It’s not just for cupboards or grandmothers anymore.
By Katie Weisman
Summer entertaining is in full swing. It’s time to get your crystal out of the armoire and use it every day. Those in charge of Baccarat, the 254-year-old maker of French crystal, even want you to use crystal at every meal, even outside.
“People will spend $200,000 on a Porsche that is costly to service, yet they won’t use their crystal because they’re afraid it’s going to break?” wonders Jim Schreve, the president and chief executive officer of Baccarat in the U.S. who is determined to make using crystal an everyday affair.
Schreve observes that people will spend big bucks on a luxury item like an Hermès Birkin bag, use it daily, expose it to wear and tear, yet they’ll only use the crystal from their wedding registry for special occasions. Folks are prepared to replace an expensive watchband, but the possibility of using, breaking and replacing a crystal glass seems beyond their bandwidth, Schreve notes. Interestingly, an 18mm alligator watchband from Shinola, which is not a luxury brand, costs $225, the same price for a set of two Baccarat’s Grand Bordeaux wine glasses.
In 2015, the crystal company launched its Everyday Baccarat collection starting with a set of six tumblers, all the same shape but with different decorative motifs. Now, there are Everyday Baccarat sets featuring shot glasses –“les minis,” tumblers, highballs, and soon, wine glasses, all packaged in Baccarat’s iconic red box.
Now, there are everyday Baccarat sets featuring shot glasses, champagne flutes and soon, wine glasses, all packaged in Baccarat’s iconic red box.
Baccarat aficionados, however, don’t need encouragement from headquarters to use their crystal regularly. Sally Shy, a Memphis, Tennessee-based entertainment and etiquette expert, grew up knowing Baccarat thanks to her grandmother who used it regularly.
“I use Baccarat casually and formally,” explains Shy. “I love to go ‘out of the box’ with it, and in so doing, I use Baccarat every day in every way.”
In good weather, Shy uses colored Baccarat pieces on her outdoor table and loves how the sun reflects with the crystal, presenting her guests with a “shimmering rainbow.” Shy also uses her vases for flowers from her garden.
“Don’t be afraid to use your treasures,” Shy advises. “Place them where all can see the beauty in their design. Don’t use basic when you can use your Baccarat!”
Dana Thomas, a Paris-based culture writer and author of “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster,” agrees. Thomas, who’s American, and her French husband love to entertain. They regularly host dinner parties and use their Baccarat St. Remy glasses (a discontinued pattern) all the time, even if it requires extra care. While Thomas might not use her crystal every day, she actually uses it, whereas others reserve their crystal glassware only for special occasions.
“Use crystal as often as you can. Buy extras because you will break it. Don’t be afraid to break it. That’s life.”
“I grew up in a house where the crystal – a very cool mid-century design – was never used. It sat in the cabinet my whole childhood,” Thomas says. “Use crystal as often as you can. Buy extras because you will break it. Don’t be afraid to break it. That’s life.”
Thomas chose Baccarat’s delicate tulip-shaped St. Remy stemware for her registry, much to her French mother-in-law’s dismay.
“She said I was out of my mind,” Thomas recalls, remembering her mother-in-law’s warning: “They are too fragile and thin. You should choose crystal you can throw in the dishwasher.”
“I thought SHE was crazy, but she was right,” Thomas notes. Her mother-in-law has Baccarat’s iconic Harcourt pattern – heavy, sturdy, stunning – that is “on the table every day, every meal,” and then put in the dishwasher. (Note: Baccarat officially warns against putting crystal in the dishwasher, but off – the-record, it can be done. Space glasses apart to avoid any friction and use non-citrus mild liquid dishwasher detergent and no heat).
Despite St. Remy’s delicate form, Thomas seems to like the ritual of caring for her collection, though staff can be helpful.
“Be sure to rinse out your glasses of wine or water if you’re going to leave the cleaning until the morning,” Thomas advises. “Always dry by hand right away with a soft cloth. Get your spouse to help. It’s nice to do it together.” E