Updated: Jun 15, 2020
How it Works
The Bohemian crystal King
Robb Report explores the “behind the scenes” with the creator of the most delicately beautiful glass sculptures in the world, Vlastimil Beranek.
Czechs are the best with crystals. The chandeliers existing in any Hall of Mirrors in the Versailles’ Palace, in Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace, or in Milian’s Palazzo Serbelloni, are all created from Bohemian crystal – and are of the make, that you will presently see on lots of superyachts today..
Back in the ‘40s, the crystal sculptures of the Beranek family have been positioned among the most well-known and attractive treasures of Bohemia. Their atelier was developed in the rebelliousness of the Nazi regime, having everything, but wiped out production of glass in what was at the time, Czechoslovakia. Peat was used in place of fuel and recycled glass bottles in place of raw materials. Nowadays, the process has become highly conventional, where clean sand can be melted to create molten glass and combining it with lead oxide – the higher the lead, the higher the crystal sparkles.
Vlastimil is popular for his third generation Beranek glassworks and one of the modern schools of crystal sculpture, which has transformed art positively. His arts combine simplicity, sheer size, and striking colour, which position him at the top of his career. Most of his pieces weigh as much as 300kg, in some cases, 2m, and his most recent is a series of seven Custodians, which was first in the kiln presently – costing €2m. According to Beranek, “my entire life has been trying to simplify my designs to adopt elementary shapes.” “The Smoke sculpture, for instance, elicits the last wisp of smoke that is seen when a match is extinguished.”
The Crystal Caviar founder, Marek Landa, represents over 70 top crystal artists, Beranek inclusive. “This is a niche, but thriving market,” he asserts. “Sculptures are usually obtained as investments. Some works made by Beranek are sold 10 times their price 3 years ago.” Alex Moore.
The first models created by Beranek are smaller versions created from clay, which enables him to fine-tune the design from its initial sketch. The moment he’s satisfied with the shape, he creates a scale model with the use of wood or resin (he likewise creates sculptures with the use of 30-year Russian walnut).
The use of full-scale model helps him mould from silica, ground marble, and gypsum, and get it filled with half-globes of the necessary raw material (the Bohemian crystal, with various metal ions for its colour). The crystal jewelry is often created from about 48% of lead oxide to make it shine, but there’s about 24% for Beranek’s sculptures; he does not compromise shine, but one-halfs the weight.
The Firing Process
After heating the mould in an oven to about 980⁰C, and melted, it is allowed to come down to room temperature. Large sculptures take up to six months. The mould is then removed after cooling and this is when it can be examined for correct coloration and cracks. Sculptures’ success rate has been applauded up to 70%, massively reliant on the mould not be cracked.
Sanding and Polishing
This is the stage where the sculpture is actually muffled with a harsh surface. Beranek invests hundreds of hours trying to sand (alongside diamond grinders) and getting each piece polished (alongside cerium oxide – that particular powder NASA use to polish the Hubble telescope’s lens), until it gets to the required iridescence level.