Inside design: Nathalie Colin Roblique and Swarovski
All that glitters is not gold. Case in point: Swarovski crystal. The family-run Austrian company has carved out a brilliant niche in the market for sparkly baubles for home and personal adornment. We sat down with Nathalie Colin Roblique, the company's creative director of consumer goods, to discuss Swarovski's history and holiday plans. Bring on the bling!
S@H How did the company's founder discover the wonderful world of crystals?
NCR: The company was founded by Daniel Swarovski, who in 1892 invented a revolutionary machine that could cut crystal. In 1895, he used it to start the business. Still managed by the Swarovski family today, the company, which is based in Wattens, Austria, has thousands of employees worldwide. There are more than 600 people working in product development and creation alone. A visionary, Daniel Swarovski was always thinking of the future, so developing new ideas and products remains important to our company.
S@H Since crystal occurs naturally in stone, doesn't that mean there's a finite supply that will eventually limit the number of products you can create?
NCR: Rock crystal is rare and occurs naturally in stone. But Swarovski crystal is man-made, so we can produce as much as we want, in proportions you wouldn't find naturally. We have a secret potion; no one (with the exception of the Swarovski family members) knows the recipe, including the employees who manufacture the crystal in our laboratory in Austria. No journalist has ever been allowed into the laboratory, either. I can tell you, however, that the recipe includes sand and water, of which we have a virtually limitless supply.
S@H So what are the advantages of working with man-made crystal?
NCR: Crystal is known for its brilliance and many facets. But rock crystal can have a sparkle that comes from other minerals that leave trace amounts in and on it. Man-made crystal contains no mineral inclusions, which means it's clear.
S@H Besides being crystal clear, are there any other pluses?
NCR: Yes. Man-made crystal is a mutable substance that can be made in any colour, and thanks to Daniel Swarovski's crystal-cutting technology, it can be fashioned in any shape. All you need is imagination.
Image courtesy of Swarovski
S@H What's big in crystal these days?
NCR: There are a few trends I've noticed. Overall, proportions are changing. In decor, we're seeing a move toward large, organic shapes, so we blew up the proportions of our Silex vase, for example, which is made from one piece of crystal. Right now, we're experiencing a monumental shift in Swarovski's history. We've recently begun collaborating with designers and architects to create products you wouldn't expect to see in crystal, as well as nontraditional versions of typical crystal items. The chandelier designed by architect Daniel Libeskind for the Royal Ontario Museum, which contains 130,000 encrusted crystals donated by Swarovski, is just one example. It illustrates what can come from inspiring partnerships. I'm also working on a new generation of products with a big push in the area of accessories, like watches, jewelry and bags, as well as crystal collections.
S@H We noticed you've even partnered with Philips on USB keys like the Active Crystals Heart Beat USB Memory Key (below) and the Active Crystals Lock Out USB Memory Key -- just in time for the holidays!
NCR: Crystal is a beautiful substance -- we wanted people to be able to carry it and enjoy it every day. Some cultures believe crystals offer protection. I'm not sure about that, but I do know they create magic!
Bringing crystal home
STYLE AT HOME asked Swarovski's creative director of consumer goods, Nathalie Colin Roblique, for her top tips for decorating with crystal this season.
Think outside the (jewelry) box. You probably already own a crystal-encrusted brooch. "Use it to decorate throw pillows or to tie back curtains," says Nathalie. "In my home, I display my necklaces by hanging them from a shelf."
Let there be light. Crystal is most magical when it's close to a light source, so if you purchase only one piece of crystal this season, opt for a candleholder. "For the holidays, we created a candleholder that converts into a tea light holder," says Nathalie. "I just love its multifunctionality."
Re-envision the tree. It's the perfect place to add crystal ornaments, which will reflect the tree's lights beautifully. Go big. Add dramatic impact (and be on trend) with a large crystal vase, candleholder or figurine.
Image courtesy of Swarovski