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  • Kyle Roderick

Swarovski Approaches Its 125th Anniversary With Jewelry And Watch Lines Burnished By Environmental R

Like all of its consumer goods collections, Swarovski's 125th Anniversary jewelry range embodies refined design, master artisanship and the DNA of this heritage company: beautiful, precision-cut crystals. Here, a tennis bracelet from the 125th Anniversary collection presents a classic silhouette that is lovely when worn alone yet versatile enough to pair well with other Swarovski jewels

While the Austrian heritage brand Swarovski has long been renowned for pioneering precision-cut crystals, beads and other jewelry elements in every shape and color of the rainbow, it’s also famed for its global reach, business innovations and history of environmentally sustainable business practices. The company’s Wattens, Austria headquarters and other facilities use clean energy to create Swarovski’s myriad products, and the brand continues its tradition of business innovation and technical excellence while instituting practices to further reduce its carbon footprint. As Swarovski approaches its 125th anniversary in 2020, “Our goal is to reduce packaging by 80 percent by the end of our anniversary year,” says Robert Buchbauer, Chairman of Swarovski’s executive board and CEO of its consumer goods business. “I know this is putting pressure on our people," the great-great grandson of company founder Daniel Swarovski explains, “but this initiative is both environmentally responsible and perfectly in tune with our founder’s philosophy.” Buchbauer, who founded Swarovski’s men’s and women’s watch division in 2009, is justifiably proud of the Swarovski brand heritage.

Robert Buchbauer, CEO of Swarovski Consumer Goods Business, is also the Chairman of Swarovski's Executive Board and a great-great grandson of company founder Daniel Swarovski.

The company founder Daniel Swarovski apprenticed as a metalsmith in his native Bohemia, formerly a leading center for production of hand-cut glass, which is now part of the Czech Republic. In 1883, Swarovski attended the first International Electrical Exhibition in Vienna, Austria, where inventions by such pathfinders as Edison and Siemens triggered his quest to harness the power of electricity to create machinery for glass cutting. In 1891, Swarovski registered a patent for a machine which could cut crystal with incomparable precision. Intent on making his crystals accessible to the widest possible audience, Swarovski’s goal was to create “a diamond for every woman.” By the 1920s, Swarovski crystal jewelry was in demand around the world, with the company’s crystals adorning evening dresses, blouses, hairbands, shoes and other accessories.

From Swarovski's winter 2019/2020 "Naughty" Collection, this feathery ring sparkles with a velvety, dark glamour that infuses the design with contemporary chic.

Some more fast facts to help put this storied brand in perspective: the Swarovski Crystal Business is one of the company’s highest grossing units, with 2018 revenue of about 2.7 billion euros. It encompasses 3,000 stores in around 170 countries with more than 29,000 employees. Swarovski also creates various collections of design-driven fine and fashion jewelry, watches, personal and home accessories; crystal chandeliers plus such optics as professional quality binoculars, all of which are available within 12,000 multi-brand doors.

While a swan is the signature motif of the Swarovski brand, this blue and white crystal "Dancing Swan" pendant necklace also references the 125-year-old brand's reverence for Nature and longtime reliance upon river-sourced, hydroelectric power to run its Wattens, Austria, crystal cutting operations.

“Swarovski pioneered the creation of the highest quality, most consistently precise and uniform crystal gemstones over 100 years ago,” explains Kris Ciulla, vice-president of design and sales for Ciner, a New York-based, family-owned jewelry company founded in 1892. Ciulla, who has been designing jewels that are set with Swarovski crystals for over two decades, relates, “With their beautiful colors, myriad shapes and technical perfection, Swarovski crystals helped revolutionize the jewelry and fashion industries, thus assuring Swarovski’s prominent place in the history of applied arts.”

As Ciulla tells it, after the Great Depression hit in the late 1920s, Ciner and other fine jewelry brands adapted to hard times by setting Swarovski crystals into their vintage fine jewelry molds to create “beautiful fashion jewelry of the highest quality. As the quality of Swarovski crystals was consistently superb and the supply was plentiful,” she explains, this propelled many a fashion jewelry company to greater heights while also helping fulfill Daniel Swarovski’s goal of producing “a diamond for every woman.”

According to Swarovski Creative Director Nathalie Colin, “Our jewelry and other consumer goods aim to embody enchanting colors, a contemporary spirit, form and overall effect, plus versatility, personality, and a dedication to design differentiation based on our crystal DNA.” This icy crystal ring from the "Nice" collection radiates light from a contemporary design.

When Robert Buchbauer is not traveling around the world on Swarovski-related business or facilities in Thailand and Vietnam, he is based in the Wattens, Austria, Swarovski Manufaktur, which is the brand’s three story, 7,000 square meter and energy-efficient home base. “We intend for our ever-expanding digital business and growing range of digital concept stores, known as Swarovski Crystal Studios, to help us reduce use of paper, plastic and other materials,” Buchbauer relates.

Swarovski "Further" earrings from the brand's 125th Anniversary Collection hint at the innovative spirit of the brand, which is on track to reduce its packaging by 80 percent by the end of 2020

Swarovski’s first digital U.S. concept store opened at the luxurious South Coast Plaza mall in Costa Mesa, CA.. in November 2019. Uniting luxurious brick-and-mortar retail services with “virtual” shopping scenarios, the Crystal Studio experience offers mobile checkout, plus interactive and digital “touch points” that include virtual try-on stations like the “Sparkle Bar.” This mirrored zone allows shoppers to test products under various lighting conditions, source style insights from social media, and experience jewels that may have remained undiscovered in more conventional retail environments.

