The Swarovski legacy began with a personal dream. Daniel Swarovski, the man who started it all, had a bold vision and a clear goal: he wanted to create “a diamond for everyone”. While not literally so, his aspiration has been fulfilled in a sense, because the sparkling crystals have managed to reach far beyond the exclusive couture world and into the hands of countless collectors and ordinary people. Today Swarovski crystals are being sold in over 170 countries.
It is almost hard to believe that the Swarovski timeline begins in a private little glass factory in northern Bohemia, where young Daniel Swarovski was happy to work as his father’s apprentice. The boy loved the craft and even took apprenticeships with other crystal grinders to build up his skills and experience. Then at the age of 21 his imagination was awakened by what he saw during a visit at the “First Electrical Exhibition” in Vienna, where he was fascinated by new Edison and Siemens technologies.
Daniel Swarovski (1862-1956) – Crystals from Swarovski
Nine years later, Daniel was registering for a patent. He had invented a new glass grinding machine whose precision and speed was unmatched by even the most skilled master craftsman. The invention marks the unofficial origin of Swarovski, because it represents the foundation stone onto which the Swarovski jewelry history was built. Actually, that one machine began an entire revolution in the crystal industry worldwide.
In 1895, Daniel Swarovski established the business which would later become Swarovski Group together with his brother-in-law Franz Weis and Armand Kosmann. Soon afterwards, he and his family moved to Wattens, Tyrol in Austria, where he established a crystal cutting factory. The location was purposely chosen because of its excellent conditions for generating hydroelectricity (using local alpine rivers). Water has always played an essential role in Swarovski crystal manufacturing, and it still does.
But What Are Swarovski Crystals Made of, Anyway?
The most important thing that you must know about Swarovski gems is that they are not the type of crystals that you can find hidden in caves and bedrocks. They are actually man-made, and their composition is very similar to that of glass. As you can imagine, the exact recipe is a well-kept secret, but the main ingredients are sand, quartzes, and minerals.
What Is Swarovski AB Crystal?
While the recipe is definitely a key factor in determining the crystals’ beauty, durability, and price, what gives them their light reflective qualities are the cutting techniques and a series of metallic chemical coatings.
The Aurora Borealis (also known as “AB”) coating was developed in 1956 together with Christian Dior. It gives a mesmerizing rainbow effect to the rhinestones, but there are also other types of finishes created by Swarovski, including Volcano, Dorado, Aurum and Crystal Transmission.
Sometimes the products are not coated at all, while other times they receive multiple layers for an enhanced effect. So an AB 2X crystal is a Swarovski Element which has received a double Aurora Borealis coating.
The Road to Worldwide Success
Daniel Swarovski’s dedication to sound principles of quality and business ethics has helped the company gain increasingly more recognition. Not only did he strive to create the best possible crystals, but he also did that with a strong commitment to high ecological and ethical standards. It was never all about Swarovski crystals. It was also about creating an everlasting legacy by not accepting any kind of compromise.
That sense of corporate responsibility has been passed on to his three sons and all the company heirs after them. Twelve decades later, the Swarovski Group is still family owned and its swan logo is recognized worldwide as a symbol for the world’s leading manufacturer of crystal glass.
Swarovski Crystal headquarter in Wattens Austria – Source
The Swarovski reputation is nothing to sneeze at, with the company having numerous subsidiaries, over 30,000 employees, and a revenue of around $3.05 billion euros ($3.35 billion) in 2014. There are many successful sister brands under the Swarovski Group umbrella, including Tyrolit (cutting and grinding equipment) and Swarovski Optik (binoculars, scopes, and optic accessories). However, the most lucrative one by far is the crystal business.
The high fashion industry has shown interest in the iconic crystals since early on, and they soon became international marks of affluence. Over the years, Swarovski Elements have been used in countless opulent projects, one of the more dazzling being a $4.8 million Mercedes Benz SL600 covered in over 300,000 gems, which is probably the most expensive Swarovski crystal studded item in the world.
However, not all Swarovski products are so prohibitively expensive: the company even has an excellent sales program on their website, known as Swarovski Outlet, where customers can find superb original crystals and jewelry at remarkably low prices. Obviously, the offers are limited both in time and in stock, but the selection is always worth browsing during holidays and the present making seasons.
Some of the World’s Most Expensive Swarovski Items
Swarovski Crystal Studded Mercedes-Benz SL600
At the top of the list we have the aforementioned Swarovski Mercedes-Benz SL600, which looks very much like a life-size glam Barbie car. Customized by car accessory company Garson, there were actually two versions of the vehicle, one in gold crystals, and the other one in silver gems. They were proudly unveiled at the 2009 Tokyo Auto Salon.
