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.”


‘Harryhandel’: Is the return of cross-border shopping in Norway really a good thing? 

The pandemic cut-off Norway from its neighbours, putting a temporary end to border shopping. Now ‘harryhandel’ trips are allowed again businesses in the country fear they will lose out as shoppers look abroad for cheaper groceries. 

Pictured is Norway and Sweden's border on the old Svinesund bridge.
Will the return of border shopping have a negative affect on the country? Pictured is Norway and Sweden's border on the old Svinesund bridge. Photo by Petter Bernsten/AFP.

In eastern Norway, particularly along the border with Sweden, cross-border shopping has long been common for residents looking for cheaper groceries and a better selection of products. 

Norway’s Covid-19 rules effectively put a stop to that until this summer. The closed border meant a record year for food and beverage sales in Norway. 

“Due to the fact that there was little action and that people did not travel, we noticed that our sales increased greatly during the entire period,” Øyvind Berg, production manager at Norwegian dairy firm Synnøve Finden, explained to public broadcaster NRK.

Now producers and supermarkets fear the impact of cross-border shopping being up and running again. 

“Our challenge is that we see that more than half of the food and beverage producers, i.e. the industrial companies, fear that they will lose market share because cross-border trade will return in full,” Petter Brubakk, director of food and beverage at the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), informed NRK. 

The majority of those who go shopping across borders in Norway will do so in Sweden. However, in the north, some will also venture into Finland or Russia.

Further south people will also travel to Germany or Denmark. 

Why do people go to other countries for shopping? 

Overall the main appeal of cross-border shopping is that its much better for consumers than shopping domestically. 

Norway’s EEA agreement with the EU means that most foods, drinks, tobacco products, alcohol and other agricultural products are more expensive than they are within the EU as custom duties are required to import them into Norwegian supermarkets. 

Not just that, but there is a much wider selection of products than in Norway due to laws that protect Norwegian products. For example, cheeses such as Cheddar are more readily available, cheaper and generally of better quality in other countries than those found in Norway. 

READ MORE: What is ‘harryhandel’, and why do Norwegians love it so much?

Is border shopping a bad thing for Norway?

Norwegian businesses argue that crossing the border to shop affects the whole value chain, negatively impacting everyone from Norwegian farms and producers to supermarket employees, not just companies profit margins. 

“My advice is to encourage Norwegians to buy Norwegian food, and help secure Norwegian jobs throughout the value chain,” food and agriculture minister Sandra Borch told NRK. 

In addition, shopping domestically means more tax revenue for the Norwegian system to use to fund its generous welfare state. 

While shopping domestically protects domestic jobs, shopping abroad protects jobs there, which rely on people hopping the border to get their groceries. 

Coronavirus pandemic restrictions left a black hole in some of these economies reliant on shoppers from the Norwegian side of the border. For example, in Strömstad, a Swedish town close to the border where many travel to shop, unemployment rose by around 75 percent after Norway closed its borders with Sweden.