Elite Traveler Summer 2019


by Samantha Coles

Saint-Louis B E H I N D T H E S C E N E S

Surrounded by dense verdant forest in Saint-Louis-lès-Bitche, France, the Saint-Louis Glass Manufacture workshop has created exceptional handblown crystal since 1586. Back then, the remote location was paramount, as the furnaces required a huge and steady supply of wood to reach the temperature needed to melt sand into glass (around 3,632 degrees) as well as a source of water; it was piped from a nearby stream to cool the pieces so the glasscutters could carve their intricate designs. Sand is also needed (but nothing like the sand you might see on the beach; instead, it is an ultrafine white grit) and potash, a substance that helps to melt the sand at a lower temperature. Both were sourced from the forest floor. These days, the furnaces are powered by natural gas and the potash is created in a lab, but the sand and water are still sourced from the forest just as they were 433 years ago. To make the rainbow-refracting crystal, lead is added to the glass; Saint-Louis was the first manufacturer to perfect the crystal-making process in 1781 and also the first to create a crystal chandelier. We examine the painstaking process behind creating the Arlequin chandelier.

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