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28. 6. 2023

The Fragile World of Crystal

It may seem that in the modern world, business is dominated by technologies, leaving no time left for emotions. But there are brands out there that directly build on feelings, impressions and atmosphere. The Czech company Preciosa, firmly and permanently established in so-called Crystal Valley in northern Bohemia, is a shining example of this :). And who could resist such a play on words – after all, what else is the purpose of crystal than to break up light into bright, positive rays? We chatted with Lucie Karlova, CEO of Preciosa Lighting, at their administrative headquarters in DOCK IN ONE, about the most demanding light installations, how home is still home, and how Preciosa’s pro­duction and design center in Kamenický Šenov looks today.

Preciosa: a name derived from the feminine form of the Latin adjective preciosus – rare, exceptional, noble. It already tells everyone that this is an extraordinary brand...

Yes, our brand is captivating. Through our actions and presentation, we strive to live up to this meaning. And the feminine form of this adjective, I think, nicely describes its basic essence. On the other hand, we do not limit ourselves to just a “translation”. We are proud that the perception of the brand name Preciosa is much more complex today.

It is true that the light installations of Preciosa Lighting break up the light so much as to be breathtaking? Does it strike you that way, or has the experience lost its glitter for you?

The beauty of the installation is amazing in that it really touches everyone. Me too, then. The fascination with light and crystal remains the same, and all the projects we implement have the same effect on me as others. Knowing the background of the creation and seeing a number of specific people and activities behind each work, the final experience is actually a little different for me – complemented by pride and respect for everyone who participated in the preparation of the installation.

Inherently, the long glass tradition belongs to the north of Bohemia. Is it important for you to maintain the production and heart of the Preciosa brand in Kamenický Šenov?

Here in Crystal Valley, Preciosa is at home. For our unique installations, we tap into the specificity of Bohemian crystal, the traditional art of local glassmakers and other technical professions in areas of metal production, galvanization and the like. And the people are the ones behind our success today, their knowledge brings us an extraordinary competitive advantage. We are the only company that has its own full-scale production of lighting installations, and this advantage is a good reason for further developing production in Kamenický Šenov.


If someone is interested in checking out this magical valley while also visiting your production, is that possible? What might they see?

Each autumn, we organize an open-house day for the public. Every visitor can see how and where our installations are made, how our Lightkeepers work, and what’s new from our side. Last year, for the first time, visitors could look into the Preciosa DesignLab, which is the largest material “library” of crystal components and a presentation of related technologies in the world. At the same time, it is a place where our clients, world-class interior designers and architects, can meet our designers, draw inspiration or try out their ideas. Be sure to come, my colleagues will be happy to show you where the magic of Preciosa lies.

In your experience, is this production works visit powerful enough to influence the decision-making process of client purchasing?

Certainly. We invite clients, such as owners of palaces or yachts, investors, but also designers who work with our products in their designs. We know that being able to see for yourself how a product is created is a very powerful experience incomparable to a paper or screened presentation. Thanks to personal experience, our customers get a completely different view of what Preciosa means. This factor plays a significant role in how clients decide. When someone takes hold of the crystal component and sees how it is created, or learns about the manufacturing process of metallic components of lights, he or she perceives the final “product” in a completely different way.

PRECIOSA_Lighting_DesignLab_Mood_photos_JanDolezal (24)

It seems that the environment is hugely important for your company. Does local nature play a key role in product design, or is the assignment from the client more important?

Our team of in-house designers numbers almost twenty, including those here in the CR and in our sales offices around the world. Each of them would probably answer this question a little differently, but in general, they work mainly with the place where the installation will be used, either with space or its use, and the atmosphere they are trying to create. Inspiration can be the history of a building, the city or region where the project is found, the local nature, the story or the personality. Among the unique designs we can find, for example, a crystal forest or natural elements. It is essential that at the end of their story, they impress the client and fulfill their idea.

Is there any collection or product that is inspired solely by the Czech Republic and the environment in which it was created?

I can think of an amazing concept of the kinetic installations of Crystal Automata. It is a set of four installations: fire, water, air and earth, which we presented in Milan and for which we received the Light Middle East Award. The installations were movable by pulleys and gears above them. The technical part of the lighting fixture was open to show the mechanics and dynamics. Our inspiration came from Prague’s Astronomical Clock. In addition to modern installations, we are still pampering ourselves with the historical portfolio of crystal lighting fixtures created in our region since 1724, when their production began and such luminaries shone in the royal courts. We have created new interpretations of key historical luminaries for modern interiors, resulting in success.

Where can we see creations from your workshop?

Lamps, lighting fixtures or installations from Kamenický Šenov can be found on five continents. You can find our works in about 100 countries. Currently we will delivering to Argentina, we have completed a wonderful project in Sydney, we have a strong presence in North America, of course in Europe, Asia including the Middle East or in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Can we find your works in the Czech Republic?

In the center of Prague, in the Palladium shopping center at the main entrance, you can see several hundred colored bars that create a dynamic colorful scene. A short distance away in the Aux Merveilleux de Fred, you will find a sample of the traditional Maria Theresa historical chandelier, which has an impressive diameter of 3.6 meters. We also supplied lighting fixtures to O2 universum, we can continue with the Moravian Gallery in Brno or iQLANDIA in Liberec. I am glad that there are so many new projects in the Czech Republic. At the same time, customers are contacting us with requests for the reconstruction of historical luminaries – for example, Clam-Gallas Palace, Liebieg Palace or Prague Castle.

You sell a very specific product, borne purely of customer wishes and needs, and which can certainly be challenging in terms of production technology. Can you tell us what has been the biggest challenge for you lately?

