The first Riedel in the trade of luxury glassware was Johann Cristoph, born in 1673. He lived in Pavlovice, manor Neuschloss, in northwest Bohemia, near Haida and Steinschönau, which in the early eighteenth century were to become world centers of trade for Bohemian crystal glass.
He journeyed all over Europe trading glass. The earnings from the business justified the long, arduous and dangerous travels, but in 1723 he was tragically murdered, leaving his wife and three sons.
History & Generations
The history of the Riedel family is just as animated as the history of Europe, and what’s more it is inseparably linked with it.
Johann Carl Riedel, 2nd generation (1701-1781), lived in Falkenau near Haida where he built his own house and worked as a glass painter. In 1739 he was named the town magistrate (der Vogt).
In 1723 he married Anna Elizabeth from a wealthy glass family and they brought 11 children into the world, with only two surviving into adulthood. In 1753, Johann Carl moved to Antoniwald in the Jizera Mountains, leaving his eldest son Johann Leopold to manage the glassworks in Neuwiesse between 1766 and 1769.
Johann Leopold Riedel, 3rd generation (1726-1800) laid down the foundations of the Riedel Glass Empire in Northern Bohemia. By profession he was a glass gilder and painter, but from 1746, he managed his important relative Joann Josef Kittel’s glassworks in Falkenau. In 1752, he became the manager of Count Desfour’s glassworks, "Zenknerhütte" in Antoniwald, deep in the Jizera Moutains.
Johann Leopold made his fortune during the Seven Year War (1756-1763), which was a war between the Austrians and Prussians over the territories of Bohemia and Silesia. There was great demand for window panes for rebuilding after the war and Riedel was the first to produce window panes in the Jizera Mountain region. In 1775, he built the family’s first glassworks at Christianthal and in 1782, he bought a nearby glassworks at Neuwiese. At this time the Riedel glassworks produced mainly hollow glass products.
The next generation, Anton Leopold Riedel (1761-1821), was the eldest son of Johann Leopold and the first Riedel born in the Jizera Mountains, in Antoniwald. Anton Leopold managed the Neuwiese glassworks for his father, owning it himself from 1795.
He produced crystal and hollow, colored glass, perfume bottles and chandalier parts. Some of the first costume jewellery to be made out of glass was made here too. In 1809 he founded a glass refinery business in Mistrovice near Haida fort he production for cut, engraved and painted hollow glass. In 1814, he rented the Count Desfours glassworks in Antoniwald.
Franz Xaver Riedel, fifth generation (1786-1844) became a famous engraver in his youth and his works of art are seen at auctions even today. From 1814 until 1821, he managed his father’s glassworks at Neuwiese, thereafter becoming the leaseholder of the Zenknerhütte in Antoniwald.
In 1829 he founded his own glassworks in Wilhemshöhe. He produced hollow glass, mostly glass rods and sticks for costume jewellery, and perfume bottles. His first wife, Judith, came from the rich glass trade family Vogel, from Steinschönau. Franz and his nephew Josef invented new colors for glass using Uranium to make fluorescent yellow and green, known as "Annagelb and Annagrün" after Franz’s daughter.
At the age of 14, Josef Riedel The Elder (6th generation, 1816-1894) became his uncle Franz Xaver’s assistant, ultimately marrying Franz Xaver’s daughter Anna. Being born in the time of the industrial revolution served Josef well. By 1858 he owned eight glassworks, two large textile factories and coalmines.
His glassworks produced mainly glass jewellery, beads, chandelier parts, but from 1873 luxury hollow glass products too. In the same year, Josef won the „Grand Prix“ at the World Fair in Vienna. He was awarded an Order by the Pope. The local authorities in Franzesbad and Wiesenthal gave him honorary citizenship. Josef was widely known as „The Glass King of the Jizera Mountains“. In 1895, Josef’s sons registered the first Riedel logo.
Josef Riedel The Younger (7th generation, 1862-1924) was the only son from Josef Riedel The Elder’s second marriage and he ran the firm for ten years (1914-1924). Josef was an outstanding chemist and mechanical engineer and he developed several hundred different colors of glass.
