Classy glass from the past

The Local’s series Made in Germany presents the best the country has to offer, including the transparently superior products from Jenaer Glas.

Classy glass from the past
Photo: Jenaer Glas

From luxury cars to precision machinery, “Made in Germany” still means quality craftsmanship around the world. But the Teutonic attention to detail goes far beyond engineering. This series features a diverse array of products from both well-known German brands and less famous firms. But no matter big or small, all of them are focused on being the best at what they do.

The Jenaer Glas story starts in 1884, when Otto Schott, a glass chemist, and his partners Ernst Abbe and Carl Zeiss founded the “Glass technical laboratory Schott and Partners” in Jena, Thuringia. What they produced wasn’t just any ordinary glass: They were working hard to develop a new kind of material that would withstand chemicals and heat.

By 1887, they had made a major breakthrough, developing a borosilicate glass that was the forerunner of the Pyrex glass we know today. This new material was immediately put to use to produce thermometers, laboratory test tubes, and the glass cylinders used in the era’s gas lights. By 1918, the company was making glass jars, baby bottles, and dishes for cooking and baking. With the growing popularity of the Bauhaus designs, the glass company teamed up with Bauhaus designers Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Gerhard Marcks, Heinrich Löffelhardt, Bruno Mauder, Ilse Decho and Hans Merz in the 1930s. Together with these leading contemporary artists, they produced some of the earliest examples of modern industrial design products.

After the post-war division of Germany, the company also split into two, with the glass production company in Jena continuing to function under state ownership, and a second company, Schott and Partners, established in 1952 in the western city of Mainz. Communist East Germany found the glass from Jena was a popular export article. In the West, Schott and Partners likewise continued producing high-quality glasswares.

After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Schott Mainz took control of the company in Jena, and in 1994 the brand was relaunched as Jenaer Glas. This company, in turn was taken over by Zwiesel Kristallglas – a firm with which the Jenaer glassworks had a long history. Back in 1927, the group in Jena had acquired a majority stake in the Zwiesel glassworks. In 1945, when US troops sent more than forty of Jenaer Glas’s high-level employees to construct a new optical glass manufacturing plant in Zwiesel in Bavaria, the transfer of qualified managers from the headquarters allowed the Bavarian glassworks to regroup. In the 1970’s, the Zwiesel glassworks produced housewares under the name “Jenaer Glas,” but were forced to stop after a brand name dispute. After the two companies joined forces once again, production was moved from Jena to Zwiesel in 2005.

Today, Jenaer Glas specialities include a re-issue of Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s classic Bauhaus tea service from 1931. The teapot, still on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, costs about €140, retail.

“It’s our goal to expand the product portfolio we presently have for food and lifestyle trends,” said Nora Michelson, Product Manager of Jenaer Glas. “We’ll take the continuously changing demands of gastronomy – and the consumer – into account.”


Amazon workers across Germany go on strike for higher wages in build up to ‘online Xmas’

Employees of the online retailer Amazon have downed their tools at several locations across Germany in a protest against precarious wages, but the online shopping giant insists that the strike won’t impact Christmas deliveries.

Amazon workers across Germany go on strike for higher wages in build up to 'online Xmas'
Photo: DPA

In Bad Hersfeld, in the central state of Hesse, employees at an Amazon logistics centre started their strike early on Monday morning. A spokeswoman for the Verdi trade union said they expected about 500 workers at the retail company to take part. 

In Rheinberg and Werne in North Rhine-Westphalia, the strike began shortly before midnight on Sunday evening, with some 500 workers taking part and further 300 workers in the town of Werne joining in.

The union action has hit six locations across the country in total and strike action is set to last until Christmas Eve.

The trade union Verdi had called for strikes at various locations as it sought to push Amazon into recognition of the collective agreements which are commonly established established between trade unions and employer associations in Germany.

“Last week's closure of on-site retail has once again significantly increased the volume of orders placed with mail-order companies such as Amazon,” Verdi said in a statement.

“While the corporation continues to increase its billions in profits, it refuses to pay employees according to collective bargaining agreements. These are minimum conditions,” the union added.

A Verdi spokesman added that Amazon was earning “a golden profit” while workers' health suffered under the stress of delivering packages on time during the pandemic.

Additionally, the trade union said it wanted to push for better health and safety at the workplace in Amazon logistics centres. 

Amazon has always resisted joining in such agreements, claiming that it offers good wages outside of the traditional trade union structures.

Amazon said Monday that its employees already benefit from “excellent wages, excellent fringe benefits and excellent career opportunities.” 

The US-based firm also said that it made health and well-being at work a top priority. 

The company insisted that the strikes would have no impact on customer deliveries in the run up to Christmas, stating that the vast majority of employees work as normal.