Swarovski Crystal: Explore a Legacy of Innovation

Swarovski crystal star on the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza The Swarovski Star, Rockefeller Plaza, New York, 2013. Image by Michael Hammers Studios GmbH via via Wikimedia Commons.

From the sweeping monumentality of a 75-foot high Christmas tree in New York’s Rockefeller Plaza — featuring 175,000 glimmering crystals (and costing upwards of $750,000) — to the delicate facets of hand-held Swarovski crystal figurines, Swarovski crystal is beloved around the world for its fearless embrace of new styles and its dedication to exceptional craftsmanship. This innovative spirit can been seen in the diverse range of Swarovski crystal in today’s market, from jewelry to figurines that reflect the renowned maker’s rich heritage. Accordingly, styles and price points vary widely, but ultimately what these examples recall is the inventive spirit of the man who started it all: Daniel Swarovski.

Who is Daniel Swarovski?

A native of 19th century Bohemia (today known as the Czech Republic), Daniel Swarovski was the son of a local glassmaker. He studied the art of glassmaking and glass-cutting alongside his father as a young man and, by the mid-1890s, Swarovski teamed with several colleagues to launch a crystal-cutting factory in neighboring Austria.

Crystal glass was widely popular among 19th-century collectors for its brilliance and clarity, scintillating sparkle, and boundless design potential. Thanks to these characteristics, Swarovski viewed the medium as a suitable alternative for more expensive gemstones, like diamonds. By developing a machine that could cut crystal with accuracy that far surpassed that of the human hand, as well as creating a technique to back his crystal stones with foil to make them nearly indecipherable from diamonds, Swarovski introduced the world to the gemlike glitter that glass could achieve.

Swarovski Crystal: A Brief History

By the turn of the 20th century, the Swarovski company continued to break new ground. Expanding their business to include a division that manufactured grinding and polishing tools (Tyrolit), Swarovski also embraced opportunities to further showcase the brilliance of their wares. By the late 1940s, Swarovski had embarked on a division dedicated to the creation of lenses for various optical machinery as well as binoculars and rifle scopes. In the decade that followed, Swarovski designed dazzling crystal jewels for the silver screen to dress up actress Marilyn Monroe in one of her most iconic cinematic appearances singing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Soon after, Swarovski debuted its “Aurora Borealis” line of crystal stones that expanded the artistry of the brand into every color of the rainbow. The potential of these new multicolor crystals was fully realized ten years later when Swarovski perfected the art of precision-cut stones. One of the biggest innovations of this period, though, was Swarovski’s expansion into the realm of lighting. Realizing that the natural luminosity of Swarovski glass was a perfect companion for modern lighting fixtures, the company began collaborating with designers to develop novel creations. Then, in the 1970s, the company unveiled a line of Swarovski crystal figurines, which rapidly grew into one of their most beloved lines.

Swarovski continues this innovative approach today, with nearly 3,000 retail stores featuring its decorative and jewelry-oriented designs dotting the globe. Those seeking a piece of the history of this dynamic brand, however, can be treated to a surprisingly vast array of exceptional Swarovski crystal examples on the market today. Read on to learn more about the types of Swarovski crystal that collectors clamor for.

Swarovski Jewelry

When Marlene Dietrich appeared with jewelry and costumes bedecked in sparkling Swarovski crystals in the Hollywood drama Blonde Venus in 1931, the potential of these glimmering glass stones was first realized. Statement jewelry studded with Swarovski crystals became increasingly popular, particularly when the company introduced its “Aurora Borealis” crystals, which could be conjured in a kaleidoscope of colors. Swarovski jewelry can be found in the market in a wide range of price points, depending on the designer of the piece.

swarovski crystal jewelry

Image 1: Necklace with pearls and Swarovski crystals, Roger Jean-Pierre for Balenciaga, circa 1960
Artcurial, Paris, France (July 2016)
Estimate: €4,500 – €5,500
Price Realized: €5,850

Image 2: Garden necklace with Swarovski crystal, Swarovski pearls, Aquamarine, Rose Quartz, Agate and base metal plated with matte sterling silver
Phillips, London, United Kingdom (March 2009)
Estimate: £1,000-£1,500
Price Realized: £1,750

