On Thursday night, Swarovski hosted a shindig to celebrate their pretty new store in San Francisco’s Union Square. And Vanessa Getty co-hosted the event to raise money for her latest charity, San Francisco Aid for Animals, which is a great idea: it’s a fund to help people who can afford to fix their dog’s broken leg or buy medicine for their pet’s curable but potentially fatal infection. Dr. Alan Stewart, co-founder of the organization, told me at the party that there’s been a large increase in euthanized pets in recent years, and he hopes this will help.
Helping animals kind of makes sense for Swarovski. Their symbol is, after all, a swan. And the company’s little animal figurines were all the rage in the 80s (there were actually some really cute colorful ones at the store on Thursday, check out my photos!).
For better or worse, those little animal figurines shaped my opinion of Swarovski crystals. Mainly I knew my mom loved them and I bought her one or two for Christmas. But I always wondered what was so special about these particular crystals. Were they any better than other crystals, and was an environment someplace being destroyed to mine the insane numbers of Swarovski’s crystals that seem to be cropping up everywhere?
The answers are yes and no, respectively, according to Jennifer Hinkle, a Swarovski marketing representative I spoke to at the party (who was wearing an amazing Swarovski necklace from a Lagerfeld collaboration they did last year). Swarovski crystals are man-made using a closely guarded secret technique that makes them exceptionally sparkly. To protect the secret, folks who manufacture the crystals wear color-coded outfits that indicate the one part of the process they’re responsible for. No single worker (except for a few family members) knows the entire process so no one can run off and start making their own sparkly animals.
Daniel Swarovski got his start because his father owned a small glass cutting factory, according to Wikipedia. Swarovski Jr. came up with a special method and machine for cutting crystals in the late 1800s. The company has also devised various coatings for the crystal, which give a rainbow appearance. So there you have it: Swarovski crystals are special, and the family’s making sure they stay that way!
Check out the gallery for photos of the party, and of the 2,100 crystal strands and 33,000 individual crystals that make up a chandelier meant to evoke San Francisco’s famed Lombard Street (AKA the crooked street).
The text has been changed to correct when the company was founded, which was in the late 1800s, not 1900s, and to make the attribution to Wikipedia more clear.