Sand and lead make such a boring combination that none of us would ever dream of paying attention to it for more than the time needed to read the names. And yet, when sand and lead (plus quartz and minerals) are skilfully combined and blended, in ratios that are absolutely a secret, and then cut using the most advanced techniques and machinery, they create the magic of crystal. It is now something that can captivate our eyes and attract our attention. Swarovski: celebrating a history of collaborations in Fashion, Jewellery, Performance and Design is a book that celebrates and tells the story of how Swarovski crystals became the prestigious ingredient in the creations of designers and the most coveted brands in the world.
It was 1892, when Daniel Swarovski, a Bohemian glass cutter and jeweller, patented a cutting machine that was able to cut glass in such a unique way that it allowed light to shine with brilliance similar to a diamond. More than 120 years later, the company he founded has firmly maintained its technological roots but has become a point of reference especially in the field of fashion and costume jewellery, creating along the way its world famous crystal figurines, which were made, just for the fun of it, in 1976 by gluing together the small parts of a chandelier, eventually becoming the passion of collectors around the world (there are more than 325,000 members in the selective Club, from 125 countries).
Up until then, collaborations with the fashion world had been the company’s core business. The most important couture designers, in fact, have always used Swarovski crystals to trick our eyes, creating unsurpassable points of lights that make their clothes appear to be dotted with stars. But even architects and designers were aware of the potential of crystals, using them in profusion to create illuminated objects that raised the bar in terms of what was possible.
Even the film world, the dream weaver par excellence, often took advantage of the ability of Swarovski crystals to shine like diamonds: crystal bracelets were tossed about by Marilyn Monroe as she sang Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, and were admired by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And pure magic was the more than 10 metres of theatre curtain made of more than 50,000 crystals at the dazzling 2007 Oscar awards. It was such a success that ever since then the partnership between the set designers of the Academy and the Austrian company has continued uninterrupted. An icon and a true piece of history, however, was the skincoloured dress worn by a very sensual Marilyn Monroe as she sang the unforgettable Happy Birthday Mr. President to John Kennedy, under spotlights that made the fabric seemingly disappear leaving her dressed in only the 2,500 hand embroidered Swarovski crystals.
Sometimes just a bit of light is all that is needed to make history. Dazzling for 120 years.