It isn’t everyday that a company can say they are launching a new bead that is in fact almost 80 years old. Mrs. Oldřiška, a Czech pressed bead manufacturer, designed it in the 40’s and this mid-century masterpiece has finally been rediscovered and manufactured by her granddaughter.
LINK is the perfect name to describe what it is and what it does. It is both a component and a connection to the past. A vintage design so contemporary you will wonder why this bead wasn’t mass marketed decades ago.
Our story begins in 1937 when a business licence was issued to Mrs. Oldriška. Her paperwork indicated that she was a “Producer of Jablonex Glass Goods.”She would begin working with her husband in their own factory where she became known for producing pressed glass beads.
The 30’s were prosperous years for glassmakers. Although she trained and was certified as a dressmaker, Mrs. Oldriška believed that setting up a lamp and pressed glass factory with her husband would be a better opportunity for their future.
Their workshop was situated in Huntířov Village in the Czech Republic. (The tiny black X on this vintage postcard marks the spot of their building.)
The factory grew quickly in the first few years and paperwork shows that large sums of money were collected by the government for various fees associated with running a glass production factory. A sure sign they were successful.
The factory employed quite a few people. Twenty homeworkers, four pressing machine operators and sixteen women were stringing beads for them at their busiest point. They also had some girls who helped to pack and ship the beads. In 1943, the cost for their employees had grown to the equivalent of $14,000 US a year. Lampwork beads, other pressed bead, jewellery and glass flower brooch designs were created, manufactured and shipped around the world from their workshop.
By 1948 all privately run companies in Czechoslovakia had to become part of a state run system. Mrs. Oldriška’s factory was considered small, so she was able to run it as the administrator, even though all goods had to be sent to one central agency. Sadly, by 1952, the factory was unable to go on and closed.
Fast-forward many years and in the late 80’s her granddaughter met an American businessman who was looking for old beads. She recalled conversations about beads in her Grandmother’s house but she had never actually seen them. So, she approached her father to see if he could persuade his mother to sell some beads from the original factory. Unbeknownst to many, her grandmother had actually stockpiled a rather large collection! Boxes were carefully removed from the attic and garage and over the next few years the beautiful beads found their way to the USA.
Once all the original beads were sold, their American buyer and now family friend approached them again, hoping that they might know of any other people who had beads or who knew how to make the vintage styles. It took some time, but eventually her granddaughter discovered one young woman who could still produce the lamp glass beads. She rented two rooms and just like her grandmother, was now in the glass bead making business.