WELCOME TO Val's Alentejo -I write about my region of Alentejo. My art ,painting, my cottages, Family life, my animals -Travels And my love for Roses- and rural country life.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Crystal clear

3000 years of glass making.

80 miles north of Lisbon is "Marinha Grande" and Stephen's crystal factory. Set amongst beautiful pine forests.

Artisans for more than 3000 years have been making glass by applying intense heat to sand.

The Art of making lead crystal is relatively new .  Its discovery generally attributed to an Englishman-named - George Ravenscroft 1632- 1683.

Ravenscroft introduced lead oxide to the raw materials for glassmaking.

As a result it was as brilliant as Rock Crystal , with a greater transparency  weight and sonority difference than other forms of glass..
 It was baptized   "LEAD  CRYSTAL"  -" Glass with a soul."known to the collector's.
Crystal Glassware is a high quality glassware that does not actually contain crystalline structure.
It's a heavy lead based type of glassware that is often identifiable by the Intricate pattern faceting.
Collector's of glassware can most often recognize what factory each piece of glassware comes from and where it is made.

Little is known about Ravenscroft's personal life..  He was born in 1632.  Much is written about the way in which Ravenscroft applied his art of glassmaking and adding Lead.
Unclear , though probably certain that he lived in Venice , Italy.  Learning and working as a glassmaker and taking back his techniques to England.
Venitian glass was imported into England as early as the 13th century.
Venitian glass makers were hired in the industry during the 16th century.
It was Ravenscroft however , who introduced this beautiful method of glass making to the world.


  John Beare(Englishman) 1748-  Started the ROYAL GLASS FACTORY (Real Fabrica de Vidros)in 1748. Known and still known as - MARINHA GRANDE:

In 1769 ..William Stephens, bought the then very small factory and developed it under the protection of the "Marquis de Pombal ".   Pombal lent him 80.000 Cruzads(currency of that period) and gave him the right to cut wood in parts of the forest of  Marinha Grande, for use in the factory.
He also recognised a demand for building materials after the Earthquake of 1755 and saw a way he could make more lime by using "anthrocite" waste(culm) shipped from England. After which it was produced in Portugal.
Stephens became the richest industrialist in Europe.
In 1826.  The factory was given to the state.

Born(  in England in 1731 - He died in the Stephens family home in Lisbon in 1803(illegitimate)

In  1746 Stephens came to Portugal to join his uncle John Stephens , then a successful established  Commercial businessman .. British businessmen were exempt from taxes during this period. They became a very very wealthy family.
Lapidated Stephen's red lead crystal (collection. ) 
In the European Council.On only glass poducts
containing at lest 24% of lead oxide may be referred to
as "Lead Crystal"
Products with less lead oxide or glass products
with other metals used in place of lead oxide
"must "be labeled -
"Crystallin of Crystal Glass"
                                                             A modern "congnac/brandy lead crystal bottle)
 made to order at the " Marinha Grande" lead crystal factory.

collectors piece (stephen's factory)

Sketch  from stephen's drawings.

GREEN LAPIDATED LEAD CRYSTAL  "Stephen's factory collector's piece)

                                                                          Glass blower
                                                           Ravenscroft Crystal
Ravenscroft Crystal Chandalier.


Lynford Hall.
Lyne Stephens family home.

Decades later the Stephen's fortune passed to his cousin Charles Lyne Stephens.1801-1860
Stephens Lyne- Stephens. was a Tory politician, who represented Barnstaple before the 1832 reform act.
After Inheriting the family fortune from glass manufacture in Portugal in 1858- Stephen's Lyne Stephens  became -The High Sheriff of Norfork.
Stephens was said to be the most wealthiest commoner in Britain during that period.

In 2003.  Jenifer Roberts wrote a book.

"The strange history of the" Lyne Stephens fortune."

I first found out about the story of Marinha Grande, from a very close friend of mine.  Ever since its always fascinated me.

Most of my information has been taken from "Wikipedia" ..
I have tried to relate as accurate as possible. 

I love all types of Crystal.  When younger having guests around for dinner, always serving after dinner drinks with some excellent Crystal glasses.

Its been a little long this post.. i do hope that I haven't taken too much of your time.
The Portuguese have a long standing history with the British businessmen .Many of the families carrying on the family trait and now belong to our very big Anglo- Portuguese families.

Wishing you all a Happy week.



  1. That was fascinating Val. I love the 300 year old olive tree, what a treasure to have on your land. x

    1. Pleased you enjoyed todays post..
      Yes, there are many Olive trees that old around here.
      thank you Suzy.

  2. certainly a skilled artform! and quite pricey in its collection, too. :)

    1. It is indeed a skilled artform. Some of the collectors pieces are very expensive..
      I like to look at them.
      thank you T

  3. Hello Val:
    Glass is a fascinating material, we agree. It is truly amazing how the transformation can be made and how colour can be introduced and such complex patterns be formed. You provide a lot of interesting information here.

    An uncle of ours once had a small collection of Roman glass. It was so intriguing how the glass had continued to 'run' over the centuries making the most amazing patterns.

    1. Thank you Jane and Lance,
      Nice to see you again.
      Glass making, has fascinated me since a young girl.
      -true, its amazing how its continued to run over all these centuries.

