This story originally aired on June 22, 2015.
When Hollywood needed a diamond in the golden age of cinema, it turned to the Austrian Alps, to a company called Swarovski, not for a diamond, but for a cut crystal that looked like a diamond.
The 120-year-old multibillion-dollar company was founded to make ordinary people look like movie stars with its cut glass, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett .
The ruby slippers in “Wizard of Oz” have no rubies, just like the diamond tiara that Audrey Hepburn wore in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s had no diamonds at all”.
The same goes for the iconic glove of Michael Jackson, prototype of the crown of Elton John and the dress of Marilyn Monroe the night she sang the President Kennedy serenade.
Daniel Swarovski founded his crystal company in the late 19th century with the idea of bringing the look of royalty in diamonds to the commoner by selling them cut glass instead.
“He created the affordable diamond. And yes, it’s an illusion of a diamond, but a diamond is nothing more than a material that captures light and refracts it,” said Nadja, the Swarovski’s great-great-granddaughter.
For more than 120 years, Swarovski has permeated pop culture, atop the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, on the chandeliers of the Metropolitan Opera House and on the shimmering curtain of the Oscars.
Rihanna’s see-through crystal dress was sparkling with Swarovski crystals when she accepted a 2014 Fashion Icon Award.
The company’s headquarters are located at the foot of the Austrian Alps in Wattens. Access to the factory floor is strictly limited; no foreigner and no competitor is allowed to enter.
“We live in a competitive world and we try to protect what is important to us, but it is not rocket science,” said the founder’s great-great-grandnephew, Marcus Swarovski.
When cut in a certain way, “sand, water and fire,” as Marcus called it, can look like a glowing flower. And what looks like the biggest diamond in the world is being held in the Chambers of Wonders.
Giant crystal chandeliers enchant tourists, and dark hallways lead to crystal replicas of the Taj Mahal and the Empire State Building.
Artist Sir Richard Fuller designed the Crystal Dome to look like the inside of a crystal. Public reaction ranges from euphoria to depression.
“It’s a little disconcerting, out of place,” said one person.
Outside, a sparkling swimming pool reflects a crystal cloud; 800,000 crystals suspended in the air sparkle with each changing ray of the sun, framed by blue skies and alpine majesty.
Tourists flock to what is now Austria’s second most popular attraction.
Swarovsky see crystals as full players: filmmakers, artists, clothing designers direct them to create dreams, illusions and memories.
“Crystal was really a protagonist for this dress,” Marcus said. “It was kind of the same kind of spirit we saw when Marilyn Monroe sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to John F. Kennedy. Being a part of those big pop culture moments is something that really makes us feel good. , really proud. “