…And still lookin’ good! Swarovski at 120 years old
It’s 1895, and Daniel Swarovski is bringing his vision for precision-cut crystal to life in a beautiful valley high in Austria’s Tyrolean Alps. By 1900, word of the unique qualities of his product has spread and he travels to the fashion center of the universe—Paris—to work with legendary couturier Charles Worth. Before long, his Pierres Tailées du Tyrol are a must-have ingredient in the ateliers of Paris, championed by the likes of Coco Chanel.
That was the beginning: by the 1920s, crystal and fashion were united with perfect synergy, as flappers shimmied and shimmered till dawn. What better way to capture the frenzy of movement than with myriad facets glinting under jazz-club lights? The craze for crystal continued into the Thirties, when Swarovski made its silver screen debut in in Blonde Venus, made memorable thanks to a smoldering Marlene Dietrich who sparkled under the lights. Then in 1939, Swarovski created an element of the most iconic costume in screen history: Dorothy’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz.
The movie magic kept blazing as mesmerizing blonde bombshell, Marilyn Monroe, flaunted her show-stopping rocks in 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She may have sung Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, but her glittering gal-pals were, in reality, Swarovski crystals. The Fifties saw another fashion landmark when the Aurora Borealis crystal was unveiled. Christian Dior was so enchanted by its rainbow of light that it became a key Dior embellishment.
A new era was dawning as the Sixties swung into view, and Swarovski was right there through its defining moments: Audrey Hepburn dazzled in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; Marilyn shone once more as she sang Happy Birthday Mr. President in a jaw-dropping crystallized gown; and Swarovski’s Sputnik chandeliers for New York’s Metropolitan Opera House received the opening night’s first ovation.
The next decade brought a new facet to the art of crystal, with the first figurine created in 1976. The Eighties saw the launch of Swarovski’s jewelry line and its first boutique. Since then, the brand has accelerated its couture credentials with innovations such as Crystal Mesh in the Nineties, first used by Vivienne Westwood and adopted by Alexander McQueen; the setting up of Atelier Swarovski in 2007; and the expansion into sunglasses, cosmetics and perfume in 2011. With such a strong Hollywood heritage, film seemed an obvious next step, and Swarovski Entertainment co-presented its first-of-many features, Romeo & Juliet, in 2013.
But it hasn’t been only about glamour: sustainability is central to the company’s founding ethos, which is why Waterschool—Swarovski’s international water management educational project, founded in 2000—is an important labor of love. The Swarovski Foundation, a charity set up in 2013 to foster creativity and culture, continues to promote wellbeing and protection of the environment.
If history can teach us anything, we can be assured that innovation and creativity will continue to be a defining feature of the Swarovski brand. Roll on, the next 120 years!