  4. How very interesting....I'm glad I took the time to read it. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Dear Val - a really interesting post about a product that I love. Wherever I go I always seem to be attracted to glass in one form or another. In fact we bought back a lovely glass antique tazza when we were in Northern Ireland, which I very carefully carried back home.
    Was the Ravenscroft glass blowing works moved to Portugal because labour was cheaper?
    You really are a clever blogger, a moving image on your post. I do not know how to do that.
    That chandelier is magnificent.

    1. I went crazy about the Ravenscroft chandelier.. its magnificent.. one amongst many he made.
      I love Crystal. My mother had so many lovely pieces . Many from Venice.
      Ravenscroft did not move his factory to Portugal.. It was Stephens who brought his idea to Portugal and introduced the new method of "Lead Crystal" here.
      The reason Stephens came here like many English businessmen was that the "Marquis de Pombal" allowed them to trade without paying taxes.
      Dear Rosemary..
      If I was to do that image moving .. i have forgoten how.. I clicked this and that and it appreared. It even surprised me.
      Thank you for your comments.. pleased that you liked my post.
      Enjoy your Tazza..

  6. Oh that was so interesting Val. Such a mine of information. I love what I'm learning from my blogging friends. Thank you.
    Patricia x

    1. Thank you Patricia,
      I enjoy doing research about favorite subjects and things i like.
      Indeed, we all learn from one another.

  7. I for one am happy you shared the details because I love reading and researching facts about certain topics. Crystal is so beautiful. Love the red.
    Have a great day too, Val.

    1. Thank you Marcia,
      I spent some time researching this post.. A lot of the imformation I already new.
      I too love Crystal.

  8. What an interesting post, Val, full of information about beautiful crystal. I adore a chandelier, and that one is just fabulous. Love the gadget with the changing photo - very clever indeed! xx

    1. Thank you Patricia,
      I love crystal.. My mother collected it , and we used it.

  9. Hello Val, many thanks for your kind words and wishes, I greatly appreciate them.

  10. Hi Val: Beautiful post, what a gorgeous crystal chandalier. I would love to have something like that, and the money it would take to buy it, I'm sure. Thank you for your kind comments on my Autumn post. The colors are beautiful this year but we had rain, thunder, lightning, and wind yesterday so don't know how long they will last. We even had a tornado warning!! Glad I got my pictures..Happy Wednesday..Judy

    1. Hello Judy,
      The chandalier is most beautiful.. its amongst many that Ravenscroft designed and made.
      We are having rain then sun here. A little thunder early this morning.
      thank you for your comments Judy.

  11. You become ever more special with photos! You have to teach me!
    Very interesting post on crystals . I really liked the red glasses!
    Wonderful post Val !
    Have a nice evening !

    1. Thank you Olympia. I worked a good few hours on the post.
      I would love to teach you.. but I dont know how i did it.. I just took photo after photo from Images.. but they ended up on top of one another.
      I will try it again. but i cant remember how i got there.
      I am pleased you like the post.

  12. Hallo Val!I like your post!So beautiful crystal!I have a collection with crystals!I like the Lapidated Stephen's red lead crystal collection!That chandelier is magnificent Val!Thank you for sharing this post with us!Have a lovely evening my dear!

    1. Thank you Dimi.. Yes the Stephens collection is stunning.
      I too like the red. My mother handed down something similar , but venetian glass.

  13. I do love chrystal and glass, Val! We are in the process of buying our town house in Italy, as you know, and we want and need a really big chandelier, for the entrance, which is a massive room. I would like to buy a Murano glass lampshade, really, but I have to admit, the chandelier in the photo is just fantastic!

    I love glass, especially old, antique glass and Murano glass. My little passion has to be Lalique, though!

    Lovely post, Val!

    A presto!



    1. Thank you Anna.
      I love all crystal.. but especially lead crystal.
      The chandalier is beautiful.. i wanted mainly to comment on the design and the Ravenscroft technique that was brought to Portugal..

  14. Hello Val! How are you?
    What an interesting post, full of information. I've always been intrigued with the art of glass blowing. I have a few crystal items, mostly from my mother. It just doesn't seem to be so popular here now with the young ones. Maybe that will change as time goes by.
    I've been away on a Gardens tour and it's good to read your posts again. Betty

    1. Hello Betty,
      All is well. just dont seem to have enough time to follow up on blogging.
      No.. the styles of glass have changed for the younger generation. However, some nice pieces around.
      thank you Betty.

  15. Hi Val,
    The chandelier is beautiful.
    I have put you on my blogs to visit now Val, so I can keep more up to date with postings...
    Have a Friday full of loveliness.
    love Maria x

  16. Thank you Maria,
    that is so sweet of you to do that.. I still need to get my blog roll on the side of my blog.
    I too love the chandelier.

  17. I love reading all the information you write about in your posts, Val! It's always so interesting. The color of some of that crystal is just so gorgeous. That blue! And the light green. I love using beautiful crystal, even for something simple like iced tea. It makes a simple thing very special. Take care!

  18. I also love glass and crystal. That was so interesting and it's amazing how it has invented such a long time ago. I have obviously heard of the glass makers in Venice but haven't heard previously of the glass makers of " Marinha Grande."
    Sarah x

  19. This has been a wonderful post to read. I know seeing these beautiful creations in person would be amazing! What detail in each piece. I can't even imagine that chandelier! Thanks for sharing this interesting post! Enjoy your weekend!


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