French luxury crystal brand Lalique pays tribute to its founder, glass designer René Lalique, on its 130th anniversary with the launch of the Hirondelles, a collection that journeys back into the heart of its heritage.

Hirondelles, French for ‘swallow’, is a fitting salute to Lalique, who was fascinated by the bird. The swallow, the herald of spring and a symbol of happiness and freedom, is seen here fashioned with a satin finish in repolished crystal. Lalique’s work was always inspired by his three ‘muses’ – fauna, flora and femininity, or the graceful form of the female. But it was the swallow that ultimately took centre stage in many of his jewels and decorative objects.

“People love Lalique because of the design and value. Lalique is known for decorative yet functional design,” said Daniel Ong, Lalique regional director for Southeast Asia and Oceania. “You buy a vase and it looks like sculpture. It can stand on its own, but if you’re in the mood you can have your ikebana flowers to decorate it.”

Ong said the iconic Art Nouveau designs of Lalique himself remained among its clients’ favourites, although 10 years ago the brand launched an Art Deco line with more geometric shapes and brighter colours to get millennials interested in crystal collection. The Hirondelles collection reflects some of these aesthetics.

“In 2008, we positioned the brand to be the prettiest luxury crystal brand in the market. While we serve three generations of customers, the grandchildren are now grown up and ready to have their own homes,” Ong said.

As a result, the 130th-anniversary collection also bears more colours, like amber, blue, green and even black, alongside the classic clear, satin and repolished finish.

Coloured crystals are extremely difficult to produce, Ong said. Sculptors sometimes have to add pure gold to get great colour. Apart from that, the colour blue, for example, requires adding cobalt, titanium for yellow, and copper and iron for green. Ensuring that the colours remain consistent throughout is not easy to control.

New technology has also been employed, Ong said. Traditionally, swallows stand up on consoles or tables. Today, people have the option to have the swallow, which comes in two colours, mounted on the wall. Depending on one’s imagination, the swallow sculpture can make up an entire wall decor.

“You can even create a formation, since the designs are flying up, flying down, and cruising. This encourages creativity. If they have an empty wall, this is the perfect way to express themselves,” he said.

Twenty-five percent of the production involves casting the design. The remaining 75%, Ong said, requires working by hand.

“It is a science and an art. We are unique compared to other brands in that we are the only one that spends 75% of the production time in manual work. That’s how we get the richness of the design and the clear and satin finishes. You see a contrast, the details. And when you touch it, it’s so smooth it feels like satin.”

The Grand Vase, standing almost 16 inches, depicts the beauty of swallows taking flight, its finely chiselled feathers seen even from a distance. Illuminated in gold, it’s a limited edition of 130 pieces to celebrate the 130th anniversary.

Fashioned in satin-finished and repolished crystal, the Swallow Wall Sculpture, in sapphire blue, with a magnet, can be juxtaposed. For the traditionalist, there’s the Two Swallow Grand Sculpture in blue sapphire crystals that capture the grace of a couple of swallows, a sculpture that easily pops out on a console.

There’s also the Hirondelles Bowl, a 5.4-pound crystal in satin and repolished crystal that took two hours to make to remove seams and imperfections. Each is hand-polished by running a wheel over the sculpture. Only then will it be polished once again for another two hours to bring out the satin finish of the swallow and create a contrast against the transparent crystal. Its matching Hirondelles Dish is available in clear crystal. Plus, there’s the elegant Hirondelles Vintage Decanter, designed for discerning collectors, with gold-stamped crystal and three swallows soaring over the majestic stopper. It’s a 2018 Vintage edition and comes with a certificate of authenticity stating its vintage and edition year.

Available to order are the Hirondelles Clock, Édition Jubilé 130 Ans – Platine scented candle, and Femme Tête Levée, Femme Bras Levés, Joueur de Pipeau and Merles et Raisins, all panels that are mirrored and framed.

“You work so hard so you want to enjoy the little luxuries of life. So instead of just having a simple vase on the table, you want the best, so you look for Lalique, and you naturally pass it on to the next generation because it lasts,” Ong said.

For its Philippine market, the brand has enjoyed a loyal following for 15 years, he said, and has doubled its clientele in the last 10 years.

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