Last Updated: Oct 04, 2019     Views: 791

CMoG 80.3.11: Frog and Lily Platter. Orrefors. 1978.
Image: Frog and Lily Platter. Orrefors. 1978. CMoG 80.3.11.

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Definition of "Graal"

For those new to the subject, here is the definition of "graal" from The Corning Museum of Glass online Glass Dictionary:


A type of decorative glass developed by Orrefors of Sweden in 1916. The design is carved, engraved, or etched on a parison of colored glass, which is then reheated and cased in a thick layer of transparent glass of a different color, and inflated.

Origins of Graal Technique and Name

We found multiple accounts in Rakow Research Library resources of the origins of the graal technique and its name.

According to Swedish Art in Glass 1900-1990: An Important Private Collection (Vanersborg, Sweden: Knutsson Art & Antiques, [1991?]):

"In 1914 [the new director of Orrefors, A. Ahlin] employed the master blower, Knut Bergqvist along with Heinrich Wollman, a glass painter and etcher, from Kosta. They had free reign to experiment. After studying French and American glass in the Cameo style. Their forms and the subject matter were often highly inspired by pieces from other countries, but the excitement of experiment gave the glass a distinctive look.

"During their experiment with Cameo Glass, they heated the design and then captured clear glass over it. In the beginning they did not change the shape or size, but after further experimentation, they were able to let the gob expand into its final form. Thus, Graal glass was born in 1916, a revolutionary step for the Swedish glass arts. Graal got its name from the Swedish poet Gustaf Froding who wrote about the Grail glass that contained the blood of Christ." ("The Swedish art glass is born," no page numbers.)

According to Ann Marie Herlitz-Gezelius's Orrefors: A Swedish Glassplant (Stockholm: Atlantis Publishers, 1984), in the section "The Road to the Graal," "In 1914, Albert Ahlin sent a vase to Johan Ekman in Gothenburg. In the letter accompanying it he said that Blomqvist had completed the design, Wollman had executed it and that Bergkvist had carried out the smelting work [sic]. It was an overlay vase in many colors and a sample of Knut Bergkvist's and Albert Ahlin's joint work and interest in producing beautiful glassware at Orrefors. That was the first important step on the path towards what was later to become Orrefors' specialty, the Graal Glass" (23).

According to Herlitz-Gezelius, only in 1916, after a lot of experimentation, "when Bergkvist put a layer of clear crystal on top of the pattern, now embedded, did they arrive at the fine result which became the graal" (25). She continues: "In 1916, Gate received a letter from Ahlin, who wrote, 'Brother, I have now thought up a name for the new glassware with inset colored glass. We should call it Graal Glass. The reason being Froding's tale of the glass which closed in around its contents, so that "the wine became a ruby"; the strength of the story lies in its mysteriousness of characteristics and result'" (25).

In Dag Widman's essay, "Pioneers, breakthrough, triumph: A half century of artistic achievement," in the book Orrefors: A Century of Swedish Glassmaking, edited by Kerstin Wickman, Widman writes, "According to Agnes Hellner, the idea for Orrefors' new art glass was conceived as a result of incessant, intense discussion between Albert Ahlin and Knut Bergqvist. It was the latter who finally found the solution.... The new technique was christened by Ahlin." Widman then cites the letter excerpted above. "According to the archive inventory of early graal glass, the first piece was made by Bergqvist on 5th December, 1916, although since Ahlin's letter to Gate is dated late in November, work on the new glass must by then have been going on for some time" (pages 21-22).

Rakow Library Research Guide

Recent Acquisition

You might be interested in the following post from The Corning Museum of Glass blog about a book in the Rakow Research Library:

Additional Books and Articles

  • Duncan, Alastair. Orrefors Glass. Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors' Club, 1995. Note: Graal: pp. 29‑31, 223‑225. Ariel: pp. 52‑54, 225.
    Find It at a Library Near You

  • Hokkaidåoritsu Kindai Bijutsukan. Lyricism of Modern Design: Swedish Glass 1900‑1970. [Hokkaido Museum of Art], 1992. Note: Edward Hald, p. 104; Vicke Lindstrand, p. 106; Edward Hald, p. 117; Morales‑Schildt, pp. 188‑190. 
    Find It at a Library Near You

  • Ricke, Helmut. Glas in Schweden 1915‑1960. Munchen: Prestel, 1986. Note: Mona Morales-Schildt, pp. 43, 187, 227, 228, 270, 290; Graal technique: pp. 128‑137, 144, 295; Ariel technique: pp. 138‑160.
    Find It at a Library Near You

  • Svenskt Glas. Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1991. Notes: Includes numerous references to the work of Morales‑Schildt, Willem de Moore, Hald, Gunnar Cyrén, Ann Wählström, etc. (pp. 131‑133, 140‑143, 145, 175, 180, 181, 187, 194, 232, 328‑329).
    Find It at a Library Near You

Borrowing Library Materials

If you wish to borrow copies of library items, please contact your local library. The Rakow Research Library will lend designated books from its collection and will send copies of articles requested by other libraries. Your library can request items through the OCLC WorldShare Interlibrary Loan (ILL) system or by direct request through email at For more information, please see our ILL policies and procedures.


More extensive lists of resources are available upon request. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance via Ask a Glass Question (, email (, phone (607-438-5300), or text (607-821-4029).


Please do not hesitate to contact us in the future with your glass-related questions!





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