Image 3: Wm de Lillo Jeweled Collar, Bracelet and Earring Set
Doyle New York, New York (November 2006)
Estimate: $1,200-$1,500
Price Realized: $1,400

Image 4: Garden earrings with Swarovski crystal, Swarovski pearls, Aquamarine, Rose Quartz, Agate and base metal plated with matte sterling silver
Phillips, London, United Kingdom (March 2009)
Estimate: £300 – £400
Price Realized: £563

Image 5: Multicolored Glass and White Metal Necklace and Pendant Earrings, Daniel Swarovski
Doyle New York, New York  (March 2017)
Estimate: $400-$600
Price Realized: $625

Image 6: A Group of Stamped Swarovski Jewelry
Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Chicago, IL (October 2015)
Estimate: $60 – $80
Price Realized: $75

Swarovski Crystal Palace Collection

As a testament to the brand’s ongoing desire for novel design, Swarovski’s Crystal Palace Lighting Collection represents some of the company’s freshest and most fantastic works. Technically its own subsidiary of the larger Swarovski corporation, the Crystal Palace line was launched in 2002 to celebrate the longstanding tradition of artistic collaboration in lighting design that began in the mid-1960s. This new edition incorporated collaboration with some of today’s most cutting edge contemporary designers, from Tord Boontje to Vincent van Duysen, and is popular among collectors as it transforms a room’s light source into its own conversation piece.

swarovsky crystal palace chandeliers

Image 1: Fernando and Humberto Campana Unique ‘Prived Oca’chandelier from the Crystal Palace Collection, 2003
Phillips, London, United Kingdom (24 April 2008)
Estimate: £40,000-£50,000
Price Realized: £48,500

Image 2: Tord Boontjie, Blossom chandelier
Wright, Chicago, Illinois (24 March 2016)
Estimate: $8,000-$12,000
Price Realized: $28,160

Image 3: Tord Boontje “Blossom” Chandelier
New Orleans Auction Galleries, New Orleans, LA (July 2018)
Estimate: $7,000 – $10,000
Price Realized: $8,437

Image 4: Tom Dixon, Ball Ceiling lamp 2013, for Swarovski, from the Crystal Palace Collection
Bonhams, Los Angeles, CA (April 2017)
Estimate: $4,000 – $6,000
Price Realized: $3,125

Swarovski Crystal Figurines

Swarovski’s first figurine that debuted in 1976 was a diminutive mouse measuring only a few inches tall. Envisioned by designer Max Schreck and conjured initially using repurposed crystal chandelier parts, this mouse would be the first in an extensive series of figurines that compel collectors still today. Ranging from representations of animals to moralizing themes – Schreck, for example, introduced the “Caring and Sharing” series in 1987 with a pair of cuddling lovebirds – these “feel good” figurines offer a combination of Swarovski brilliance and more accessible price-points for collectors.

swarovski crystal figurines

Image 1: Swarovski Figurine, “Wild Horses,” 2001. Limited Edition (5501/10000)
Alderfer Auction, Hatfield, Pennsylvania (3 December 2009)
Estimate: $800-$1,000
Price Realized: $3,630

Image 2: Swarovski, “The Eagle,” Limited Edition (2172/10000)
DuMouchelles, Detroit, MI (June 2013)
Estimate: $500 – $1,000
Price Realized: $1,500

Image 3: Swarovski Crystal Birds
Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Thomaston, ME (November 2016)
Estimate: $1,200 – $1,600
Price Realized: $1,300

Image 4: Swarovski Crystal Sorcerer Mickey Figurine, 2009
DuMouchelles, Detroit, MI (April 2017)
Estimate: $100 – $200
Price Realized: $450

Image 5: Four Swarovski Crystal Animal Figurines
DuMouchelles, Detroit, MI (April 2017)
Estimate: $100 – $200
Price Realized: $225

Image 6: Swarovski crystal Maxi Dolphin figurine
William Bunch Auctions & Appraisals, Chadds Ford, PA (November 2015)
Estimate: $200 – $400
Price Realized: $170

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