The Glass of Kings: Moser Glassware
Moser glass is the legacy of Ludwig Moser (1833-1916), a Jewish artist from the Czech Republic (then known as Bohemia). He was formally trained as a painter and engraver, but founding the Moser glass company- which thrived under his keen business sense- is what he is remembered for today. Many talented Bohemian artisans worked for the firm over the decades.

Moser glass first gained recognition primarily as a very high quality engraving facility beginning in 1857, with numerous showrooms and shops in Karlsbad. Most of the artists, including Eduard Hoffman and Johann Hoffman, employed by the Moser firm were Bohemian, and much of the glass they produced from 1870- 1897 had a strongly Bohemian design ethic, using indigenous themes and motifs. The glass was decorated with heavy gilding and enameling, as well as engraving, in intricate designs. Hunt scenes were common. Some of the movements that influenced Moser's designs were the European Baroque movement, as well as work by Islamic goldsmiths and Japanese floral motifs. During this period Moser was solely a company that decorated glass blanks obtained from other companies. Not until 1893 did Moser produce their own glassware.

In 1893 the Moser firm opened a new factory at Meierhofen, under Ludwig and three of his sons. Richard Kralik was the foreman and chief melter, while the cutting workshop was overseen by Rudolf Novak. The quality of the glass produced was under the strictest of control, and inferior pieces were destroyed. Items initially produced at the new facility were tablewares, vases, ashtrays, etc, with different blanks bearing different embellishments (which could, of course be custom ordered). Moser also ended up producing -in fact, inventing- very specific types of tablewares for very specific functions. Special glasses for different types of wines, for example, and separate glasses for certain liqueurs created world wide recognition of Moser's fine crystal wares. One line, the Royal pattern designed in 1908, was so named after Edward VII ordered a complete set. With that sale, the genie was out of the bottle, so to speak, and the tradition of the "Glass of Kings" was established. Moser glassware over the years was sold to many royal families, presented to popes, ordered by maharajas, and used by diplomats up to the present day.

One notable feature of Bohemian glass in general is the use of "panel-faceting", a cutting which takes advantage of the refractive qualities of glass; Moser reproduced this design element in mold form which didn't require costly cutting. Also in favor was a type of casing that trapped a layer of gold or silver foil in between cased glass layers. The Moser company also experimented with rare earth glass ware- that is, glass colored by the addition of rare elements to the mix.

The Moser name was associated with the Teplitz porcelain production company, also Czechoslovakian. It is likely that Moser simply marketed their porcelain and perhaps sold some of it in their showrooms. There is evidence of cross pollination amongst the artists employed by the firms. However it is unlikely that Moser engaged in the actual production of Teplitz porcelain, as the techniques and equipment vary drastically from glass to porcelain.

Ludwig most likely retired around the turn of the century, and production was overseen by several of his sons. Production was reduced during WWI, but thanks to the adaptability of the designers, foreign markets kept the company afloat during turbulent war times. Although the market gained some momentum after the war, the collapse of the newly Czechoslovakian currency forced the Moser family to sell controlling interest to the bank. The Mosers continued to work with the designers and to market their glass; in fact, with the financial burden off his shoulders, Richard Moser was better able to expand the visibility of the firm at glass expositions. The Mosers were highly involved in various international exhibitions during the Art Nouveau movement, and Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffman were founding members of the Wiener Werkstatte, an influential workshop of the era.

The Moser family scattered around the world during WWII. Richard went to South America and was never heard from again, even by his own sons. Leo went to France where he briefly served as director-designer to the Cristalleries de St. Louis. Ludwig spent 42 months in a Nazi concentration camp and later emigrated to America. Leo was forced to resign at the St. Louis works and attempted to emigrate to South America, though as (bad) luck would have it, they ended up in a concentration camp instead. Leo's wife appealed to Eleanor Roosevelt, who apparently arranged for their release and they subsequently ended up in New York.

Germany took control of Moser's stock holdings, and dissolved the board of directors. The factory complex was turned over to production of essentials for the war effort, and many designers and artisans were interned in concentration camps as political prisoners. Those who remained were virtual slave labor- perhaps not a wise move on the part of the German government. The remaining workers deliberately altered the proportions of ingredients, which caused disastrous shattering of German tank windows and filter glasses while on the war front. Eventually the fires were extinguished in 1945.

Moser glass works were successfully reconstructed by the Communist government after the war. The output of Moser relies to this day heavily on designs produced before 1933, though some contemporary designs were introduced. Moser Glassworks was one of 15 firms granted independent operation by the Communist government. After the transition to a free market, Moser has operated successfully into the present day.

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