Swedish Glass: From Orrefors to IKEA


Sweden was the most influential, and probably the most significant glassmaking nation of the 20th century, and the Swedes link glass more closely to their national identity than any other nation.

Early technical breakthroughs at Orrefors around 1920, established Swedish glass on the international stage. A ‘good’ WW2, which left it undamaged and enriched, enabled Sweden to fly, economically, socially and artistically, into the latter half of the 20th century. During this boom, its people became the richest in the world.

The period was marked by Swedish glass achieving such eminence in quality, originality and diversity that it can rightly be viewed as a golden age that endured for about 50 years.

Inevitably, prolonged familiarity with some of the world’s greatest glass, twinned with global trends in commerce and fashion, caused the Swedish glass bubble to deflate. In the 1950s, the industry employed around 3,000. Today, less than a quarter remain.

It is ironic that the greatest destructive force against Swedish glassmaking has arguably been IKEA, the giant international domestic retailer. Its base remains at Anghults, deep in the Swedish forests of the glassmaking region, known as Småland. The glassware commonly made for IKEA and its derivatives is typically retailed at prices reputed to be lower than the cost of the energy and materials required to make similar pieces in Sweden.

This new talk has been composed to coincide with Andy McConnell’s forthcoming study Swedish Glass Design, due for publication by the Antique Collectors’ Club in 2016.