"...nulla persona possit portare vel vendere ad aliquam fornacem Bicchierorum de lignis silve comunis de colle..."
"...nobody may bring or sell, to any glass kiln, wood that comes from the forest of the municipality of Colle..."
State Archive of Siena, Colle, 78.
This is the oldest documented evidence (dating to 1331) that glass was produced in Colle as early as the 14th century. The modern history of the glass industry in Colle began in 1820 with a French glass-maker, Francesco Mathis, and the establishment of a "crystal-glass" factory in the lower part of Colle Val d'Elsa, on the site of the former Augustinian monastery alongside the church of S. Agostino. The kiln, which was of a unique kind in all of Tuscany, immediately became known for its "crystal-glass", which was much more sophisticated than the utilitarian green glass, with accessory parts made of woven straw, which was produced at other kilns in Tuscany. The factory also had a building adjacent to it where the products were cut, in other words where they were decorated and engraved.
The "glass-crystal" made in Colle Val d'Elsa at that time did not yet contain any lead oxide - the ingredient which gives glass paste its magical brilliancy and total lack of colour - unlike crystal ware made in Britain and France. When Mathis died in 1832, a Bavarian became the new director of the kiln, Giovan Battista Schmid, and he later become sole owner. Schmid was active until shortly before this time at the kiln of S. Vivaldo, near Montaione, and before that at Altare. Under the guidance of the strong-minded Schmid, Colle’s glass-works notched up several successes, starting with the numerous Expositions which it took part in, especially the Gold Medal it won at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1855. Giovan Battista Schmid ran the business with a firm hand until his death in 1885.
The fierce dispute which immediately took place among his heirs led to a long period of instability which ended in 1889, with the sale of the firm to Alfonso Nardi, a glass industrialist active in the Empoli area. In 1921 another industrialist, Modesto Boschi, acting on the entreaties of the population of Colle, which was laid low by the lack of employment following the closure of Nardi’s glassworks, rented the premises and reopened the kilns. In the immediate post-war period, experiments were stepped up at the Boschi Glassworks with a view to creating the formula of lead crystal, and these experiments were carried out at the "Fabbrichina" factory: in 1946 a mixture was successfully produced with a lead oxide percentage of 15-16 %.
In 1963, after major investment and many experiments, the La Piana Glassworks in Colle Val d’Elsa managed to produce glass containing lead oxide in percentages higher than 24%: this product was able to compete, in terms of its brilliancy and transparency, with glass from Britain, France, and Belgium, which boasted a centuries-old tradition of lead glass. Today in Colle crystal glass represents one of the most important manufacturing sectors, indeed the town produces 15% of the entire world’s crystal glass, and over 95% of all of Italy’s crystal glass. The Museum tells the whole of this story, with numerous artifacts and pieces brought together from public and private collections, on the site of the old Boschi Glassworks. If you want to find out everything there is to know about lead crystal glass, its history and production in Colle di Val d'Elsa, you are advised to consult the official site of the Consorzio del Cristallo (Lead Crystal Glass Consortium) of Colle di Val d'Elsa.
Via dei Fossi (ex area-Boschi)
Colle di Val d'Elsa (Siena)
tel +39 0577 924.135
fax +39 0577 924.135
Opening hours in summer (Easter - 31 October):
from Tuesday to Sunday and holidays 10am – 12pm / 4pm - 7.30pm
Closed on Mondays