Start of an empire
The Riedel glassworks, with its head office currently in Austria, originates from the mountainous lands of northern Bohemia. Here in one of the major glass producing areas of the Czech republic, Johann Leopold Riedel (1726-1800) started his own company in 1756
by hiring the Antoniwald glassworks. In 1775
he built a glassworks of his own at Christiansthal (now Kristánov). The Christiansthal factory stayed operational until 1887
when it was destroyed in a forest fire.
Johann was succeeded by his eldest son Anton Leopold and later by Anton's son, Franz Anton Riedel. Franz anton Riedel (1786-1844) built the Wilhelmshöhe glassworks at Klein-Iser and helped inventing two new uranium-based colors, annagrün and annagelb
, that were much used for cut crystal bowls and vases from the 1840s onwards.
Josef Riedel senior
Franz only had one daughter and she couldn't inherit her father's business. However, 4 years before Franz' death the Riedel dynasty's line of succession was solved by his nephew, Josef Riedel, who married his daughter Anna. Josef turned out to be quite the businessman. He expanded the Riedel company with several new factories and he soon owned 5 glassworks, 2 decorating workshops, a bronze foundry, a cotton mill and a textile plant.
Riedel villa in Desna
Josef also built a new mansion and a glass factory near the village of Desná. This new location quickly became the Riedel headquarters, while the number of employees grew to 2200 in 1858
. The Desna
factory is still in use today, although not longer a part of the Riedel firm.
Josef built another factory at Klein-Iser.
From art nouveau to 1930s
Josef Riedel died and one of his 4 sons, Josef Riedel Junior, took over his father's business. Josef Riedel junior already had a long career as a glass scientist for his father's company and one of his major accomplishments was the invention of a whole range of new glass colors. From these no-less-than 600 colors, glass rods were made that were used for bead and jewelry making.
Josef Riedel junior
Next to the production of beads and the usual household glass, the Riedel company increased its output of art glass objects during the first decades of the 20th century. These included Gallé inspired acid-etched vases, cameo glass
, painted and enamelled vases with jugendstil patterns and also Lalique inspired, opalescent female figures. The factory produced a lot of art nouveau and art deco designs from outside glass artists as well, like Schneider, Artur Plewa, Heinrich Hoffmann and Curt Schlevogt
Josef Riedel died in 1924
and his two sons, Walter and Arno, took over the company. Walter became the leading glass scientist of the company but was arrested in 1945
when the Russians conquered Berlin. They sent Walter to the Soviet Union and forced him to work for them in the glass industry. Meanwhile the Riedel company was confiscated and nationalized by the Czechs. The Desná and Joblonecké factories were merged into a new company named Jablonecké Sklárna.
A new start in Austria
When Walter came back from Russia in 1955
he and his son Claus Josef Riedel started a new glass factory in Austria. They bought the Tiroler glassworks in Kufstein for the symbolic amount of 1 shilling. However the factory's debt of 18 million shilling was also included in the deal.
The new glass company specialized in mouthblown tableware. The new items were mostly plain or mitre-cut in a restrained modern style, with a focus on the design of wine glasses. Already in 1957
they won several prizes at a Brussels exposition for their wine glasses and decanters. In 1961
the factory employed 300 workers.
Under the direction of Georg Josef Riedel, born in 1949, the Riedel firm has evolved into a world wide operating company. Georg founded a network of Riedel-owned subsidiaries, starting in 1979
by opening Riedel USA and continuing the expansions to Canada (1992), Germany (1996), Japan (2000) and UK (2001). In 2006 he founded Riedel Development, specializing on private label offers.
, Georg bought the German-based companies Nachtmann
and Spiegelau, operating the three brands (Riedel, Nachtmann, Spiegelau) under "Riedel Glass Works" one of the largest producers of quality glass in Europe. Following his father's desire to make the "perfect" wine glass, Georg Josef made Riedel the world's leading wine glass company. His son Maximimilian Josef and daughter Laetizia are also working for the company and ready to follow in his footsteps.