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Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Crystal

Saint Louis- The Best Crystal Glassware

For over 400 years, a tiny village in the East of France continues to produce the best crystal glassware across the globe.

The secretive glassblowers at Saint Louis quickly realized the potential that lead added to the glass. In the factory’s vast underground caves where the workshop is housed, the crystal becomes a molten mixture at 1,450 Celsius or 2,642 degrees Fahrenheit. Lead made the glass soft and more malleable, which allowed for more malleability to showcase detailed patterns and designs. The razor-sharp edges inherent to crystal glassware, in appearance only, and precise etchings are attributions that have come to define a fine crystal. This ancestral knowledge of the craft and skill have been passed on from generation to generation until today. In fact, many of the craftsmen hail from the same region, or the nearby tiny village of Lorraine, to this day.

With over 300 years of history behind it, as the 20th century unfolded, Saint Louis began to establish signature crystal glassware collections. Thistle is one of them, named for the French town of Nancy, whose emblematic signature is Chardon or “thistle.” The Chardon collection was launched in 1908 and christened with its Anglican name. With Venetian-style stripes, bevel-cuts, and either 24-carat gold or platinum trim depicting the thorny brush, the Thistle collection is still going strong today. Thistle would reflect the Art Nouveau movement of the time, as the house drew upon designers to collaborate and share their talents, such as Paul Nicolas, Jean Sala, Jean Luce, Michel Colle, and Maurice Dufrêne. These designers and more would also infuse Saint Louis with Art Deco motifs that came into play in the 1920s and gained traction, especially in the U.S., by the 1930s.

The project marked the first time Duchafour-Lawrance combined wood and crystal. He refers to the forest that is the manufacturer’s lifeblood, but also its mystique. “It’s also a fantasy. The forest is imposing and magnificent, with its clusters of tall trees,” explained the designer, “The cut of the Folia crystal is inspired by a leaf that can tessellate to infinity or fly onto the crystal, as though a wind of folly was blowing, echoing the countless legends of the forest.” The designer dipped his feet into the art of crystal making with this project and quickly learned its challenges. “Crystal is a complex material, as magical as it is indomitable. It’s not like wood, for example, that anyone can sculpt relatively easily,” he remarked.

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