Kingdom of beads
Kingdom of beads - that sounds tempting to most ladies, I suppose. We love to adorn ourselves with shiny and colourful jewells, no matter if they are real or not. That´s how it is today and that´s how it was in history. I always wonder how sophisticated were prehistorical or medieval necklaces, bracelets or rings. Certainly, not everybody could afford to wear gold and gemstones. That´s how fashion jewellery was born. Jewells made of various metals, decorated with pieces of shining glass imitating rhinestones were relatively cheap and looked pretty.
Fashion jewellery manufacturing started already in the 14.century, but it reached its peak at the beggining of the 19.century. One of the worldwide known centres of this industry was Czech City Jablonec nad Nisou (known under German name Gablonz). Jablonec is a small town situated in northern part of our country in the region of Jizera Mountains.This region,which was settled predominantely by German colonists has been important centre of glass making since the middle ages. Some of the famous glass dynasties coming from this area such as Swarowski (today fashion jewellery manufacturer) or Riedel (producer of drinking sets) are active even today (both families later moved to Austria).
Gablonzer Bijouterie - this trademark became a symbol for quality and imaginative fashion jewells. There were over six thousends people involved in glass and fashion jewelry making in Jablonec region already in early twenties of the 19.century. Except of glass and beads at that time very popular pressed glass buttons were produced there. Local manufactures were exporting their goods to many countries of the world. The major exports went to USA, Germany and India. You may wonder why India? Jablonec companies were producing tiny decorative glass bangles which were traditionally worn in sets by Indian women.
World War II and the following communist takeover put the end to the succesful business.At first, owners of many factories (belonging predominantly to German minority)were expelled from the country. Then , a bit later, their enterprises were nationalized and united in one big company. There was still fashion jewellery making there, but due to the existence of Iron Curtain access to many markets was lost and there was almost no investment in new technologies either.
After the fall of the communist regime, until that time state enteprises were given back to previous owners and many new businesses were founded. Now there are about 50 manufactures in Jablonec region producing fire polished beads, lamp beads, wax pearls, pressed beads, tiny seed beads, metal findings and ready to wear fashion jewelry.
There are several shops were you can buy their products at reasonable price in Jablonec itself. I go there were often. One of my new hobbies is beading. And Jablonec is a real paradise for those who love beading. A dangerous place, I must say. You can spend a fortune there...fans of beading do understand. You can also visit very interesting Museum of glass and fashion jewelery. Many manufactures offer excursions in their workshops or factories. But even if you don´t care much about beads you have lot to see and do there. There is an incredible number of fantastic Art Noveau buildings and some valueble villas built for wealthy factory owners in the City. And the mountain region in which is Jablonec settled is very scenic. Definitely a place worth visit.