Our tour began on the third floor of Lobmeyr’s Kartnerstrasse showroom, which acts as a museum of sorts for the company’s extensive back catalogue. Glass cases filled with tumblers, drinking sets, and dishes line the perimeter of a narrow circular walkway, and in the middle is this copper-wheel engraving lathe — the first to be used by the company in the early 19th century. It’s almost exactly like the one that’s used today. “It hasn’t really changed in the last 300 years,” Rath laughs. Its variously sized spindles and discs are used to create a variety of textures and line effects on the surface of glass.

J. & L. Lobmeyr

Since its founding six generations ago, Lobmeyr has tended to follow its own compass rather than listening to the whims of the market — in other words, it’s never been afraid to be a little bit different. It’s why the company moved from its original role as glass merchants to manufacturers; what inspired a relationship with the radical designers of the Wiener Werkstätte; and why the company today collaborates with designers like Polka, whose 2008 beer glasses boast an engraving based on the goals scored during a 1978 soccer match between Austria and Germany.

In Lobmeyr’s case, different works. Its chandeliers hang in New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Kremlin, its drinking sets have been designed by everyone from Josef Hoffmann to Max Lamb, and its glittery, three-story emporium, on one of Vienna’s main shopping drags, is the kind of place tourists make a point to visit. But very few have had the opportunity to see inside Lobmeyr’s crystal-making workshop, where the company fits and fabricates each piece by hand, using the same methods that were employed during each glass or chandelier’s original production. A chance meeting at the Milan Furniture Fair with Marco Dessí, the Italian-born, Vienna-based designer who has been collaborating with Lobmeyr in recent years, netted me a visit; together we met with Leonid Rath, who with his two brothers now runs the company’s day to day.