Josef developed new machinery for the mass production of seed beads, which were used in jewellery and on fabrics. He also produced bangles, pressed glass and technically sophisticated glass for exterior lights, for example. In 1894, he built a villa in Tiefenbach for his wife Paula, which is still one of the finest historical buildings in the Jizera Mountains. In 1906, Josef The Younger was awarded the Austrian Crown Order by emperor Franz Josef 1.
Walter Riedel (8th generation 1895-1974) was the eldest of Josef The Younger’s sons. Walter’s fate was greatly affected by both world wars and he was forced to change his citizenship four times due to the unfortunate state of affairs.
In 1918, when Walter joined the family firm, Bohemia became part of Czechoslovakia, and Walter, along with many of his fellow German speakers from the Sudentenland, became Czechoslovakian citizens. During this time, the Riedels emerged on the world stage as a leading manufacturer of glass jewellery and crystalware, seed beads, lamps, and technical glass, as well as luxury glass items. Walter was awarded the "Grand Prix" for his presentations at the International Exhibition in Paris (1925) and later at the World Fair in Paris (1937).
Walter inherited the mechanical genius of this father, developing extremely advanced mold techniques. During the war, the Nazis commandeered the factory, forcing them to change from the production of consumer goods to strategic war products. When the Russian army took Berlin in 1945, they found an intact picture tube (part of radar used for monitoring airspace) and they demanded to know which scientist was behind it. In this era of Stalin, Walter was forced to sign a five year contract and was ultimately held prisoner in Russia for ten years.
By the end of the Great War in 1945, the Riedels had had their home and factories confiscated by the Czechoslovakians. Eventually, Walter Riedel returned to Austria in 1955. The Swarovski family, close friends of the Riedels, offered Walter and his son Claus Josef, a new start in Kufstein, where they took over a glassworks and started producing mouth-blown products in 1956.
Claus Josef Riedel (1925-2004) had a vision. He changed stemware from traditional colored and cut glass to plain, unadorned, thin blown, long stemmed wine glasses. He gained immediate recognition from sophisticated customers and museums. Many design awards signalled that a new era had begun. Museums bought pieces for their exhibition, like the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which today still has Riedel in its permanent collection.
Based on his unique designs, Claus Riedel was the first in history to recognize the effect of shapes on the perception of alcoholic beverages. His work has influenced and changed the appearance of stemware forever. His masterpiece "Sommeliers" was introduced in Orvieto, in 1973, the first ever stemware line to be based on the character of wine.
Georg J Riedel’s personal and professional philosophies are one and the same. "I am a person who lives in the here and now, rather than looking back," says the head of Riedel Glas Austria. "Our commitment to quality requires constant innovation; therefore we regularly invest in the modernization of our production facilities, creating a significant number of new jobs in various markets,” Riedel explains.
Based on a long-standing ethos of forward thinking, the company is guided in this philosophy by the tenth and eleventh generations of the Riedel family, Georg Riedel and his son Maximilian Riedel, who will one day be his successor. Working closely with his father, and subsequently with a team of experts, winemakers and employees, Georg Riedel pioneered the development of wine-friendly and varietal-specific glass collections. Through various innovations in production technology, Riedel succeeded in expanding the range of the hallmark handmade Riedel Sommeliers glasses. Following his appointment to Chief Executive, he led the company to achieve great success, using his operational expertise and economic prowess.
In 1986, he introduced the benchmark Vinum crystal glassware series, the first machine-made varietal-specific fine crystal glasses in the world. The Vinum series, with its affordable price point helped the company reach a new audience. This laid the foundation for the brand’s worldwide success and international following. Of his contribution to the company’s growth, Riedel says "We, the Riedels, are equipped with luck, but we also rely on intelligence, diligence and passion." Georg Riedel has advocated his completely new approach to wine glasses on a global scale; function first, followed by beauty, executed with unparalleled perfection. He explains, "We have developed tastings around the world; we educate approximately 40,000 people each year using wines from every region, where we demonstrate how the right glass enhances the experience of wine drinking.”
