This season The Blonds’ NYFW show partnered with Preciosa Crystal to create 17 of their most over the top collection pieces inspired by the upcoming NBC Universal film, “The Mummy”. We had Eman Fendi backstage to chat with Klára Kašparová of Preciosa Crystal about its history, both past and present.
Tell us a bit about Preciosa.
Preciosa is a Czech based company, and it’s been here for 70 years nearly. It’s tradition for crystal making and glass making goes back to 15th century. So it’s a long history and we build on the tradition and the skills and craftsmanship of our people in Czech Republic. It’s the heart of Europe and is the place where crystal cutting and crystal producing was born. We’re still there and still work within the headquarters.
I noticed this season you guys are doing the cushion cut diamond is what you call it? Can you tell me a little bit more about it, and how it’s different from last season’s diamond?
The basic shape of the cushion cut stone is a square with round corners, and it has a lot of facets – it has like 48 facets. It’s a bold and very opulent stone; similar to the diamond cut. So, it’s lighter than every other stone.
Even though all of these garments are decked out in these stones, they’re not that heavy, or there’s still some weight to it eventually?
Well, it’s heavy. If you cover the entire piece with stones it’ll be heavy
How long did it take to create the full collection with Preciosa?
Actually, The Blonds’ team do this. It must be like three weeks at least, because they sew every single piece by hand. It’s a lot of work that they must do to make everything perfect for the shows.
Can you tell us about when crystals/rhinestones first became used in fashion?
It depends on what we understand as “crystals/rhinestones,” but in the case of cut glass jewelry stones, their roots go back to the 17th century. They started in Venetia and then the production expanded to Europe and regions of the Czech Republic during the 17th and 18th century.
When we talk about glass stones used in jewelry in general, they were used even in Mesopotamia and Egypt 6,000 years ago. These stones were not transparent though, and didn’t have the look of jewelry stones as we know them today as their main feature was the rich color not necessarily the clarity.
When did it become mainstream?
In the Middle Ages people found that the color of the stone was not enough to get the perfect look and effect in jewelry. The effect was much more profound when the light reflected through the stone and the stone sparkled. People began experimenting with cutting stones between the 14th and 20th century and the cut was gradually perfected. Industrial production of imitation cut glass stones started in the 17th century and finished with cutting of high leaded glass stones in the 18th century.
Can you outline the times where crystals/rhinestones were “fashionable” and how they were used?
Initially, when the color effect was the main feature, rhinestones were used and mixed together with precious stones. The color was important and we can see this for example on various Crown Jewels from the Middle Ages etc. It was the industry production of cut glass stones and metal jewelry what separated that jewelry from fashion jewelry. Types of metal were important for differentiation of usage of stones. Natural stones were used for rare metals, glass stones for other types of metal like brass, and pinchbeck.
Can you speak to time periods where crystals/rhinestones were seen as “tacky?”
There are several technologies for glass jewelry stones production and therefore you can get the final piece in several different qualities (either pressed, fire polished, acid polished, partly cut or cut and polished). Today “Crystals/rhinestones” by Preciosa represents one of the top global producers and our crystals are used for exclusive jewelry. As I mentioned, glass stones were never understood as something inferior even in the very beginning and they are mixed with precious stones very often. So when we talk about “tacky” stones we talk about the lower quality stones; pressed and fire polished are a much different quality of stone than machine cut and polished crystals.
Where do you think crystals/rhinestones are right now on the fashion scale?
We see crystals are now rising to the top in the fashion industry. They are used for many different purposes ranging from expensive jewelry and exclusive fashion to more casual pieces that bring sparkle to our daily lives. Crystals these days, are used by top fashion brands for many different designs and products.
What would you say was an iconic moment for crystals/rhinestones in fashion?
The important moment was invention of machine cut and mass production that brought the crystal cutting to the perfection. The roots of the top crystals are in the Crystal Valley, a place in the Czech Republic where crystal and glass cutting was born and where Preciosa crystals are still being produced. Since the beginning of 20th century the technology has been perfected and thanks to that you can choose from a never-ending assortment of crystals. We believe there were several moments in fashion that helped crystals to the top, usually when famous fashion designers used them for their designs and show them on catwalk, like the designers The Blonds have been pivotal in creating pieces that use crystal. Crystals were always something that fascinated people all around the world, but crystal’s journey to the top of the fashion industry was gradual.
What is the one thing that you’d like our readers to know about Preciosa?
Preciosa comes from Europe, and it’s the perfect partner for everybody who wants to create with crystal and use the crystal stones. So, it’s something that you can rely on.
Better than Swarovski, right?
[laughs] We actually come from the same region of Swarovski. Swarovski moved down to Wattens with their technology just to separate a little bit, and we stayed in the cradle of the crystal.