For generations, Czech beaded glass ornaments have captivated the imaginations and hearts of both young and old. Their lightweight, diverse forms permit hanging on smaller, more delicate branches without losing their presence and their intricate and often lively, kinetic structures endlessly please.
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In the early 1500’s, artisans in Bohemia (modern day Czech Republic) began to craft glass beads. These
were originally made by using a lampworking bead-making technique that, unlike glassblowing, involved the wrapping of melted glass around a metal rod known as a mandrel. After the glass was cooled, creating a spherical bead with a hole as its center, the lampwork beads were then strung together, usually on wire, to make jewelry and accessories such as rosaries, necklaces and bracelets.
As early as 1845, Czech artisans began to use the beads for glass Christmas ornaments designs, a craft that became increasingly important as the Bohemians’ less costly production of beads substantially reduced the demand for comparable Czech products. Czech beaded ornaments were largely a cottage industry in which the entire family worked long hours, using specialized division of labor to efficiently produce the ornaments. Most of the craftsmen operated their business in towns near Reichenberg, Gablonz, and throughout the Thurigin area.
A “Czech beaded ornament” could consist of only one large bead or it could be a string of thousands on a wire. Mostly, the earliest designs were two dimensional, flat designs and commonly had beaded tails that hung from the lower edges. Regardless, careful consideration was always given to design the ornament so that it had a pleasing, lasting effect on the viewer.
At SundryShop.com, the Christopher Radko 1993 Star Bursts” Czech beaded glass ornament shows us how the early two dimensional, designs have remained influential throughout the decades. The ornament depicts a gleaming, gold star as it shines brightly in a winter sky.
Amazing that glass beads can accomplish a wonderful, artistic dynamic! As one moves from the unifying central bead to the tip of each star flame, the ascending and descending sizes of the balls produce not only add an appealing depth, but also a visual dynamic, leaving us convinced that we’re indeed looking at a star burst! Each ray appears as if it is cascading outward in a brilliant burst; yet the entire design compels us to return to the center!
The use of longer glass tubes and smaller beads were also used to make other two dimensional shapes. For example, spider webs similar to Christopher Radko's Webutante Czech Republic beaded ornament, complete with realistically molded blown glass spiders were popular because of the common belief that spiders bring good luck. And Harps, such as Radko's Czech Republic beaded Merry Melody Harp, were great favorites.
In the early 1900’s, particularly the United States imported the Czech glass ornaments. The Americans loved the enchanting way the ornaments swayed on their Christmas tree branches and the Czech cottage industry greatly expanded to meet the American demand for their beaded glass Christmas ornaments.
In the 1920’s, partly due to the incorporation of solid glass rings called “bangles”, more complicated three-dimensional ornaments appeared. The bangle was a circular ring in which beaded designs might be displayed or dangling bells suspended. Soon, glass rods and rounded beads came to be used to create even more varied designs. By the 1930’s, the Czech beaded glass ornaments were representing complex designs such as the airplane, bells, churches, baskets, and bicycles.
The Christopher Radko 1996 Hawk Airplane Christmas tree ornamentis a great contemporary example of the type of beaded ornaments that appeared to actually come to life when dangling on display. Along with people, boats, and butterflies, airplanes became one of the most popular Czech designs.
Christopher Radko's Luxury Liner Czech Republic beaded glass ornament created in 1998 certainly shows how complicated and intricate Czech beaded glass ornaments can be. Several beads of varying shapes and colors harmoniously come together to create this piece that is both bold and elegant.
Also note the use of the cylindrical beads extending from the ship’s center mast. Though they are not rings as bangles are, their use indicates the incorporation of solid glass pieces in beaded ornaments.
Radko’s Grand Dragonfly beaded glass ornament made in 2001 also shows us just imaginatively the Czech beaded creations can be - the dragon fly endlessly appears ready to land on the tree limb as it dangles about! Note how Christopher Radko artistically makes use of different bead types and glass shapes. The dragonfly’s body, head and eyes are circular beads; the wings are constructed with rod and oval-shaped beads; and the main tail segment is a solid glass piece.
Indeed, the vibrant dragonfly ornament truly represents the generational culmination of beaded glass techniques.
But, this and the other ornaments shown here are only a few of the Czech beaded glass ornaments listed on the SundryShop.com web store. We invite you to take a closer look at other Christopher Radko Czech Republic beaded glass ornaments to enjoy the diverse designs and artistry of this genre of fine European glass ornaments.