The Duralex story, a dishware as unbreakable as our nostalgia

“Do you also know someone who has this tableware?” Asked user @Malhellfica on Twitter on February 19, showing an image of a collection of amber plates and cups. Immediately afterwards, thousands of reactions and comments began from people who recognized that they still had it or had eaten throughout their lives in this Duralex tableware, of French origin and that began to be marketed in the neighboring country in 1945. But how did it get to Spanish homes and why does it evoke so much nostalgia?

If many people still keep part of this tableware, it is due to its “practically unbreakable” condition – as the brand itself boasted in its advertisements back in the sixties – thanks to its material: tempered glass, which is achieved by gradually heating it up to reaching temperatures of 700 degrees Celsius and suddenly cooling it. “It resists shock and goes from boiling water to cold without risk of breakage,” they announced.

“It is much more resistant glass and, in case of breaking, it does so in small balls, thus preventing you from cutting yourself,” he explains to Verne in a telephone conversation Isabel Campi, president of the Design History Foundation, who at 68 years old remembers perfectly “that first transparent glass shaped like a barrel and two edges that crossed in the middle to reinforce it”, and that the brand called Gigogne (pot-bellied ). “And the first course was shaped like a margarita,” he adds.

Campi, originally from Barcelona, ​​does not remember exactly when this tableware began to be sold in Spain, but he does remember his family and other Catalan families during the 1950s moving to Andorra to buy it. “That was very typical when you wanted to buy some French product that you still couldn’t find in stores here,” he says. “Then they began to be marketed, for example, in Gerplex stores,” he adds. In Madrid and Seville they could be found in Preciados Galleries, as can be seen in this newspaper advertisement ABC from 1961.

Tempered glass was discovered by the French company Saint-Gobain in 1939, although for another use. “Initially, this material was created to make car windows,” says Campi. But the beginning of the Second World War made it a new product (resistant tableware) for the most humble families and in 1945 it was registered under the Duralex brand. “It was a cheap product, from workers’ homes and for daily use,” explains the president of the Design History Foundation.

Later, to those first transparent dishes from Duralex, the green and amber versions were added. “In Spain, it was a revolution because until then china and porcelain tableware were used, which were later relegated only to special occasions; those of Duralex endured more trotting,” adds Campi, who does not believe that “there was only one family in the years. sixties and seventies that I didn’t have that dinnerware. “

“To meet the impressive market demand,” as this article in ABC October 1963, Saint-Gobain established the Vidrieria de Castilla company in Spain and that year inaugurated its glass factory in Azuqueca de Henares (Guadalajara), promoting the industrialization of a region –with the creation of more than 500 jobs– until then supported by agriculture.

This article from Guadalajara Daily remember that the Azuqueca “glass factory” – as it was known in the Henares corridor area – was doing well because “Duralex dishes entered all Spanish homes, to the point that they were identified with the modernizing advances of the society”. “This tableware and other foreign designs, such as nylon stockings, which also appeared around that time, symbolized progress,” adds Campi.

As Teresa Vilarós -author of The monkey of disenchantment. A cultural critique of the Spanish transition (1973-1993)– in this interview for The jump, replacing earthenware with Duralex was a gesture of breaking with the period of autarky towards economic liberalism that would take hold from the seventies in much of the world, also in Spain: “When people in the towns were told that they will throw away the china and buy Duralex. “

But at the end of that decade the company – which in addition to the Spanish one, had two more factories in France – went into decline, as it counted Five days in this article: “It begins to become outdated for consumers and it has to face competition, the result of the beginnings of a globalized world”. “We just got a little fed up with Duralex, it was the usual trend: the same glasses and plates at all times and everywhere. I think we get bored and we stop buying them,” says Campi.

Although the company was about to close in 2008, it was precisely the global economic crisis that saved it. “Families need to spend as little as possible again. Shockproof dishes help this,” he explained. Five days. Currently, this tableware is still being marketed. It is enough to type Duralex in Google so that the search engine returns several results of stores that sell glasses, plates, dishes and other pieces of the brand at a fairly cheap price on the Internet.

During their existence, Duralex pieces have also made the leap from store shelves to museum showcases. That first glass model, the Gigogne, is permanently exhibited at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris; and the MOMA museum’s online design store sells a multi-colored edition of another model, the Picardie, – narrower and beveled, with which Daniel Craig drinks whiskey in the film. Skyfall– for 41.95 euros the unit.

And you? Did you have (or do you have at home) a Duralex tableware? Are you still using it? Classic, amber or green? What memories does it bring you? Tell us on Twitter or by replying to this email.

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