In 1734, King Louis XV of France granted permission to establish a glassworks in the commune of Baccarat, in the Lorraine region of Eastern France. Its production began modestly with basic items like windowpanes, mirrors, and drinking glasses.
In 1816, production quality took a great step forward with the installation of the company’s first crystal oven. A crystal oven is used to slow the cooling process of the recently-molten leaded glass. It allows a piece of varying thicknesses to cool gradually, thus not stressing (and cracking) one area or contracting in an undesired manner.
The first royal commission was granted in 1823—with more to come over the next five decades. The court of Napoleon III (1852 – 1870) kept Baccarat busy and such pride pushed the company’s artists to attempt ever more-ambitious (and difficult) pieces. But, with the end of the French Imperial period in 1870, Baccarat began to seek inspiration and markets beyond its shores. Japan became an important source of design inspiration—after all, Orientalism (and Japonisme, in particular) was very popular in Nineteenth Century fine and decorative arts throughout the Western world.
Baccarat expanded its offerings to meet global (carriage trade) demand: chandeliers, barware, and lovely dresser accessories. By 1907, Baccarat was making 4,000 perfume bottles a day! The company continues its legacy of fine crystal-making today, constantly re-designing its offerings to whet the desires of a contemporary, upscale market.
The crystal decanter, pictured above, was part of Baccarat’s production from the mid-Thirties through the Sixties.