History of Czech Bead Trade
1550’s a major glass industry was founded in Bohemia (in the current Czech Republic). The glass beads were mainly for use in rosaries, until the second half of the 16th century, when costume jewellery become fashionable, they started producing beads to be used more decoratively.
1700’s, chandeliers were being made, as were glass stones for the jewellery trade.
1829 The first recorded showing at a trade show in Prague of pressed glass beads was in .
1850, glass beads were being produced by the millions, and exported all over the world. The owners of these bead factories were the German glassmakers, who had invented the costume jewellery industry.
The Napoleanic Wars of the early 19th century changed the political face of Europe, with both Bohemia and Venice added to the Austrian Empire between 1815 and 1866. Competition between these two regions had always been fierce. Becoming part of the same empire did not change a thing and competition between the two regions continued to be as fierce as ever. In the face of this competition, Czech bead makers tried something new that allowed them to expand their markets. Bohemian “sample men” canvassed Europe and returned with new design ideas. It was a novel experiment. These men travelled from country to country from Africa, to Japan and Tibet asking people what kind of beads they wanted. Then, they returned to Bohemia with sketches and descriptions of these new beads. It was an astounding success. The demand for beads grew and production increased.
1860s manufacturers developed special moulds and machines that allowed mass production of moulded pressed glass beads, so thousands of identical beads could be produced cheaply and quickly.
WW I not only disrupted, but nearly collapsed the bead making industry. At the end of the First World War in 1918, North Bohemia became part of Czechoslovakia. By 1928 Czechoslovakia was the largest bead exporter in the world. However, trade was then affected by the Great Depression that hit the global economy in the 1930s. This was followed by the Second World War. Following the war Sudeten Germans who had lived and worked for most of their lives alongside Czechs in the Northern Bohemia region, were forcibly relocated to within the new German borders, primarily because of their allegiance to the Nazi regime during the war years. Those who were glass bead makers took their skills with them. Many resettled in the town of Neu Gablonz which was so named in honour of the bead makers. In turn Jablonec was renamed Jablonec nad Nisou.