Thursday, July 14, 2011

Beautiful Czech Bohemian Glass: Amethyst Sew Ons, History and Provenance

These vintage glass beads, available at Bumbershoot Supplies, are amethyst jewels, with faceted tops and flat backs. There are 2 holes in each, for the original purpose of sewing onto clothing and fabric. Happily, I was able to obtain these jewels with original packaging which dates them between 1939 to 1945. Here's their history:

The original packaging says "Czecho-Protectorate-Germany". This is interesting to me since the official name of this region during WWII was the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

The western region of Czechoslovakia, occupied by German troops on March 15, 1939 was declared by Adolf Hitler to be a German "protectorate". This region encompassed the central parts of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia in what is today the Czech Republic, and was home at that time to some of the finest glass artisans in the world. Bohemia and Moravia were autonomous regions administered by the Nazis and considered by them to be part of the greater German Reich.

This occupation, of course, had far reaching implications for everyone living in this region, including those involved in the bijouterie industry. Exports of glass beads and cabochons and completed jewelry decreased as European and American organizations boycotted Nazi treatment of the Jews (see my other blog post here). The bijouterie industry as a whole was belittled by Nazi officials and the jewelry produced was considered to be decadent and "unfit adornment for German women".  In addition, many factories were converted to military use. To learn more about the effect on these glass artisans of the ethnic and political tensions in this region before, during and after WWII, I recommend the wonderful resource Baubles Buttons and Beads. The Heritage of Bohemia by Sibylle Jargstorf. 

For me, part of the lure of vintage materials, along with the quality, unusual colors and designs, is the joy in being able to touch history in such a tangible way. And I am continually inspired by the beauty that is created and available all around us, even under conditions of great duress. Great little beads, and oh, the tales they could tell...

Products related to this history can be found right here on Bumbershoot Supplies.

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