In response to a wealthy landowner's request to make the best use of the natural resources of the infertile Baccarat region of France, King Louis XV created “Compagnie des Cristalleries de Baccarat” in 1765 by royal degree.
The company was the first French glassworks firm established to directly compete with imported Bohemian counterparts. For the next 245 years, the House of Baccarat would continue to garner the attention of kings, sultans and maharajas throughout the world.
By the mid-19th century Baccarat was internationally recognized for their magnificent chandeliers, tableware and other rarities, with European royalty comprising the majority of their clientele. At one point, one-third of Baccarat’s workforce (over 2,000 employees), were assigned solely to fulfill the orders for the Russian court. In addition to the extravagant pieces, Baccarat created scores of stemware for the Russian market. A custom initiated by the first tsars mandated that no one should drink from a glass touched by their own lips, and many grand dukes and nobleman followed suit. Consequently, many a Baccarat crystal goblet was immediately smashed after only a single use!
Perhaps the most stunning tales of Baccarat’s allure, details the desires of the Maharajah of Gwalior. The custom in the courts of India, the bigger and ostentatious, the better, and the Maharajah was certainly no exception. The royal courts of India, in particular, provided Baccarat with some of their most astonishing commissions for such items as thrones, tombs and chandeliers. As legend goes, the Maharajah requested a chandelier custom made for his palace. His every desire was incorporated into what turned out to be what was believed to be the firm’s greatest lighting fixture. There was just one problem. It was so ornate and massive that it brought down with it the roof of his palace the minute it was hung!
The tremendous popularity of Baccarat creations is evident in both legend and fact. Baccarat has earned numerous top awards and honors the firm has had been given in the last two centuries, including the time-honored international exhibitions. Prized for its clarity, detail and beauty of form, Baccarat crystal is, and continues to be, “The King of Crystal,” and “The Crystal of Kings.”
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