Vonêche, global pioneer of industrial crystal
In addition to its admirably restored half-timbered houses and its castle, the charming village of Vonêche in the province of Namur was also the site of the fabulous adventure of the most prestigious crystal glassworks in continental Europe at the start of the 19th century.
The Vonêche glassworks date back to 14 August 1778 and were founded following a donation from the sovereign of the time, Maria Theresa of Austria. The proximity of vast sandy bottoms and large forests helped to make the site a centre of glass production. The glassworks originally produced only simple window glass. Vonêche expanded rapidly from 1792 to 1814, particularly after the glassworks were taken over in 1802 by Aimé-Gabriel d'Artigues, who, with the support of Napoleon, turned the site into a large crystal glassworks. He expanded and renovated the facilities and introduced technical innovations, which led to the Vonêche glassworks being the first on the continent to manufacture lead crystal. The crystal glassworks developed rapidly thanks to high quality products, a market that extended throughout the Empire and a craze for Vonêche crystal among the nobility and wealthy bourgeoisie. The crystal glassworks employed more than 600 workers in 1810. Twenty years later, Vonêche closed its doors, a victim of economic restrictions and the blocking of the Dutch market and its Asian colonies following the Belgian revolution.
Today, "Vonêche" can be found in private collections in Europe and Asia as well as in famous Parisian and New York museums and, of course, in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Namur.