A Brief History of Swarovski

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Alexander McQueen Swarovski
Alexander McQueen backstage at Spring/Summer 2009. Photo: Courtesy of Swarovski


The company is founded in 1895 by Daniel Swarovski, who possessed a keen eye for innovation and a vision of “a diamond for everyone”.
Daniel Swarovski, ca. 1925 ©Swarovski Archive


Charles Frederick Worth Gown Decorated with Swarovski Crystals
It is the elite shoppers of Paris who first took notice of Swarovski’s creations, and championed the brand’s exquisite creations. Eventually, Daniel Swarovski was collaborating with Charles Frederick Worth (pictured), and Swarovski crystals soon became prized ingredients to Parisian ateliers, as well as an inspiration to two of the most iconic French designers of the day: Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli.


Swarovski technological expertise leads to the creation of the Tyrolit Group in 1919. To this day, the Tyrolit Group is one of the world’s leadings suppliers of grinding, drilling, and polishing tools.
Swarovski Tyrolit Group Cutting Tools


1920s flapper sketch featuring Swarovski crystals
The post-war era of decadence was a spectacular (and sparkly) time, as Swarovski crystals were in higher demand than ever. They decorated surfaces across the fashion world, from flapper dresses and jewelry, to embellished headbands and shoes.


Swarovski crystals make their silver screen debut in 1932 in ‘Blonde Venus’ starring Marlene Dietrich. Since then, Swarovski has added even more dazzle to the glittering stars of Hollywood, improving the look of some seriously econic pieces — like ruby slippers and glass slippers.
Marlene Dietrich from the Blonde Venus Wearing Swarovski


Swarovski Optik
In 1949, Swarovski Optik is created, which includes binoculars, telescopes and other leading precision optics.


In 1956, Swarovski collaborates with Christian Dior, creating an innovative crystal coating that allowed light to refract from their crystals in every color of the rainbow. Swarovski crystals are also used by Cristobal Balenciaga for his 1958 Haute Couture collection (pictured). They named the crystals ‘Aurora Borealis’ and Dior incorporated them into some of his most beautiful creations. Additionally, in one of Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic roles as the star of 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes', she might have been singing 'Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend', but she was actually dripping in Swarovski crystals.
Cristóbal Balenciaga Haute Couture, Fall 1958 ©Balenciaga Archives Paris, Studio Kublin


Swarovski Sputnik Creation for New York Metropolitan Opera House Opening in 1966
In a moment the world won’t soon forget, Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962 dressed in a snug sheer chiffon dress covered in 10,000 Swarovski crystals. In 1966, Swarovski created its jaw-dropping 'Sputnik' design in honor of the opening of the New York Metropolitan Opera House (pictured).


While in the workshop, Swarovski craftsmen playfully glued chandelier parts into a mouse shape, and unwittingly gave birth to the first Swarovski figurine. The brand gifted a set of crystal mice to the 1976 Winter Olympians, which proved so popular that Swarovski began manufacturing them, among many other figurines over the decades.
Swarovski Mouse Figurine


Swarovski Marcasite
After almost a century of existence, Swarovski launches its very first jewelry line, and opens its first-ever boutique in London on Bond Street. After proven success at its flagship location, the brand decided to expand into handbags as well. In 1988, the pioneering company begins cutting natural pyrite, thereby resulting in the gemstone Marcasite (pictured).


Swarovski continues its legacy of innovation by developing a bespoke textile — a flexible crystal mesh fabric. Vivienne Westwood is the first to use the product, and later Alexander McQueen begins to incorporate it into his collections. On the brand’s 100th anniversary, they build an interactive experience in its hometown of Wattens, Austria, called the “Kristallwelten” (Crystal Worlds), which was designed by famed multimedia artist André Heller. Additionally, Swarovski created its first fully-faceted ring, appropriately named ‘Nirvana’, which featured a gorgeous arrangement of facets that bore the optical illusion of a heart in the center of the ring (pictured). To this day, it is one of the brand’s most iconic pieces. Throughout the decade, and into the future, the brand continued to innovate and partner with the best names in fashion design, from Alexander Wang and Proenza Schouler to Christopher Kane.
Nirvana ring by Swarovski


Since water is the key element in the creation of crystals, Swarovski decided to establish the Swarovski Waterschool to help protect this precious resource that has been so integral to the brand for over a century. The school has now expanded beyond Europe to have a presence in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The company then launched Atelier Swarovski, a couture crystal accessories collection, which celebrated innovative design through its collaborations with talents from the worlds of fashion, jewelry, and architecture. Designers have included Karl Lagerfeld, Maison Martin Margiela (pictured), Viktor & Rolf, and Joseph Altuzarra.


In the present era, Swarovski continues to set itself apart with Advanced Crystal, a pioneering new lead-free crystal composition, which ensures that all Swarovski products are now made to advanced crystal standards. In 2010, Swarovski is tapped to create the curtain for the Oscars, which is made from more than 100,000 crystals. In 2013, The Swarovski Foundation is established in order to build on the company’s commitment to charitable giving by fostering creativity and culture, promoting well-being, and protecting the environment.
Curtain for the 2010 Oscars with more than 100,000 crystals, designed by David Rockwell. © A.M.P.A.S
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