Almost one century on, in 1995 — having dazzled Paris’s leading fashion houses with its must-have chatons — Swarovski made the leap into lighting, introducing luminaires and illuminated crystal panels. A year later, it opened its Kristallwelten cultural center in Wattens, whose installations by world-renowned creatives celebrate the interaction between crystal and light.
Crystal Palace was launched to great acclaim at the Salone del Mobile in Milan. As immersive as Kristallwelten, the exhibition featured Tom Dixon’s Ball — a glittering orb seemingly plunging earthwards from the night sky. Of his participation, Dixon stated at the time: ‘The crystal thing is difficult because it is so loaded with conventions and classical typologies of lighting. But it gave me an appreciation of the complexities behind such a seemingly simple object.’ Viewers were also wowed by Dutch designer Tord Boontje’s extravagantly romantic Blossom chandelier, mimicking a cherry-tree bough. ‘I like crystal when used densely with an internal light because it becomes very magical,’ he observed. ‘Using LEDs, we could place the light source next to the crystals and they could be programmed to flash on and off, adding to the magic.’ Crystal Palace is an ongoing endeavor: more than 60 designers have contributed to it; others include Zaha Hadid, Barber and Osgerby, Ron Arad, Amanda Levete and Fredrikson Stallard.
Moreover, Crystal Palace challenges the traditional equation between chandeliers and staid luxury: in 2010, Yves Béhar created his accessible piece Amplify, comprising crystal-shaped paper lanterns shaped illuminated by LEDs, their light refracted from a crystal embedded in the shades. Swarovski Crystal Palace’s creations continue to transcend the perceived physical limitations of crystal: its 2019 installation at Milan lighting fair Euroluce showcased Boontje’s wondrous Luminous Reflections series fashioned from unfaceted crystal radiating a soft light evocative of sunlight on rippling water. The future looks bright.