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Bohemian Crystal

The region of Bohemia occupies the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands, currently the Czech Republic. In a broader meaning, it often refers to the entire Czech territory, including Moravia and Czech Silesia, especially in historical contexts, such as the Kingdom of Bohemia. Western Bohemia is a well known spa region with towns like Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), Marianske Lazne (Mariensbad) and Frantiskovy Lazne surrounded by green hills, thick forests and cheerful fields of sunflowers. The region abounds in Gothic castles, medieval villages, and its capital Plzen, home to one of the world's best beers, Pilsner Urquell.

The tradition of making glass and crystal in Bohemia dates back to the 9th century. While glass blowing was very common in Central Europe, it wasn't until the 17th century, in the midst of the Renaissance, that the region became known for its glass production.

Prior to the 1600s, glass artisans used sodium oxide leaded crystal, which was rather soft and difficult to cut. At the beginning of the 17th century the Misseriono brothers from Italy who worked at the court of King Rudolf II, began using the natural crystal found throughout Bohemia. They called it the "mountain crystal", it was perfect for cutting, shaping, and detailing.

In 1683, Michael Muller discovered chalk glass. It was similar to the natural crystal and many Bohemian glass factories started to use it. By the beginning of the 18th century, Bohemian glass dominated the world markets. "Bohemian houses" selling Czech glass and crystal were established in 12 European cities, 38 European ports and in cities outside of Europe: Baltimore, Beirut, Cairo, Mexico City, New York and Smyrna.

It was especially the chandelier makers who sought the Czech crystal to use in their creations. In the 18th-century, artisans discovered that lead-oxide- infused Czech crystal had superior optical properties, and leaded Czech crystal quickly flourished around the world. In 1724, Josef Palme opened the first Czech crystal shop, and his chandeliers were shipped all over Europe to decorate castles, manors and palaces.

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