We really do produce installations demanding in design, but also in the use of processing technologies. Quite often, the specific resistance of the installation to various climatic or environmental influences is also an important factor. For example, products intended for the Maritime program, meaning for vessels, whether private yachts or large cruise ships, must meet demanding conditions related to the movement of the vessel or engine vibrations.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in recent times has been the installation for a new terminal in Los Angeles International Airport. The task was to ensure that the crystal light fixture could withstand earthquakes up to level 6 on the Richter scale. We had to prepare a design that would offer this safety and test its functionality in our Innovation Lab. The basis of the design are two spirals made of crystal prisms inspired by the sea tide. The overall solution, which can actually withstand even a level 7 earthquake on the Richter scale, had to meet the demanding requirements for the delicacy and beauty of the light fixture design. Based on enthusiastic reactions of visitors and positive feedback from our client, we managed to fulfill this task.

Our customers are increasingly demanding about what their light fixture should be able to do. We work with technologies in such a way as to create mobile kinetic, dynamically changing color or interactive installations. Every new functionality requires development. Our clients want to be an active part of the light show and vice versa – they want the light installation “alone” to respond to the surroundings and external stimuli. Installations can react to movement, sound or breath.


Which installation are you most proud of?

Always the latest one! But personally, I’m proud of every project, because a lot of people’s work is behind it. For example, the installation in Dubai in Jumeirah, in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where we created a crystal alley of 14 three-meter trees with trunks, branches and leaves, which, thanks to dynamic lighting, come alive and change scenes throughout the day. I always have a special feeling at the first presentation of the new Signature Design concept during the world’s traditionally largest design show in Milan. Last year’s presentation, which combined crystal, light and music and on which visitors could play and compose their own melodies, also won a “design Oscar” – the Red Dot Award. I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s Crystal Beat in mid-April.


Only a small part of your clients is from the Czech Republic. Do the specifics with which you address a Czech and a foreign client differ in any way?

Preciosa is one of the world’s leading suppliers of crystal installations. For us, the client’s needs and expectations are essential, regardless of origin. Everyone’s ideas are actually quite similar. They all require an original light fixture that evokes emotions and meets the highest aesthetic demands to ensure high quality and proper technical design, and of course they all expect maximum helpful, professional service.

Do clients put a lot of pressure on the price, or do they come up with the idea of investing in something so exclusive that the price is not decisive?

Each client has their own idea of the budget, of their own financial possibilities. There are always such clearly defined limits. On the other hand, the basic perceived value of our installations includes design, the technical solution, quality and service, and all these parameters must be consistent with the final price. Different customers have different ideas of the importance of these individual aspects, whether in terms of their personality, space and its functionality or facilities. The task of our sales team is to understand customers and explain what our installation offers them in relation to the price.

I will return to Kamenický Šenov. Last year you opened a unique creative DesignLab there. What exactly is it and for whom is it intended?

For our customers and our partners, comprised of leading design and architectural studios, we are the ones who help them implement their ideas and plans in the field of lighting installations and who help them meet their expectations. Last autumn, we opened a unique DesignLab for them in Kamenický Šenov. Here, they have the opportunity to learn more about the unique combination of light and crystal, about various shapes and finishes of components, about lighting methods, but also about the latest technological advances as examples of kinetic, dynamic or interactive light fixtures.

PRECIOSA_Lighting_DesignLab_area_photo_JanDolezal (16)

There must be a huge number of these components, how much space are we talking about?

You will find 2,500 crystal components over an area of 2,000 square meters. Picture it as a library of materials, a place where you are inspired by samples of colors, sizes and cuts of components, or finishes. This overview is beneficial and inspiring also for the creation and ideas of our internal designers.

The Czech Republic has long shown that our design has its place in the world. Do you agree that Czech design is world-class?

I agree. In the Czech Republic, there are a number of companies that consider design vital in assessing the quality of their product, and their customers appreciate it. We are part of the Association of Czech Industrial Design, where we meet and look for opportunities to promote this approach, explain the importance of the high added value of our products, and try to cultivate an environment for the perception of design as a vital part of products and culture caring for intellectual property. Preciosa strives to cultivate and develop an awareness of Czech design in our industry.

How do you see the competition in the Czech market? There are certainly players whose name resounds beyond our borders.

In key markets, we face competition from different countries. Czech competition is no exception. We need to be better in the eyes of our customers, and that’s what we strive for. Our advantages are product breadth and experience. This fact, combined with the background and facilities of our own complete production, unavailable to any of our competitors, gives us a key competitive advantage that we try to exploit. We perceive our competition as something that moves us and motivates us to keep improving. And as for Czech competitors, as in our case, they spread the glory of Bohemian crystal throughout the world.

What holds greater value – a spectacular vision and a bold idea, or precise and traditional production?

They go hand in hand with us. Without the idea and vision of development, traditional production will not succeed in the long term. On the flip side of this, it is certainly an advantage that we can fall back on our many years of experience and knowledge. Linking a traditional product with new technology is a direction that both we and our clients enjoy. But if I had to choose – vision is the key.

You work every day with beauty, we can undoubtedly define Preciosa-brand installations as lovely. How important is beauty to you in your personal life?

Beauty is such a subjective concept and a relativistic word that I would rather reply a little differently, yet still address your question. It is important for me to be surrounded by what fulfills me, makes sense to me and charges me with positive emotions. And when I remember how many times I mentioned emotions in connection with our installations… Our lighting installations are beautiful and important to me.

Thanks for the interview.