Swarovski Crystal Studded Mercedes-Benz SL600
The glamorization process was a painstaking one, involving over 300,000 diamond-shaped crystals which were individually glued onto the body. One of the Luxury Crystal Benz models was purchased by Arab Prince Alwaleed for a staggering $4.8 million.
For anyone interested in personalizing their own cars, Garson creates sparkly accessories like crystal studded gear shifters, rims, steering wheels, and more.
Moneual Swarovski HTPC
This item was clearly not created for techy people, but for those who don’t really care how well it works, as long as it looks awesome. The Moneual Swarovski HTPC was unveiled at the 2010 CES, with an intimidating price of $450,000.
While its appearance was impossible to ignore, the specs weren’t all that dazzling. It was equipped with quite ordinary features, such as Windows Vista Home Premium, HDMI, and Blu Ray. What reportedly justified the price was the generous selection of Swarovski crystals that it flaunted: it bore a total of 3,500 Swarovski Elements.
Gold and Crystal Luxury Bike
This limited edition luxury bike was manufactured by Aurumania, a company specialized in transforming ordinary objects into outstanding collectible pieces by dressing them up in gold and other precious materials. For this particular project, in addition to the 24kt gold plating, they also added over 600 hand-placed Swarovski crystals for an extra touch of glam.
The bike itself was hand built, and then each of the sparkling rhinestones was also hand set into its well established place onto the gilded frame. Other luxe details include the hand-sewn leather handlebars, and the Brooks molded brown leather saddle. With only ten units made available worldwide, the bicycles were priced at around $102,000.
Custom Crystal Bathtub by Catchpole & Rye
This stunner is the Catchpole & Rye Crystal Bateau luxury bathtub. It originally hit the news back in 2013, after over 200 hours of meticulous work. It was developed using traditional methods, as well as master artisan techniques to ensure a high level of both quality and style.
Swarovski bathtub – Custom Crystal Bathtub by Catchpole & Rye
Definitely fit for royalty, the Swarovski bathtub was covered in over 22,000 hand-placed Swarovski Elements. Rhinestones of four different shapes were used for the project in order to ensure the best sparkling effect, as well as a perfect coverage.
The cast iron bathtub was also handmade, and it was sold at Harrods for £150,000. The British manufacturer offered the option of customizing the bath with crystals of different colors, including green, blue and pink. The interior was obviously perfectly smooth and comfortable, featuring a glossy white enamel finish.
Samsonite Black Label Swarovski Trunk
Created in 2008 by Samsonite in collaboration with Swarovski, this gorgeous luxury piece was inspired by vintage 1920s Black Label trunks. Completely covered in white crystals, the limited edition trunk bore a hefty price tag of over $25,000.
Adding to their appeal was the fact that the collaboration resulted in only thirty such items, making the trunks not only highly expensive, but also very rare. They were clearly not meant for regular traveling, and we strongly suspect that most buyers never actually used them in any of their trips, because who would want the hassle of getting down on all fours looking for a missing crystal?
Swarovski Engagement Rings
It’s pretty difficult to say “engagement ring” and not think of diamonds. And while diamonds may be a girl’s best friends, not everyone can afford to translate the weight of their love into carats. Fortunately, there is a wonderful alternative to the classic ways, thanks to the superb Swarovski Zirconia stones, which successfully emulate the clarity and brilliance of the purest diamonds.
Distinguishing between the two is very difficult, especially for the untrained eye. Even though Swarovski Zirconia is created in laboratories, the end result is just as stunning as that of the naturally-occurring gems. Zirconia has a remarkably high refractive index, and is a very strong material. It has a rating of 8.5 on the Mohs scale, while diamonds have a hardness of 10.
What makes Swarovski Zirconia more special than other diamond imitations is the cutting technology, the Austrian company ensuring the most brilliant diamond cut in the world. So if you are looking for an engagement with a strong impossible-to-ignore factor, but don’t have the budget for a huge diamond, you will definitely find a Swarovski engagement ring to meet your partner’s taste.
Just like with real diamonds, imitations can range drastically in price, going from affordable to highly prohibitive. Take for instance this fabulous Luciana Swarovski Pure Brilliance engagement ring, whose original listing price was just a tad above the $3 million. The center stone weighs 1 carat, with 49 more carats being masterfully set directly into the ring. The princess-cut gem boasts D color and IF clarity, which makes it appear like a much more expensive genuine diamond.
