Works of art at Royal Leerdam Crystal TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: ROYAL LEERDAM CRYSTAL
Having stood at the cradle of the Dutch glass industry, Royal Leerdam Crystal continues to produce crystal according to traditional glassblowing techniques. With a 140-year history, the factory’s master glassblowers have perfected their craft, resulting in stunning pieces that are prized for their sparkle in the Netherlands and abroad. By combining the ancient craft of glassblowing with understated Dutch design, Royal Leerdam Crystal offers a collection of elegant and modern items. It comprises of one-of-a-kind vases and bowls, stunning decanters and bottles, impressive table centrepieces and beautiful art objects. Hand crafted, each piece is unique and made from high-quality Cristal Supérieur, giving it a brilliant shine. 24 | Issue 47 | November 2017
Ancient craft and innovation The factory opened in 1878 as the first crystal manufacturer in the Netherlands. Today, it is one of only a handful left in Europe who manufacture crystal by hand. “When you enter the factory, it’s like stepping back in time. We still use original techniques and tools,” says Fleur Schaaij, tourism manager at Royal Leerdam Crystal. “During our guided tour, visitors can see the entire glassblowing process for themselves.” ‘Cristal Supérieur’ is produced by adding metal oxide to the glass mixture, which increases the refraction index. “This makes it much clearer and it has far more sparkle than normal glass,” says Marco Lopulalan, one of the factory’s master glassblowers with 30 years’ experience. “Glassblowing
takes a lot of coordination and perseverance. You need to repeat every movement a thousand times before you’ve mastered it,” he says.
Shape and shine The ingredients are mixed and melted in a 1,400-degree furnace before it passes to a stone vessel, where the mixture is kept at a working temperature of 1,100 degrees. The glassblower then gathers a bit of crystal with a long blowing pipe. “This is a bit like getting honey out of a jar,” says Lopulalan. Then he can start shaping the crystal, either by free-form blowing, or by using moulds. During this process, the crystal is reheated many times to keep it soft and shapeable. To stop it from drooping
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