An Orrefors vase is a piece of glassware manufactured by the Swedish glassmaker Orrefors. Orrefors glass vases are most commonly hand-blown and made from crystal, also known as lead glass, prized for its clear, brilliant look and high density, making such vases feel heavier than regular glass vases. Orrefors has been making glassware since 1898, but the type of artistic glassmaking often associated with an Orrefors vase dates to the early 20th century when the manufacturer began hiring artists to work with its glassmakers. Early works from Orrefors were often influenced by the Art Nouveau style, and both newer and antique vases can showcase the original methods of glassmaking invented there. An Orrefors vase is often sought after for its combination of hand craftsmanship and original design.
Several new glassmaking techniques were invented at Orrefors, and can be seen in vases from the company. Such techniques include Graal glass, featuring colored reliefs encased in a layer of smooth glass; Ariel, featuring decorative patterns of air trapped inside the glass; and Kraka, featuring geometric patterns of air bubbles in the glass. Old and recent Orrefors vase designs can also showcase techniques and features such as colored glass, cut glass, and engraved glass.
Orrefors often hires designers who are not glassmakers but are experienced in other arts and crafts, such as painters, engravers, sculptors, and goldsmiths, to create collections. Well-known early Orrefors designers include Simon Gate, a painter known for his classical glass designs; Edward Hald, an artist who studied with French painter Matisse and who became known for his modern glass designs; and Edvin Ohrstrom, a sculptor who began working for Orrefors in 1936. An Orrefors vase by these and other early Orrefors designers are often highly prized by collectors.
An Orrefors vase is most commonly made from lead crystal, more correctly known as lead glass. This type of glass contains lead in the form of lead oxide, rather than calcium like regular glass. Due to the high atomic weight of lead compared to calcium, lead glass is heavier than regular glass, and has a higher refractive index, increasing the brilliance and sparkle of vases made from the material. Items made from lead glass also make a distinctive ringing sound when tapped. Lead glass can be worked by glassmakers at lower temperatures, making it easier to remove all air bubbles from the glass, contributing to the clarity of items such as an Orrefors vase.