How Baccarat Glassware is Made, Part Two

Learn about the different stages of the cold process in Baccarat glassmaking, from wheel engraving and acid etching to the special finishing touches.

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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 with the hot process, and ending here with the cold process.

THE COLD PROCESS
In glassmaking, the cold process is equivalent to a diamond cutter receiving a rough rock. Each hand that touches the rough crystal makes it sublime. Transparent crystal gets enhanced with a touch of gold. Two layered pieces become a game of colors and precision. Only a steady hand can achieve the mathematical precision required by some patterns, and the artistic fluidity of the most intricate arabesques. The speed of the hot process is replaced by the steady hand of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF), the sharp eye of the gilder, the constant singing of the wheel, and splashing of water.

STEP 1: THE FIRST FINISH
The first step in the cold process is to review each piece, ensuring the highest quality requirements. After polishing with an iron wheel, under a constant flow of water and sand, the piece goes under a wheel of wood, cork, and then wool to be ready for the cold process. Depending on the final product, the cold process encompasses either the wheel engraving, manual etching, or gilding.

STEP 2: WHEEL ENGRAVING AND ACID ETCHING
Wheel engraving started at Baccarat in 1839, based on Bohême techniques. It is a free-hand process using a copper wheel that dig into the crystal. Of course, a steady hand is required to create straight or crossed lines, and to realize an intricate geometrical advanced pattern. The craftsman guides the crystal piece (which can weigh several pounds, or be as tiny as a drop) toward the machine to create the decor.

A crystal wine glass carefully being etched on the wheel.

The patterns of the Tsar glasses are the domain of the MOF and Maître d’art, to reveal the transparent crystal behind the thin layer of colored overlay crystal. Acid etching started in 1864 and allows other types of engraving, making the most advanced arabesques and lettering possible. Meet Jean-Luc Bourgougnon, MOF.

GILDING
Some of the pieces will go to the gilding, using a mix based on gold powder applied with a delicate paintbrush over a mat enamel. Only the breath of the artist enables the right amount of moisture and heat to make the melange set. The delicate work embellishes the most prestigious pieces, as they adorn the personal services of Embassies, Presidential residences and custom orders. With several enameled colors, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt service is the perfect legacy for this technique.

A crystal wine goblet is gilded by hand using a paintbrush.

STEP 3: THE FINAL TOUCHES
Like a “poincon” on a silver item, the hallmark of the factory finishes each piece. Each true Baccarat item gets a special touch, from a sand blasted logo on glasses, to a discrete B on the 540 red pampille of a chandelier. Part of the long tradition of perfume bottles, the Rouge 540 is a sublimation of those techniques, from edging to gilding, from clear glass to Baccarat red.

Learn more about our glassmaking process with an inside look at the Baccarat Manufacture.

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