His decades of experience in wine tasting and keen understanding of design have taught him how best to bring out the expression of a wine’s various flavor components for maximum enjoyment. In his philosophy and quest, Riedel's love and passion for wine have made him an expert in the subject, respected by top winemakers and sommeliers around the world. For more than 35 years, Georg Riedel has travelled the world to share his message, developing new markets and ensuring the company’s solid economic foundation.
What drives him? "The Riedels had lost everything after World War II and needed once again to rebuild from the ground up. My ancestors set their minds to it, with luck on their side, looking to the future and acting accordingly,” he explains. “From this, I derive my sense of duty. I'm not afraid of anything, except failure. I must not be last in the history of the company, and even more importantly, I do not want to lose the company's reputation. My inner critic will never allow me to be satisfied – it is always pushing me further.”
The plans for the next few years? "It's a dream of mine to develop drinking vessels for non-alcoholic beverages which also create memorable experiences for consumers. I envisage vessels for high quality coffee, complex teas and even spring water. The sensuality of taste shows that designs of Riedel-caliber can be made for these beverages.” The Riedel family’s prominence in Central European history – the Bohemian line dates to 1673 - also shapes Riedel's personality and commitment to continuity and perseverance. "At age 30 I began to run. I have completed ten marathons and now regularly undertake mountain hiking expeditions,” he explains. “They form a fundamental enrichment of my life. There I find the necessary calm to relax and think things through."
Riedel has been married to his wife, Eva, since 1973 when they met during his time as a student in Vienna. He is a dedicated father to his son Maximilian and daughter Laetizia, and grandfather to five grandchildren. In them, the twelfth generation, he proudly sees the future of the glassware dynasty. Georg Riedel was born in 1949 in Innsbruck, Austria. Fittingly, it was a wonderful vintage year for Bordeaux.
1973 · Joins the company, establishing a financial control system
1986 · Introduces Vinum collection, which becomes Riedel’s best-selling series
1979 - 2011 · Creation of the subsidiary companies in the USA, Canada, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, Australia and China
1996 · Decanter magazine nominates Georg Riedel Decanter Man of the Year
2004 · Acquires the German glass company Nachtmann, together with the Spiegelau wine accessories brand, merging under the name "Riedel Glass Works"
2006 · Award of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria
2007 · Award of Honour by the State of Tyrol
2009 · Wirtschaftsblatt, the Vienna daily business newspaper, nominates him Entrepreneur of the Year
Maximilian J. Riedel, appointed CEO and President of RIEDEL Crystal in 2013, is the
11th generation of the family-owned company based in Kufstein, Austria. Best known for the revolutionary stemless “O“ glassware series, which he designed and marketed in 2004, Maximilian has earned accolades from The Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco MoMA, the Corning Museum of Glass. Today, in addition to his leadership of RIEDEL Crystal worldwide, he is the principal designer of the glassware company‘s decanters.
Maximilian further strengthened RIEDEL‘s commitment to the hospitality industry by the introduction of the RIEDEL Restaurant and Restaurant Sommeliers lines, which provide the company‘s glassware at lower cost and greater durability to restaurants and hotels, allowing greater access to beverage directors‘ favorite “wine tools“.
AWARDS & HONORS
2005 · Good Design Award for designing “O” Thumbs Up Decanter, Chicago Athenaeum
2005 · Good Design Award for designing “O” Stemless Tasting Glass, Chicago Athenaeum
2006 · Member, Young Presidents Organization since 2006
2006 · Special guest of Honor, High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction
2006 · Tastemaker, House & Garden Magazine
2007 · Appreciation Award, Orange County Wine Society
2008 · Corporate Leadership Award, Living Beyond Breast Cancer
2009 · Red Dot Design Award for designing the Swan Decanter
2011 · Grand Prix Table & Gift awards for Design, Innovation & Technicality, Mamba Decanter, Maison & Objet, Paris
2011 · Wine Enthusiast Wine Star Special Award for Generations of Innovation