180 years of glass production
Due to the high price of glass and the named tax, common citizens used dishes made of clay and tin, and covered window panes with animal hide and bladder, which were exempt from taxation.
Glass production has centuries-long tradition in the Samobor region. The first glass products in this region date from the Early Iron Age, i.e. 9th-5th century BC, the period in which glass production was established as a new craft. At that time, glass production referred to production of beads of various shapes and colours, blue, green, yellow and white being the most common.
According to the works of Ivica Sudnik, in the Late Middle Ages glass products were very expensive and only rich feudal lords could afford them, while at the beginning of the 19th century, during the French occupation of Samobor, glass house windows were taxed. Due to the high price of glass and the named tax, common citizens used dishes made of clay and tin, and covered window panes with animal hide and bladder, which were exempt from taxation.
THE FIRST GLASS FACTORY IN OSREDAK
One of the first glass factories at the territory of present-day Croatia was opened in Samobor at the estate of baroness Vilhelmina Kulmer in the village of Osredak on 12 March 1839. The first glass masters were from Karlovy Vary and the glass factory premises used to include 11 buildings. In the beginning, the glass factory produced glass products for daily household use: glasses and bottles of different shapes, sets, saucers, bowls, lamps and shades. At that time, there was a great demand for welcome glasses, the so-called bilikum in various shapes and sizes, elaborately decorated with colours and by cutting, often shaped as holsters, boots, cups, barrels and jugs, while in more recent times the pots with the text: „Sanoborci piju vino z lonci“ (People from Samobor drink wine from pots) have become very popular.
Already in 1847, the owner had to sell the factory due to debts to the merchant from Maribor Franjo Paan, who sold it for the same reason to the glass master from Vienna Ignac Hafenbradl in 1850. At that time, the glass factory had one furnace with eight pots for crystal and two for window glass with the total annual production of glass worth 3000 cents. Raw material used to be supplied to the factory from the surroundings of Samobor, as well as from Styria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and England. Three eights of the products used to be sold in Croatia, while most of it used to be sent to Italy, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Africa and America via Trieste. A half of the total production was uncut glass, one fourth crystal and one forth painted, gilded and crystal glass. At the First Industrial Exhibition in Zagreb in 1864 Hafenbradl exhibited 22 products.
“KAROLINA” IN GRDANJCI
In 1869, Maksimilijan Gamilšek and Lavoslav Dinghofer became new owners and expanded production. In addition to the shop at the main square Jelačić plac they opened new shops in Rijeka, Sisak and Karlovac. On 6 October 1872, the new factory premises at the coalfield in Grdanjci opened. The glass factory (locally called "glažuta") was named "Karolina" after Maksimilijan Gamilšek's daughter. The glass factory employed 10 glass blowers, 4 cutters and 150 workers.
The factory achieved significant success at the Industrial Exhibition in Trieste in 1882 where it was awarded a golden medal for crystal and white glass, while the owner Gamilšek was awarded the Golden Merit Cross from the Emperor Franz Josef. At that time, the factory became an attractive tourist site and used to be visited by local and foreign tourists coming to buy expensive glassware, awarding glass masters who produced various glass souvenirs before visitors' very eyes. In 1891, the factory exhibited its products in its own pavilion at the jubilee exhibition of the Economic Association in Zagreb, and in 1897 it founded its own primary school in Osredak for children of its workers and clerks. During years, the factory changed owners and its production portfolio, and had its ups and downs. Soon, raw material resources for glass production ran out, forests of Samobor and Žumberak hills were cut down and the wood from distant locations was expensive. Charcoal near "Karolina" was not satisfactory and the factory could no longer keep up with the competition of Czech and Viennese glass, and consequently in 1904 the production stopped altogether. Most glass masters moved to the new glass factory in Hrastnik near Trbovlje in Slovenia.
Karolina in Grdanjci and crystal craft Kubičekova Kristalerija had characteristics of craftsmen workshops since they had more or less incomplete technological processes. After the Second World War, a group of enthusiasts from Samobor, primarily glass cutters, due to the lack of raw material, started building a new glass melting factory at the plot of the old plaster mine in Rudarska draga. Their enthusiasm paid off, a four pot furnace was built and the first glass was melted on 12 May 1951, followed by an official opening six days later. This is considered to be the beginning of the glass factory Kristal with a narrow range of products: paraffin lamps cylinders, glasses, goblets, bottles, cups and similar. Kristal soon grew into a large company. Products of the factory Kristal successfully entered not only the former Yugoslavia market but also demanding Western European markets (West Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, Italy etc.) as well as the USA market, and at a certain point in time the USSR market. The most significant achievement of the factory Kristal is certainly the entry into the American market and marketing of lead crystal there.
CRYSTAL PRODUCTS TODAY
A part of the described crystal production tradition is nowadays still maintained by the workshop "Kristal Tuk", which for the last 20 years has been impressing the world with its high-quality manually cut glass with motives ranging from elaborate lace patterns to clear lines and modern design. Handiwork of glass blowers and cutters gives Samobor glass products the elegance that machines can not ensure. Numerous shapes and patterns are the result of creative work of masters and all the others involved in different production phases giving each product its final form and brilliance.
The cultural-historical collection of the Samobor Museum houses more than 300 glass items from the factory Osredek, made of colourless, dark blue, green, red and milk white glass, and glass decorated with motives of flowers and geometrical shapes using different techniques. Welcome glasses, the so-called bilikum, glasses for various occasions, bottles, saucers, bowls, trays, candle holders, vases, and hen-shaped candy dishes carry particular beauty.
The area of the old glass factory, the so-called glažuta, and the valley of the stream of Bregana is nowadays the area visited by hikers, hunters, fishermen as well as visitors coming by car to enjoy fresh air and find entertainment, relaxation and recreation in thick woods. At the location of the former factory facilities, there are green meadows with the remains of the factory walls hardly visible, since the building stones used to make walls were sold to the inhabitants of the wider local area.