Buchbauer explains that the new retail concept was designed after quizzing consumers about their wants, dreams and needs, through studying the digital shopping habits of millennials, along with the digitally-driven lifestyles of Gen Z. “Asking ‘How can we engage with customers by providing a sparkling experience in our stores?’ also guided the creation of Swarovski Crystal Studios,” Buchbauer notes. “Our concept stores redefine and expand traditional staff and consumer roles by facilitating friendly, interactive dialogues between humans, and between humans and digital technologies.”

According to Swarovski director Nathalie Colin, “I think our company's founder would be amazed by our rapid prototyping and 3-D printing equipment, which allows us to take a drawing of a jewelry, homeware or other design and create a sample within 24 hours." He might also be amazed by the global popularity of the brand's jewelry designs.

Swarovski worked with Patricia Urquiola’s Studio Urquiola team to design the Costa Mesa store. Colored in Swarovski’s signature shade of midnight blue, the boutique’s walls display jewelry in mood board-like arrangements. While shop window screens entice passersby with their bejeweled imagery, large in-store screens picture seasonal and brand ads, and interactive tablets provide extensive styling advice.

When I comment on how harnessing new technologies to sell products seems a wise move in our era’s increasingly challenged physical retail environment, Buchbauer replies, “Using technologies to our best advantage is part of Swarovski’s DNA. Since 1895, Swarovski has been using hydroelectric power from nearby rivers to manufacture the highest quality crystals, natural gemstones, lab-created diamonds and lab-grown colored stones. Our founder, my great-great grandfather Daniel Swarovski,” Buchbauer continues, “started his crystal-making business in Wattens because of its proximity to rivers which are sustainable energy sources.” When I venture that Daniel Swarovski was an early environmentalist, Buchbauer explains, “Daniel was into renewable energy and sustainability decades before such concepts resonated in mass consciousness,” Buchbauer says. “We remain inspired by his intuitive and artistic way of working with nature to create luxury goods that add sparkle, value and charm to everyday life.”

Nathalie Colin is the Paris-based Creative Director of Swarovski's consumer goods business. She and her staff of designers from over 20 different countries collaborate on fulfilling her design vision, which is powered by the desire to add sparkle to people's lives which also helps them access and brighten their "inner light."

Swarovski Consumer Goods Creative Director Nathalie Colin agrees. “Creating enchanting crystals and brilliant jewelry with the help of smart technologies lives at the heart of the Swarovski philosophy, method and mission. So does environmental sustainability and high respect for our employees, as well as the many artists we collaborate with on special projects.” Based in Paris, Colin oversees a creative team of 50 staff members hailing from 21 countries. Although she has served as Creative Director since 2006, Colin maintains a perpetual sense of wonder about her position. “After 13 years dedicated to crystal creations, I am still excited every time we kick off a new collection. Crystal is such a versatile material, lively, adding positive and glamorous touches to every design. Like its many facets, there are myriad layers of inspiration that I can explore in designing with crystal.” Given that Swarovski crystals can transform a few points of light points into thousands, it seems fitting that the themes of Swarovski’s autumn/winter 2019 fashion jewelry collections are inspired by the wonders of cosmic, earthly and human light.

“For Fall/Winter 2019,” Colin begins, “our fashion jewelry collections are shaped and illuminated by the recognition that our lives are guided by the power of light, in its many celestial, earthly and human forms. Moreover,” she continues, “Each one of us must nurture our imagination, our inner light, in order to be fully awake and aware.”

Along with sparkle, another hallmark of Swarovski jewels is their brilliant design. The movement of these "Naughty" Feather earrings turns these jewels into charming kinetic sculptures.

To help us on our path to enlightenment, pieces in Swarovski’s Duo Moon and Star fashion jewelry collection for Fall/Winter 2019 embody luminous moons, sparkling stars and other celestial motifs that are beautiful, universal and timeless. Combining pure, white and bright Nordic landscapes with polar wildlife motifs, the Polar Bestiary collection features an icy crystal pavé ring crowned with a wolf’s head, antler-framed crystal pendants and an infinitely luminous, smooth and multi-layered crystal necklace that illuminates the face with all the power of a meteor shower.

The clear brilliance of sunshine on snow infuses the crystalline North and Magic collections with a look reminiscent of winter’s first snowfall. In rose gold or rhodium tones, the organically beautiful rings and pendants in the North and Magic collections recall icy snowflakes and crystalline glaciers. A double-stranded necklace with a circular crystal motif glistens with frosty brilliance.

Those who seek the light within may find Swarovski’s tarot-themed Chromancy collection to their liking. Dressed in winter blues and emblazoned with such motifs as tarot cards, the moon and brilliant stars, the jewels in this group glow with mysterious and symbolic suggestive power. How do Colin and her team manage to create such evocative adornments? According to her, it’s almost as if they can read each other’s minds, and channel the philosophy of Daniel Swarovski, the company’s founder.

The artistically landscaped and water-featured museum park of Swarovski "Crystal World" or Kristallwelten, typifies the brand's innovative approach to showcasing its reverence for Nature

“The designers fully understand my creative vision and my main points of focus,” says Colin. “Our jewelry and other consumer goods aim to embody enchanting colors, a contemporary spirit, form and overall effect, plus versatility, personality, and a dedication to design differentiation based on our crystal DNA.” The 2019 “Naughty” and “Nice” jewelry collections exemplify this, as does the 125th Anniversary jewelry collection which abounds with reinterpretations of classic Swarovski jewelry. What would Daniel Swarovski do if he could see what the company he founded is doing today? According to Colin, “I think he would be amazed by our rapid prototyping and 3-D printing equipment, which allows us to take a drawing of a jewelry, homeware or other design and create a sample within 24 hours. And I think he’d approve of the decisive steps we are taking to become an ever more sustainable business.”

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