Station: [23] Bohemian Gold Ruby Glass

Princess Maria was born in Prague in 1809. She had nine children in all, one of whom subsequently became Prince Georg, who appeared earlier in our tour. In the 1880s, he gave the castle its present appearance when he carried out the last major remodelling of the castle in the eclectic style of Historicism, which borrows freely from earlier historic styles. 

Bohemia is not only famous locally for the beautiful princess who came to Braunfels from there, but also for its crystal glassware. The country’s extensive forests provided idea conditions for glass-making. At least there would be enough firewood to heat the furnaces! In Northern and Western Bohemia in particular, there were numerous glass manufactories producing high quality, glittering crystal glassware. From the end of the Baroque period, Bohemian glass was even more sought after than Venetian glass from Murano, which had previously set the standard. 

18th century Bohemian glass had thicker walls than Venetian glass, but was nevertheless clear. That made it an ideal choice for the coloured glasses that were all the rage, and for the application of glass-cutting and grinding techniques to produce some beautiful pieces. 

Gold ruby glass was especially popular at the courts of the European nobility. It was developed in Potsdam in around 1680 by Johann Kunckel, the Elector’s chemist and alchemist. A tiny amount of gold was enough to turn colourless glass a fiery shade of red simply by re-heating it. Thanks to this invention, Kunckel is regarded as the Baroque period’s most important glassmaker.

Although the invention of Meissen porcelain provided competition for gold ruby glass in the 18th century, people never lost their fascination with artistic glassware. In the 19th century, several successful initiatives ensured the industry’s continued viability by introducing new technologies. That’s why you can still buy Bohemian gold ruby glass from selected manufactories. The Braunfels glassware is from the first half of the 19th century.

All depictions: © Schloss Braunfels