Revival of the Gusevsky crystal tradition

It has been 10 years since production at the famous Russian crystal factory was resumed in 2013 under the new name of Akim Maltsov Gusevsky Crystal Factory. Modern equipment was installed in one of the buildings of the former factory and they started to produce craftwork crystal products.

The history of Gusevsky crystal began in 1756, when the Oryol merchant Akim Maltsov founded the first glass factory on the bank of the river Gus in the dense Meschersk forests, having transferred his part of his father's production to the river Gus (The history of the Maltsovs dynasty is posted in the section "Audio stories"). The workers lived at the factory. And the main action of glass melting took place in the glass foundry. It was a huge log room with furnace in the centre. Here, in the furnace, glass and crystal were molded in large clay pots. The material for melting was furnace charge, which consisted of sand, soda, potash, lead oxide and other compounding ingredients. The plot where the factory was built was named Gus-Khrustalny- after the name of the river and the business that was "realized".

Ivan Maltsov (1807-1880) became the owner of the Maltsovs glass empire in 1830. He was a famous diplomat, travelled to many countries in Europe and Asia. During his trips abroad, Ivan Maltsov was concerned with the achievements of the glass industry in other countries and brought samples of products of foreign artisans. According to memoir literature it was known that he visited Bohemian glassworks and noted their tiny size. Visiting European glass manufacturers, Maltsov made a practical judgment that Bohemian glass did not require any metal admixture, which made production much cheaper. Glass products became available to the middle class. For example, glasses with various types of painting and edge treatment were very popular. In particular, a souvenir set consisting of a tray, decanter and sugar bowl was very popular.

Since 1829, the factory was a permanent participant of almost all manufactory exhibitions and was repeatedly awarded gold medals for the quality of its products, for which it received the right to use the State Emblem of Russia on his products, and in 1856 – permission from the Ministry of Finance to use the state symbols.
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Magazine of the Ministry of Internal Affairs noted that "the factory is an exemplary enterprise not only in the province, but in the entire Russia as well". The range of items was gradually expanding. They produced "things of the most expensive, huge size, with rich facets and carvings and the simplest, cheapest, commonly used in households items".
In 1832, the Court Department commissioned a Grand dinnerware set with "Maltzovsky facet", which was used in the Emperor's country palaces.

"Maltsov Facet" is a lush eclectic mix of various ornaments of “rosettes”, “stones”, “bushes”, etc. (Review "The main types of facets in Russian art glass of the 19th century"). Under Maltsov on the initiative of craftsmen "a chamber of samples" was established, a kind of museum - an exposition of the best products of glassworks masters in terms of craftsmanship and design. Subsequently, the factory was re-equipped to produce crystal stemware and serveware. It rightfully became known as a crystal factory. The term "Maltsov crystal" appeared, which was was synonymous not only with the quality but also with the artistic merit of the products Gusevsky crystal factory.

In the second half of the 19th century Gusevsky crystal factory continued its progressive development. For participation in the All-Russian manufactory Exhibitions and World Art and Industry Exhibitions Gusevsky crystal factory was awarded:
1829 - Large Gold Medal;
1831 - Small Gold Medal;
1833 - Large Gold Medal;
1835 - Large Gold Medal;
1893, Chicago - Bronze Medal with Diploma of Honour;
1900, Paris - Grand-Prix, the highest award.

In the middle of the 19th century, colored laminated glass apperared. It imitated gold and silver. These were the Oriental-style products for the "oriental" market: turkic jars (kumgans), hookahs. Production of such items was not accidental. In 1828, Ivan Maltsov was appointed the first secretary at the Russian mission in Persia, the head of which was Alexander Griboyedov. After the death of the members of the mission and as a sign of atonement to the Russian government personally to Maltsov, the Shah of Persia authorized duty-free trade in crystal in Persia. The Persian products of the Maltsov factory were also in demand in Transcaucasia and the largest cities of Central Asia.

With the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and after the abolition of serfdom, the mechanized methods of glassware production became increasingly important in the process of glass production.

