How Baccarat Glassware is Made, Part One

Learn about the different stages of the hot process in Baccarat glassmaking — from sand to liquid, lava to crystal, and beyond.

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Making a Baccarat crystal piece takes patience, precision, expertise, and a whole team of people. From the alchemy, to mixing the sand and potasse, to the many important final touches, over 30 hands (with at least 15 years of experience each) have participated in the making of the most unique pieces. Learn about the different stages of glassmaking, starting here with the hot process, and ending with the cold process.

THE HOT PROCESS
The hot process is about the different states of matter. The granular sand, associated with other ingredients, becomes a liquid. This molten lava takes shape to become solid once again under the high craftsmanship of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF).

STEP 1: FROM SAND TO LIQUID
It all starts with the melting of the components at more than 1450 degrees celsius. To achieve these temperatures, the furnaces are always kept on — it takes up to a month to warm them up again! Each furnace holds a specific color, sublimed by the 540 red, a result of the fusion of gold particles.

STEP 2: COLLECTING THE GLASS IN FUSION
The first step is to collect the glass in fusion by dipping the blowing stick in the crystal lava, and turning it continuously to obtain a balanced amount of raw material. Once out of the furnace, the molten material will drop to 500 degrees, making the process extremely time sensitive requiring perfect coordination and staging. The glassmaker must also find the right groove while the glass hardens as it cools, all the while fighting the effect of gravity.

A glassmaker collects the glass in fusion.

A CENTURY OLD TECHNIQUE
Once the crystal is very malleable, almost like a marshmallow, it can be expanded through blowing, or worked upon in a mold. The tools have not changed over the centuries and remain very rudimentary. The expertise stands with the craftsman, accompanied only by a wooden paddle to extend their hand, a compass to verify measurements, and a simple but powerful pair of scissors to cut the glass is all they need. Meet René Vinter, MOF.

Through free blowing, or mold blowing, the glass is starting to take shape — but it’s only the beginning. Applying the right pressure in the blow and extending the glass to the right size will result in the most perfect pieces (60% of pieces will be destroyed to be incorporated into raw material again). To the most expert eye it only takes a second to verify the quality of the crystal and reject it without a doubt!

A photo of the very basic tools used by glassmakers, including scissors, a  compass, and wooden paddle.

STEP 3: FROM LAVA TO CRYSTAL
From glasses with a leg and a foot, to a water pitcher and its handle, the pieces go back to the furnace several times to fuse all the pieces together. Each piece goes through a very magical transformation. When the artisan blows the molten glass in a mold, only upon opening it do they discover the finished product. When the artisan stretches and expands a string of gooey glass, it’s like a captivating snake, undulating to perfection. Meet Frédéric Furst, MOF.

To complete the hot process, the glass slowly proceeds through a tunnel to cool down and avoid any stress on the crystal that may otherwise explode.

From here, the piece moves on to begin the next phase, known as the cold process.

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