Published Sep 19 2013, by

Flawless Rock Crystal Sphere


Japanese rock crystal spheres were favored as decorative objects in the Meiji period (1868–1912). Cut from blocks of rock crystal quarried in central Japan, the rough spheres were painstakingly polished by hand using an abrasive mixture of finely ground iron oxide. The finished spheres were then mounted onto custom-designed stands of wood or metal for display.

This sphere is the second largest flawless crystal ball known in the world. The other, only slightly larger and presently in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., exhibits a similar level of craftsmanship and design. The impressive size is underscored by the unblemished transparency of the material and the careful attention by the artist to ensure that the surface finish conveys this property to its fullest extent. This finish itself is especially noteworthy as the clarity of the sheen has rarely been achieved, even with the advent of modern gem-polishing machinery in the twentieth century.

The accompanying, intricately fashioned stand depicts an ornately carved dragon amid swirling waves, long a favored natural motif in Japan. Exquisitely fashioned from bronze, the stand was subsequently gilded and silvered, treatment that enhances the intense movement conveyed by the imagery. The juxta-position between the perfect stillness of the rock crystal sphere and the active movement of the stand is a wonderful union and a superb example of the best traditions of Japanese Meiji-period craftsmanship.

This flawless rock crystal sphere was once the centerpiece of the Mistral nightclub, a popular entertainment venue for Dallasites and out-of-town guests alike, in the Anatole Hotel. A staple fixture in the lobby of the Crow Collection since 1998, it has introduced countless numbers of children to the properties of lenses and how they turn the world upside down.