Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Fantastic Czech Jewelry

In 1922 Howard Carter, a British archaeologist, and his team were the first to open King Tut’s Tomb. They searched for it for more than seven long years in the blazing heat of the desert. The final resting place of the “boy king” was unknown for more than 3,000 years. The Valley of the Kings has many tombs where kings of ancient Egypt were buried. Almost all of which were discovered and plundered, but the tomb of Kind Tutankhamen continued to elude the treasure-seekers.

King Tut was embalmed in a coffin of pure gold, with one of the world's most famous images on top. The coffin was in the fourth chamber that had been hidden by a sealed door, and Carter's crew took months to break through it. Eventually, all of the treasures in King Tut's tomb would be removed. Many are in the hands of the Egyptian government. Many have been part of traveling exhibits that make their way to museums around the world. Many are in the hands of private collectors. I was privileged to see the exhibit while in Cairo in the 1980's.

The influence of this discovery changed fashion, architecture and the morals of all civilization. The prim and proper Victorian age had come to an end. The layers of clothes and painted lady mansions suddenly seemed so out of style as women bobbed their hair and bound their chests to fit the style of the roaring 20’s.

Czechoslovakian artisans became very popular during this time. They were using techniques developed in the 13th century for glass-making. Gem cutters adapted the technique of gem engraving with copper and bronze wheels to their glass technique.

Bohemia was a part of the former Czechoslovakia, now part of the Czech Republic, and was famous for its beautiful and colorful glass. The history of Bohemian glass started with the abundant natural resources found in the countryside.

Bohemian glass-workers discovered potash combined with chalk created a clear colorless glass that was more stable than glass from Italy. It was at that time when the term Bohemian crystal emerged for the first time in history to distinguish its qualities from the glass coming from other places. As opposed to usual perception this was non-lead. This Czech glass could be cut with a wheel. In addition, resources such as wood for firing the kilns and for burning down to ashes were used to create potash. There were also copious amounts of limestone and silica.

During World War II the production of the fabulous works of art ceased. We may never experience this freedom of design and quality of old world workmanship again in human history.

More information about this jewelry can be found in the book "Baubles, Buttons and Beads The Heritage of Bohemia". It is my hope that seeing these beautiful pieces will inspire you and make you smile.