The Most Expensive Swarovski Figurines
2013 Limited Hello Kitty Swarovski Figurine
The 5 by 7 inch statuette was created by Swarovski in 2013 in a limited run of 88 copies. It was marketed as a collectible item not suitable for children under 15, and it is not difficult to see why. The lovely little character was decked out in over 22,000 crystals.
The main colors used for the figurines were Crystal Moonlight, Red Magma and Sunflower. The handcrafted kittens were glammed up to perfection using Swarovski’s Pointiage® crystal setting technique.
Limited Hello Kitty Swarovski Figurine
Limited Edition Donald Duck Swarovski Figurine
Because you can be a devoted Disney fan at any age, it makes perfect sense for Swarovski to create a sparkling Donald Duck figurine and sell it as a precious collectible for grownups. While cute and childish at the core, the statuette exudes sophistication and luxury, thanks to the many colorful rhinestones that it is covered in.
Obviously not meant to be a children’s toy, the iconic Disney character stands on a glossy black pedestal and measures 9 4/8 x 4 15/16 x 4 5/16 inches. Priced at $8,900, the it was limited to only 150 pieces, making it highly exclusive and extra appealing.
Limited Edition Donald Duck Swarovski Figurine – Buy it now from Swarovski]
Swarovski Crystal Myriad Stallion Lightning Figurine
Not all Swarovski statuettes have to be cute and cartoonish. This superb piece, for instance, is a stunning representation of a prancing stallion created by designer Martin Zendron. All 39,600 crystals have been individually placed onto the figurine by hand, in a meticulous process that took many hours of work.
Ideal for elegant offices or living rooms, the Swarovski Crystal Myriad Stallion Lightning statue is covered in Mocca, Smoked Topaz, Copper and Jet crystals. Measuring 5 7/8 x 11 6/8 x 14 5/8 inches, it stands on a black China granite base. The figurine is limited to 300 units, each one priced at $14,000.
Life-Size Kenshiro Action Figure by Swarovski
This one-off statue of Kenshiro is actually a life-size representation of the beloved manga character, and it played a significant role in the Comic Zenon promotion campaign back in 2011. The first 77 people to buy the “First of the North Star” book by Tetsuo Hara got the privilege of taking a picture next to the 6 ft. 1 in. crystal studded statue.
Along with the digital memory, they also received miniature Kenshiro figurines to take home. The action figure was covered in over 500,000 Swarovski elements worth approximately $130,000 – and that only included the gemstones. After the campaign was over, the statue was put up for auction, with proceeds going to charity.
Bald Eagle Swarovski Sculpture
Another limited edition luxury sculpture, this magnificent crystal sculpture by Swarovski is a glamorous representation of American patriotism. Its body is made of Amber crystal, while the beak is Light Topaz. Unveiled in 2011, it was the Austrian company’s largest sculpture in colored crystal.
The eagle was originally priced at $3,800, and each example bore a unique serial number. Only 10,000 units were made, all sold with certificates of authenticity, special handling gloves, as well as a brochure with important information. They were sold in premium blue cases for protection and easy storage/travel.
More Swarovski Studded Luxury Items
It is almost impossible to keep track of all the different luxury items which have received a dazzling Swarovski treatment over the years. Some of them were spectacular, others borderline ridiculous, but they were all impossible to ignore.
Adding a bit of sparkle to an ordinary household appliance can completely transform a home, but while some brand collaborations resulted in beautiful pieces like the Gold Retro Fridge by Smeg, others were more on the gaudy side, such as a $128,000 Swarovski toilet , which took a month’s work to complete.
Smeg Gold Retro Fridge Boasts Swarovski Adornments
$128,000 Swarovski toilet
For music enthusiasts, iWave adorned some of their Ultrasone PRO 750 headphones with 6,500 Swarovski Elements. The iWave Crystal Headphones sold for $2,000 a pair, which probably made them too much of a thief magnet to actually be worn out on the streets.
Swarovski Studded iWave Crystal Headphones
Also not meant for everyday use, the Quinn Gregory Swarovski NFL Helmets were actual helmets worn by real football players, adorned with some 12,500 crystals each. Available in a variety of patterns, they were priced at $1,800.
Quinn Gregory Swarovski NFL Helmets
And because romance so often goes hand in hand with sweets and precious stones, it was just a matter of time before someone came up with a box of expensive chocolates adorned with Swarovski crystals. Individually hand-wrapped in silk, the pralines were presented in genuine leather boxes, and were sold by Harrods’ for $10,000 a box.