HANS J. KREBS TELLS ABOUT CRYSTAL CHANDELIER CRAFTSMANSHIP IN SWEDEN DURING 1940 - 1990
My father Hans, who was born in Berlin fled as children to Sweden from Germany at the time of the Second World War, He was what we today call an unaccompanied refugee child. He then worked almost all his life with crystal chandeliers. Already in the forties, he started in the industry. When I reflect his written text, it is mainly in his own words.
My earliest memories of the lighting industry stems from the 1940s. Some are unsafe because a long time that has elapsed, no information is such that I have heard second hand. Around 1940-41, the war-ravaged Europe, Sweden was suspended from imports from other countries, with the exception of food and other essential commodities. There was a great shortage of goods in the country and then sought after substitute products, often inferior products, so-called ”surrogater”, slang; "surr". JL Koff, were antique dealers, and imported silver objects from England before the war. Now searching for something that could be produced in Sweden. Along with a younger relative, David Jacobson initiated the manufacturing of crystal prisms and made contact with Flygsfors Glassworks. They made molds to two sizes baroque prisms, 2½ inches and 3 inches (63 and 75 mm long). Because there was a limited supply of glass cutters cutting became a home work. Sometimes made by people from other professions who had to learn the craft. Sometimes the glass workers cut crystals at their leisure time. Somehow prisms soon was delivered through other channels than the Flygsfors glassworks. Generally, however, it was difficult to buy the prisms. Because production was localized to Småland soon manufacturer of chandeliers fixtures started on their home turf. Besides the baroque prisms Flygsfors produced Venetian clear drops in 50 and 60 mm sizes. The drops trade mark was four trapped air bubbles. Eventually production, of champagne colour started. Even Gullaskruvs glassworks started crystal production. They made star almonds. Gullaskruv had significant problems with their glass. The prisms after some time started to sweat acid. The partnership between Koff and Jacobson did not last long. Jacobson went on at a larger scale and Koff started his own company with his son Martin as a handyman and his son in law working as a salesman. The son in law asked for 50% of the profit and demanded his share immediately after the order writing. The capital was virtually nill, making it an impossible approach. Martin Koff was inducted for military service and so I became the handyman in his son's place. In this way I came to start in the lighting industry. After completing military service Koff came back and I had to leave. His argument was "I am the son of the house Koff '. Self, I came in contact with a sponsor and started the manufacturing of crystal chandeliers in a very small scale. The year was 1946 and a small imports of crystal prisms from Czechoslovakia had begun. An importer -firma Juerke found the right connections and managed to bring home a continuous supply of crystals. I had my workshop at Beridarbansgatan in central Stockholm, next to the Swedish Metal works. I went there most every day to get hold of some materials, most vain. Eventually I learned that some key people made extra profits. They allowed themselves to be bribed… Around Sweden there were few established manufacturers of lighting fixtures with crystal chandeliers in the program. The biggest may have been Böhlmarks, with a large exhibition of high-quality lighting with an emphasis on the crystal lighting. Böhlmarks also had many interior designers and draftsman employed exclusively engaged in project and special orders. The brothers Hansson was a reputable firm. They co-worked with Böhlmarks. Upsala Armaturfabrik, who moved to Stockholm also had a broad program with many crystal chandeliers in their catalog. They also worked a lot with interiors. They moved later to Hultsfred. Stadsmissionens Industrihem operated more or less voluntarily. Their main aim was to create work on the marginalized people. The subsidized production never needed to ensure profitability. Bromma Metal Factory-made frames for crysyal chandeliers and supplied many industry companies with frames. Company Wermico in Södertalje, actually manufacturers of metal products of various kinds made small series of baroque frames. At that time (in the 60's Tomas note.) several companies was established. Among the major was Nordenberg, Prim and Eriksson in Stockholm. In Småland there were the Brothers Hjalmarsson, Ringberg and Gustavsson, Armatur och Glas, Bengt Svensson in Algutsboda, Axelsson and Franzen in Nybro. · Below I list different companies started during 20th century Often chandeliers manufactured and church chandeliers manufactured by foundrymen, sword makers and girdle makers. These companies were often small and undertook orders for luminaires with and without crystal. Some names: Markus Ax with a workshop at Klarabergsgatan in Stockholm. Johansson Metal fabrik, with workshop at Linnégatan in Stockholm. Nyströms Metal fabrik at Grev Turegatan in Stockholm. There was also a foundryman in Hok and a company in Gränna (Bollings? Tomas note.) The holder of which was a well-known alderman who also made candy canes. The company delivered baroque frames in smaller series. I almost forgot an important name, KA Johnson Metallfabrik at Nybrogatan in Stockholm. A medium-sized company in the industry that had very good reputation and mainly devoted to the manufacture and refurbishment of chandeliers. In Malmö there was Bror Sjöholm, girdle-maker manufacturing in a smaller scale. Bror Sjöholm had its own lighting store where he preferably sold his own designs. Other companies in the industry were Emmaboda Glass and Fittings, later EGA. The company was operated by brothers Hjalmarsson and mainly delivered to mail order companies, auctioneers and wholesalers at very low prices. Axelsson and Franzen had a broader range of lights with hints of some crystal lighting. Furthermore, there was Lövsjö armaturfabrik in Mantorp. Modern armatur in Stockholm "Big John", Armaturverken in Stockholm with most of its sales through its own store. KG Johansson "Little John" with shop premises at Upplandsgatan in Stockholm mainly supplying auctioneers. Cramer brothers who came from Norway had a great craftsmanship with an emphasis in art casting. They mainly made frames for Drottningholm chandeliers that were popular for a while, and later also frames for Empire chandeliers. At the end of the war, many young refugees from the Baltic States arrived Sweden some with roots in metal manufacturing. Some of them started to make frames for crystal chandeliers. Mostly they worked as one-man companes -Elmik who rented a few square meters of Holgerssons garage on Beridarbansgatan. R. Peensalu who collaborated with Modern Armatur, Hintsov & Larsson, who eventually was bought by Max Laser. A manufacturer who succeeded quite well was Gustav Österlund having company Österlunds Metal fabrik, who early realized the advantage of large series production. The firm was acquired by K. G. Färdig who ran it for a few years. In Skåne there were several firms that dealt with chandeliers and frames. One of the largest was the brothers Andersson in Malmö?Olsson Landskrona, forget the company name. In Kosta was Ringberg and Gustavsson a well organized company with its own production of frames in a separate area, they have moved to western Sweden and operated in the right large scale under the name Ringus. (Crystal chandelier production was later sold to Markslöjd and further moved to China. Tomas note.) Andersson & Schön in Linköping had a manufacturing mainly candlesticks and smaller chandeliers cooperating closely with the Nyttotips / Lycenta. Isak Karlsson became well known under the name Rejmyre Armaturfabrik and became a major player in the market. In the beginning the salesman traveled with so-called unpackings for direct sales. They managed, however, to also sell to retailers to wholesalers and even export using their own agents. Rejmyre Metalprydnander was a partner with Rejmyre Armaturfabrik. Metalprydnader made frames in large batches and sold its products to almost all the manufacturs of crystal chandeliers. Metalprydnader also acquired baths for gold plating. To polish the brass had become too expensive due to higher wages and gilding therefore became a cheaper option and the result was a better and more consistent quality. It was now relatively simple to buy frames from one company, crystals from another and mount the crystal and thus become producer. Hans J Krebs 1925-2012