February 5. Its employees, many whom had found new jobs, were overjoyed to be able to return.
“We are really glad that the company didn’t fold. Some of us had already found new jobs, but this is more than just a job –this is our heart’s passion – so many of us came straight back.”
The glasswork’s head Marek Mikláš says the day he saw the purchase contract signed was a huge load off his chest.
“All’s well that ends well! It was like a miracle and for me it was a huge relief. A huge relief to know that we are safe. That’s a great feeling.
The history of the Květná glassworks goes back a long way. It was founded in 1794 by Prince Alois I of Liechtenstein. Located in the heart of deep beech forests near Uherský Ostroh it afforded jobs to people from the surrounding area and other localities of the Liechtenstein estates.
In the mid-19th century, it was bought by the Austrian entrepreneur Josef Zahn, who brought with him experienced glassmakers, who introduced new techniques and methods of glass blowing and decorating. This not only improved the quality of the products, but also broadened their range and introduced modern designs created under the influence of Vienna’s art circles.
In 1894 the name of the glassworks was changed from “Blumenbach” to the Czech “Květná” and it soon became a hallmark of quality sought after on world markets.
The company (Zahn & Göpfert) set up showrooms and warehouses in London, Paris, Berlin, and Hamburg and exhibited it products at world trade fairs. As the second glassworks in Europe, Květná introduced etching decor as early as 1897. At that time, its richly decorated table glass was exported to the USA, Africa, Australia, Egypt, Scandinavia, Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
The glassworks maintained production even after getting nationalized by the communists when it became part of a larger conglomerate. After the fall of communism in 1989, there were several changes of ownership and various economic pitfalls, the worst of which came at the end of last year. Now its new owner is confident that the hand-made titanium glass of premium quality produced in Květná will continue for many years to come.