Swarovski: Storia, segreti e curiosità di un'icona di stile

Swarovski: History, secrets and curiosities of a style icon

Today all that remains is to talk about Swarovski; a bit of history, the contribution she contributed to us embroiderers and to the small empire we built.

Furthermore, I will talk about the open-air museum that we can all visit in Wattens, near Innsbruck, where the company headquarters and archives are also located, to which only the great couturiers or the respective creative directors of the fashion houses have access. fashion like Dior or Chanel.

A photo taken at the entrance to the Swarovski archives

These archives are actually closed to the public, but (surprise, surprise) I had the honor of being able to visit them thanks to winning the first prize in the Swarovski France competition in collaboration with Perles&Co. This prize allowed me to obtain two tickets for a stay in Innsbruck, with an associated visit to the Museum and, indeed, to the private archives.

The travel package received after winning first place in the Swarovski France competition
The bracelet with the portrait of the giant, purchased at the Swarovski store. You can only find it in shops located or near the museum or in Innsbruck

But let's go step by step; what is Swarovski essentially? Neither more nor less than the world leader in crystal which has allowed all women, thanks to the love for the art of cutting of the founder Daniel Swarovski, to have a small "diamond" at a price more accessible to all.

As the president of the company himself states: "The dream of Daniel, a man who had the soul of an artist, was precisely to create a diamond for everyone, with the right facets to have maximum brightness and seduction" .

But what is the history of Swarovski? The history of Swarovski is a story of secrecy and curiosity. Secret, like that of the invention of the first machine to cut crystals with a precision and a surprising result in terms of completely unimaginable brilliance. Curiosities, like the one that led the founder Daniel Swarovski to pursue his goal. But how did it all begin?


Always fascinated by the play of light that crystal reflected, the latter was always part of his life as his native place, Bohemia, was at the time (in 1862) one of the main cities for the production of glass and crystal, as well as his father's company.

After years of apprenticeship characterized by observation, he had his "enlightenment" after a visit to the "Exhibition of Electrical Articles" which took place in Vienna. From there, the "brilliant" idea of ​​using the new techniques of Siemens and Edison. For what? To create, after days and nights of intense work for a period of nine years, a machine which, for the first time, allowed crystals to be ground to a very high degree of perfection, without the need for manual labor and with an efficiency and an inestimable speed. In 1892 the patent proposal and in 1895 Daniel Swarovski, together with his brother-in-law Franz Weis and Armand Kosmann, created the current company.

Daniel Swarovski

But to operate this new and extraordinary invention, energy was needed: and why not exploit hydraulic power and water coming from the Austrian Alps?

For this reason (and also for others: the distance from the competition by protecting the company secret and the proximity to the fashion hub city, Paris with its requests for crystal jewellery), again in 1895 Daniel Swarovski moved with his family in Wattens, today considered the historical center of the company.

A story of perseverance that of Swarovski, which had its exceptional breakthrough in 1913. Daniel and his three sons set to work to create a plant that would allow them to produce crystal to create high-quality raw material. The experiments took place in a laboratory located near the family villa and, after years spent both setting up the systems and searching for a perfect recipe in terms of brightness, in 1913 the miracle occurred. A secret "potion" of glass and lead (about 30%) gave life to precious, perfect and brilliant stones.

Daniel Swarovski

Although in the years to come the company's scope of action began to cover other fields (optical instruments, grinding and grinding machinery, household items and jewellery) which contributed to the fortune of Swarovski, the most important and the greatest contribution in terms of quality products was given above all to the fashion market and the creation of accessories and jewelery for the largest fashion houses in Paris.


His stones were immediately in great demand in the ornamental field and had Christian Dior as their first customer in 1955.

Christian Dior advertising

In particular, for Christian Dior, not a color was created, but a particular type of crystal. In fact, one of Daniel's sons (Manfred), through the creation of a thin vaporized blue metallic coating, gave life to the Aurora Borealis/Polar crystal, appreciated above all for its versatility.

Aurora Borealis crystal
Christian Dior dress

In particular, from that moment on the relationship between the couturier and the company intensified, even with the succession of its creative directors.

Christian Dior creations

But among his clientele we could include equally important brands and names, such as Charles Friedrich Worth (the founder of Atelier Lesage), Pierre Lanvin, Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino.

Charles Friedrich Worth
Pierre Lanvin
Elsa Schiaparelli
Alexander McQueen

However, Swarovski didn't stop its influence just on the catwalks. Through the Swarovski Entertainment group, the company also landed in cinema.

The first example, not in chronological order, was Marlene Dietrich's crystal-covered dress in Blonde Venus ; then, Judy Garland's famous red shoes The Wizard of Oz .

Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus
Judy Garland's red slippers in The Wizard of Oz

Again, the jewels of The Young Victoria , Christina Aguilera's costumes in Burlesque , details of the costumes and accessories The black Swan and the dress worn by Lily James in Cindarella .

The Young VIctoria
Christina Aguilera's costumes in Burlesque
Two of the Black Swan costumes and accessories
The dress worn by Lily James in Cindarella.

Let's not fail to mention that Swarovski also played a role in the film Moulin Rouge , in which Nicole Kidman wore a black satin costume with wonderful Swarovski crystals.

Black satin top with Swarovski crystals worn by Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge

And, if we have to talk about cinema icons, we cannot fail to mention the famous crystal dress worn by Marilyn Monroe while she sang «Happy Birthday, Mr. President» .


But where can we admire the evocative magic of crystal, apart from on the catwalks or on the red carpet?

We have already mentioned Wattens as the historical headquarters of the company where we work constantly on the creation of new cuts of crystals and colours, with particular attention to the trends in fashion, design and accessories.

