Glass is a combination of sand (silica), soda (a form of salt), and lime (burnt limestone). These common materials, in the presence of very high heat, will melt together forming common glass. When trace amounts of metal oxides are included in the mixture the glass takes on various colors. A little iron oxide (rust) will turn the glass a pale green, manganese oxide produces red, and cobalt in the melt turns the glass blue. Almost any color is possible, depending on the amount and combination of trace elements.
Humans have been making glass for thousands of years. In that time they have experimented and found thousands of different types of glass and hundreds of colors. Nearly every artisan glassmaker had her or her own 'secret recipe'.
One of those discoveries lead to the introduction of small amounts of lead into the glass. This produced a glass that was exceptionally hard and highly refractive. In other words, it could be faceted like a gemstone and sparkled like a crystal. This was 'lead crystal' and the Swarovski Company has had its own secret recipe for producing the world's finest crystal for over a hundred years. Unlike many other companies, Swarovski manufactures all its own crystal to exacting standards in its own factories. They control every step in the production of everything they make.
Not only did the company have a secret recipe, but the founder of the company invented a machine to facet the crystal glass with impeccable accuracy. The Swarovski faceting machines could produce cut crystal with more precision and greater speed than any other company. The result was to make what had once been expensive luxury items affordable to nearly everyone.
Cutting crystal is dangerous and time-consuming when done by hand. Swarovski's cutting machine made the job faster and safer for their employees. The health and safety of their employees has always been a prime concern for the Swarovski company, which was not always a common concern for others in the region.
There were a great many beadmakers in central Europe, especially in Czechoslovakia and Austria. It was a cottage industry in that region, with families working together to produce beads for sale to companies in local villages and towns. These beadmakers were making beautiful beads but they could not produce large quantities of identical beads. Each bead was made individually hand-made. Color and size would vary by batch. Swarovski could produce large quantities of uniform beads, which was a revolution in the fashion industry. Beaded clothing and accessories could suddenly be seen everywhere, on nearly everyone.
The Swarovski company continues to experiment. Now there are many recipes for the wide range of products the company produces. New colors, new shapes, and new finishes are being introduced all the time.