At the turn of the 19th – 20th centuries, Gusevsky crystal factory variety of methods and techniques for decorating glass was unrivalled. Until the middle of the 20th century, in the absence of professional painters and decorators, the prestige of the Gusevsky Crystal Plant trade mark was created by skilled artisans – glass blowers, diamond cutters, engravers and painters. During this period there were 4 glass-melting furnaces – two operating and two reserve, 177 grinding machines and 18 machine tools in the painting department. The factory was heated with wood, twigs and peat; it was burning oil.

During this period there were 4 glass furnaces in the gut department of the factory: two operating, two spare ones, 177 machines in the grinding department, 18 machines in the drawing department. The factory was heated by wood, twigs, peat; it was lit by paraffin.

Ivan Maltsov built brick houses in the settlement of Gus-Maltsovsky for the workers, a hospital, opened a parishional school for their children. As Ivan had no children of his own, he bequeathed his personal assets to his nephew, his sister's son, Yury Nechaev-Maltsov (1834-1913). Yuri was not only a prominent businessman, but also a man that selflessly loved art, a philanthropist and patron of arts. In 1896-1903 the majestic St George's Cathedral was erected in Gus-Khrustalny by order and at the expense of Nechaev-Maltsov. The architect of the cathedral was Leon Benois, and Viktor Vasnetsov designed interior decorations.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the technical possibilities of product processing were greatly expanded.

Crystal became widely used in interior decoration. The colour range of products has become more diverse. The continuous, flowing, intricately curved lines combined with floral compositions gave sophistication and refinement to any item. Colored glass was produced more to maintain the prestige of the factory and the manufacturer than for profit, its production was usually unprofitable. Painting on milk and opaque glass with enamel and silicate paints, as well as deep etching on laminated glass was widely practiced. Unique are laminated vases, bottles, modelled on the products of the famous French artist Emile Galle, with quite blue-violet and golden-brown "painted" landscapes.

After the October Revolution of 1917, the factory anchored. It was possible to restart production only in 1923, after the visit of Mikhail Kalinin visit to Gus-Khrustalny and the allocation of special funding.
Due to the increasing demand for household glassware in the 1930s, mechanized production of different types of domestic glass and a whole range of technical glassware was developing. The factory mass-produced faceted tea glasses (presumably by Vera Mukhina), moulded domestic glass items. During the Great Patriotic War Gusevsky crystal plant produced items for the needs of the front - medical ampoules, flasks, flasks for incendiary mixture, thermoses, technical glasses, flasks

During the Great Patriotic War Gusevsky crystal plant produced products for the needs of the front – medical ampoules, water bottles, flasks for incendiary mixture, thermoses, technical glasses, flasks. In the early 50s, mass production of lead crystal began. At the same time, the production of blower tubes was introduced. In 1960, an experimental continuous furnace for melting of crystal was launched for the first time in the world practice of glassmaking. The output of household crystal increased five times. By 1981, more than 50 assembly lines with total length of 5,000 meteкs were operating at the factory.

After perestroika, the situation changed for the worse. In 2012, the factory was completely lying idle – it was the time when the last hundred employees were fired. Hence, on December 26, 2013, production of crystal was resumed. Nowadays, the factory specializes in the production of limited series of authorial crystal products. It can be said that the factory has moved from mass production to custom design orders. The factory craftsmen carefully preserve traditional methods of glassmaking, combining them with new trends and opportunities.

Gusevsky crystal traditionally contains 24% lead oxide, which gives it a special transparency, radiance and density. It is the only factory in Russia that masters the technical skill of flashed glass, when several colors are merged by hot molding. The factory can produce products in more than twenty shades, and the colour of the crystal is given by additives of rare earth oxides The factory can produce items in more than twenty shades, and crystal is uncolored by added rare earth oxides additives. For example, cobalt is added for blue color, selenium for red, and erbium gives pink color.
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The Maltsov family made a huge contribution to the development of Russian glassmaking, the pinnacle of which were the coloured glass and crystal items produced by the family businesses. Museum Collection features a number of samples of the Maltsov factories. Products of the topmost artisanship are presented in the exposition and the museum website in the section "Russian Glass and Ceramic art".

Ref.: https://dzen.ru/a/ZGKY6ukTojDlDoui