But this small city located near Innsbruck is also home to the very famous Swarovski open-air museum, the Swarovski Kristallwelten or rather the Crystal Worlds.

A photo of me at the Swarovski Shop in Innsbruck

Inaugurated in 1995 on the occasion of the company's centenary, they underwent a major renovation in 2015, the year in which the surface area was expanded from 3.5 to 7.5 hectares. At the head of this renovation project is André Heller, a multimedia artist who created the story. The protagonist is the giant present in the garden who welcomes visitors and protects the Swarovski Chambers of Wonder, after having visited the whole world to discover its wonders and treasures. The giant also acts as a fountain that sprays "crystalline" water from its mouth and invites the visitor to reach the sixteen different rooms in which crystal is the protagonist. A fairytale and glittering world created by the skillful hands of various artists, architects and designers from around the world. The space-time concept is canceled in favor of a dreamlike and surreal dimension.

Some photos taken by me of the Gigante, day and night

The sixteen rooms of wonders each have their own name and their own purpose or message to communicate.

For example, the Silent Light is a tribute to the crystal tree resulting from a 15-year collaboration between Tord Boontje and Alexander McQueen. Inside the room, however, this partnership is reinterpreted in a snowy world (it is no coincidence that the average temperature is -10°) aimed at inviting the public to question the fragility and vulnerability of nature.

Silent Light, photos from the official Swarovski Kristallwelten website

Another masterpiece is based on the theory of geodesy, the science that aims to reproduce planet Earth and which in mathematics indicates the meeting of two points on a curved surface. A hymn to this discipline is the dome of the "Crystal Cathedral" room, made up of 595 mirrors, 9 of which are "spy mirrors", behind which there are creations by various artists. Upon entering the room, the sensation you feel is that of being inside a real crystal, with the consequent loss of the sense of depth.

Crystal Dome, photos from the official Swarovski Kristallwelten website

And again, an all-Indian hymn to love in “Ready to love” which leads us, through other rooms, to Eden, our primitive call to the forest, in this case surrounded by sparkling treasures, namely the largest crystals ever produced by Swarovski of different shapes as a tribute to the origin of life. As we have seen in history, the Alps are an important source for Swarovski's creations, which is why in the Eden room they are honored with immense gratitude.

Ready to Love, photos from the official Swarovski Kristallwelten website
Eden, photos from the official Swarovski Kristallwelten website

Famos is the room where architecture and the extraordinary art that has made Swarovski one of a kind meet: the art of cutting. Inside, the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Pyramid of Cheops in Giza, the Empire State Building in New York and Lenin's Mausoleum in Moscow, in crystalline dimensions never seen before, with the Pyramid of Cheops and its 105 kg.

Famos, photos from the official Swarovski Kristallwelten website

We arrive directly at the last room "Timeless", the one in which the company's history is told to us, with fascinating and breathtaking examples that represent Swarovski's success on stages and catwalks.

Some photos taken by me at the Timeless room

The garden exterior and children's play area also do not fail to amaze with crystalline attractions. You will be completely captivated by the Crystal Cloud placed above the Mirror Pool which reflects the approximately 1,400 square meters and 800,000 manually inserted Swarovski crystals.

Crystal Cloud, two photos taken by me during the day and at night
Crystal Cloud, photos from the official Swarovski Kristallwelten website

And for children (and not only) a magnificent carousel, the Carousel, revisited in a more modern key and made with 15 million Swarovski crystals.

Carousel, photos from the official Swarovski Kristallwelten website

It's all a luxury. And it was a luxury for me to be able to visit the company archive, a compactable fireproof archive equipped with an evacuation plan for the creations. This is perhaps why it earned the nickname "archive-bunker" from the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Two of my photos taken at the entrance to the Swarovski archives. The first photo represents a wall entirely covered in crystals

Inside these archives, for those who have the opportunity like I had, you can visit works that will leave you breathless: Norman Hartnell's suit (Queen Elizabeth's tailor) with fabulous crystal tinsel affixed to it ; the creations of famous couturiers such as Balmain, Yves Saint-Laurent and Vivienne Westwood.

Some crystals present in the Swarovski archives

And again, Marilyn Monroe's earrings in the film Men prefer blondes and the pink dress worn in The Phantom of the Opera from 2004. The various collections of Swiss-made watches are also kept in the "bunker", so as not to be lacking in terms of precision.

Marilyn Monroe's earrings in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
The pink dress worn in The Phantom of the Opera


We saw everything about this great company: the history, the wonderful and glittering museum and its influence on the world of fashion and cinema.

But Swarovski was not only the fortune of these great couturiers or film stars; it was a great blessing for all craftsmanship, large or small.

Swarovski was the fortune of us small-big embroiderers with a passion for fashion and accessories, thanks to the vast range of crystals it made available on the Swarovski for Professional platform.

The fabulous ones chaton (or round stone ), characterized by a particular brightness and color intensity; the timeless elegance of pendants ; the striking resemblance of crystal pearl to real pearls, with their silky, abrasion-proof coating; the versatility of bead , but no product currently available on the market can surpass the kaleidoscope of light and colors that the fancy stone .

A photo of me taken at the Swarovski archives

However, our great fortune in having been able to get our hands on the company's products could have an epilogue starting from July 2021.

The introduction of the new CEO brought with it the decision to close the sale of these crystals to individuals. The directives are not yet very clear, but let's not be discouraged. We can still admire the splendor of the Swarovski Element on the catwalks, on the red carpets and in the glittering and fantastic place that is the Kristallwelten.

And we hope that, despite these decisions made for the survival of the company in the hardest times, there will always be an "accessible diamond" designed by "Daniel" created for every woman, just like at the beginning of its history.


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