Val Saint Lambert Cristal Discovery (Wallonia - Belgium)

When you're an expat or visitor in a country from another, you can often find yourself looking for places that are connected somehow to your roots. I often find myself doing it like Ambedkar House or Memorial for Indian soldiers in London. 


When I planned Liege trip, I was suggested Val St.Lambert Crystal manufacturing unit, because of its Indian connection. The Gwalior Maharajah's Palace has 2 monumental crystal chandeliers made by Val St. Lambert weighing 3.5tonnes each. Its so monumental that its believed that 10 elephants were made to walk on the first floor to test the strength of the ceiling before hanging these chandeliers.

The history of Val St. Lambert is rather turbulent having major highs and major lows. It began in 1826 by the chemist François Kemlin and the engineer Auguste Lelièvre in the building which was once the Cistercian Abbey. When I first saw crystals, (much earlier, I've been gifted a couple crystal glasses and vases), I never really understood how were they any different from glass. Well, it boils down to the lead content in the composition. For glass to be termed Crystal it should have atleast 24% lead content. It could have more but, more than 35% would make it too brittle to hold any shape. The crystal at VSL is about 33%.

By 1900-1925, they grew so much to had depots all across the world, incl. India and Russia and employed so many people across all their branches. Around early 1900s, they also began creating stunning pieces of Art Nouveau and Art Deco crystals. From 1914 to 1918, through the WWI, the factory had to shut it doors and from 1918, they restarted functioning. However with the fall of the Tsars of Russia, that market was lost! By 1930, with the Great Depression that began in USA, again it was a tough time for the crystal makers, as most of their products were exported. By 1950, more and more functional products were made and a cheaper version, semi-crystal with about 18% of lead was also introduced. Also an opaque version was introduced which was later painted over, to imitate China porcelain. 

Today its a rather interesting place with a visit, which has multiple places of interest within itself - a workshop & demo of glass making, a showcase of more than 250 crystal products manufactured by Val St.Lambert since its inception, temporary exhibitions of modern art and more. A typical visit would begin with a film about the history and timeline of the firm. 

The most interesting product range in display, for me, were the crystal installations called Ludic Route that depict the 5 senses by Bernard Tirtiaux. They are more of an interactive, working models, than mere sculptures! 

The next most interesting feature was the passage of time with glass & crystals. It was an impressive hot air balloon experience. No, not really. It reminded me of the Heineken's 4D Experience with its hops. Its an effort to 'be there' since the inception of the Cistercian Abbey, as you see it from the sky in a hot air balloon! Its was a hot air balloon like installation with display beneath and around, supported by movements to 'experience' flying! It was definitely interesting and Atyudarini did find it amusing! Beyond this was a passage through time depicting the evolution of glass & crystals through the years.
The demo was just fantastic. It was done by master glass blower Mr. I've personally witnessed glass blowing earlier at Dakshinachitra in India, but Mr.V hadn't and most definitely it was Atyudarini's first. She wouldn't remember this as she grows, but still...........

Btw, how would you like to get married, surrounded by crystals? Well, this space is rented out for events. I think it would be interesting to exchange rings or even just propose in the Bernard Tirtiaux's crystal sphere and share a kiss at the kaleidoscope!!! 

To Stay:
Hotels & B&Bs at all price points are available in Liege City Centre. 
Here’s my review of Hotel Neuvice, a renovated old building, where I stayed.

To Get There:
To reach LiègeRefer to my earlier post
To VSL: From Guillemins: 12 km on N90
Bus no: 9 goes directly but its frequency is only once every hour with 25 mins travel time.
Prehistomuseum is located about 6km from here and the same Bus no: 9 goes here too.

Entry Ticket & Timings:
€12
Open everyday except Saturdays only during school holidays.
Tue-Sat - 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Sun: 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Closed on Mondays
Can be bought at the entrance of the site.

My complete Liège travelogue: Blegny MinePrehistomuseumVal Saint Lambert - Cristal DiscoveryLiège Citadel & Hillsides, Montagne de Bueren, Guillemins Railway Station, Saint-Barthélemy Collegiate Church


P.S: I was invited by Liège Tourisme and Wallonia Tourism to experience the city for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

Bhushavali N

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

12 comments:

  1. Ooh, this is a fascinating place. The history behind it is very interesting as are their beautiful products

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  2. So true, in fact I consciously look for Indian connections when traveling out of India. It would be so interesting to visit both Val St.Lambert Crystal manufacturing unit and Gwalior Maharajah's Palace to gain some perspective. You wrote in detail about the history and techniques used. Very good article.

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  3. Val St. Lambert Crystal manufacturing looks really facinating. And not only for the fact that there is an Indian connection. The exhibits look beautiful. I too was riveted by the pictures of crystal installations called Ludic Route that depict the 5 senses by Bernard Tirtiaux. I am also imagining about the huge chandeliers that of the Gwalior Maharajah that weighed 3.5 tonnes!

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  4. Wow! This is very interesting. I would love to personally see these crystal collections. Truly fascinating delicate pieces.

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  5. Love the history behind the place. It makes it much more interesting. Even the building itself has a lot of history. Very interesting.

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  6. The tour of Val St.Lambert Crystal manufacturing unit sounds very interesting. All the crystal pieces and modern arts look amazing in the pictures. What they can do with delicate crystals is amazing.

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  7. It is great that during your travel, you try to find out Indian connections and this really resonates me. Good to know about Val St. Lambert Crystal manufacturing unit and Gwalior Maharaja possess two chandeliers from this unit. Also a great idea to getting married at this place which is all surrounded by crystals. Thanks for sharing unique and informative post.

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  8. Wow.. Never knew that crystal manufacturing is actually a big industry. It's interesting knowing about the Indian connection of Val Saint Lambert Crystal manufacturing site. Such colorful designs and shapes of crystal - I never saw anything so rich!

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  9. This crystal manufacturing co looks lkke a lovely place to get married. It is amazing how they started and now they have become an integral part of this region's heritage.Now that I think, many of the ImdiIn kingdoms must have brought their crystal from this source only.

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  10. That is interesting that you can find memorials, related to your country so far away. I somehow find myself not looking for things from Russia in the places... I guess it is one more weird thing about Russian culture.

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  11. so, the Raja of Gwalior got that from the best place. I think the fame of Belgian Glass has something to do with this place. Being in the heart of WWII, they must have suffered a lot during that time but it is good that things were normal soon.

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  12. Its impressive to see how they work with the Belgian Glass and the colours are wonderful. Its always a good surprise to find things related to your culture in foreign countries :)

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