The story begins in 1756 in Bohemia and continues right down to the united Europe of today, taking in on the way some of the most dramatic events in European history.
The Riedel family has been in the glass business for 300 years, with 11 generations keeping the family business intact. The story begins in 1678 in the northern part of Bohemia, bordering Schlesia - today the Czech republic and Poland respectively. This part of Bohemia was a German speaking enclave known as the Sudetenland.
The Venetians brought back the knowledge of glass making from the Near East around 1.000 A.D. The knowledge of producing glass spread slowly towards the northern part of Europe, searching for energy, critical to the melting of glass. Wood was the source, causing a glassmaker migration to the forests. Due to this migration, a glass culture developed in Bohemia in the 17th century.
After being a prison during WWII, Claus Reidel returned to his village. The head of the local glassworks, Swarovski, had heard that there was a Riedel in town and asked to see him. Swarovski had been taught the art of glass making by Claus's great grandfather Josef, and took Claus under his wing like a son, even sending him to university to study chemistry. Claus Riedel, now married to Italian Adia, whom he had met in Italy during the war, moved around doing various jobs between 1951 and 1956, ending up in Innsbruck, Austria. This was around the time that the Swarovskis were approached to take over a glass works in the small town of Kufstein near Innsbruck in Austria, but they declined as the production of stemware did not fit their profile. Claus had no capital to buy the works, but the Swarovskis advanced him the money, and Claus took over the bankrupt Tiroler Glashütte, today's Riedel factory.
After a period of readjustment, Walter threw himself into the new business with his son, but they had quite different ideas in terms of priorities - Claus was very keen on the production of stemware and Walter preferred high output items. This led to an inevitable
The Riedel glassworks had a brand new direction - unadorned, delicate, fine wine glasses. In his 1961 catalogue, Claus Riedel displayed for the first time his vision of glasses specially made to enhance specific styles of wine, distinguishing the Riedel company more than ever before, as to date fashion in stemware had been dictated purely by aesthetics, not function. The handmade Sommeliers series was launched in 1973, introducing the revolutionary new concept to the wine trade and changing the world of wineglasses forever. In his research into how the shape of a glass affects the wine inside, Claus discovered one major factor - that virtually every glass people drank wine from was too small to do justice to the wine. The Sommeliers Series was showered with prizes from around the world.
Georg Riedel, tenth generation, further developed Claus's theories, producing grape-specific glasses, and mechanizing the production of fine wine glasses with his Vinum series, making Riedel glasses far more affordable to wine lovers the world over. A milestone in the modern Riedel company is the founding of a Riedel company in the United States, which came about following an encounter between Robert Mondavi and Georg Riedel, showing real commitment to the US market.
While Claus was a talented designer, as recognised by the National Olympic Committee when they commissioned him to design and produce vases for the 1968 Olympic Games, his son Georg brought a calming, analytical eye to the business, soon spotting weaknesses in the corporate structure. As Georg took over more and more of the strategy for the business, Claus gradually became less involved, until Georg took the helm of the company in 1987, where he remains to this day.