At the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, there were 8 traditional Hungarian glassworks (üveghuta) in the forests of the Bakony Hills: in Városlőd, Pille, Németbánya, Lókút, Pénzeskút, Somhegy and two in Úrkút. The glassworks were located in close proximity to each other, separated by less than 10-15 km aerial distance. Most of the glassmakers came to the Bakony from German territories, with only a few dozen glassblowing families among them.
One of the oldest glassworks was established in Pille in 1747, mainly producing glass rings, including 2,000 window glasses for the church in Torda. After 1762, when the glassworks was closed due to shortage of wood in the surrounding forests, the glassblowers left the village and Pille was annexed to Városlőd.
In 1753 a new glassworks was built, called Deutsch Hütten (Németbánya). In the glassworks white and green glass was produced. In 1771, by order of Maria Theresa, a list of the items produced in the glassworks in Bakony was drawn up: ordinary drinking glasses, table wine glasses, large hexagonal glasses, large long-necked bottles, fine 1 and 2 pint bottles, small and large round window glasses, short-necked bottles (butella), small pharmacist bottles.
Production in the glassworks in Bohemia must have started in the spring of 1760 or 1761. While the glassworks was being built, the glassworks master and the workers were still working in the glassworks in Pille. White, green and slab glass was made here in 3 kilns, and 12 people were employed by the episcopate of Veszprém in this glassworks. The glassworks master was Ferdinand Adler, with whom 12-13 skilled workers arrived from South Bohemia, 6 of whom lived in Csehbánya with their families. One of the reasons for the closure of the glassworks in Pille was that the most important raw material, wood, had run out. On the other hand, Ferdinand Adler had become a wealthy and respected citizen of Veszprém and simply gave up the craft.
One of the most remarkable glassworks in the Bakony was built in 1815 in Somhegy puszta on the estate of the Eszterházy family. Some glassware of the glassworks known as "Somhegy glass" with dates, monograms, floral decorations and animal motifs, as well as glass panels and medicine bottles in white, green and blue survived. In the Bakony the 'butelias' produced here were also called bottles and were used to store high-quality wines. These butelias were mainly bought by the gentry of Szentgál, who were royal hunters and paid their dues to the king with game. A hunter shooting a leaping stag also appears on the coat of arms of Szentgál, and the motif of the leaping stag is frequently depicted on the butelias too.
The butelia on display here shows a hunter shooting a stag, with the inscription on the opposite side: 'Long live Cs. M. 1844" - Mihály Csapó, the hunting judge, is most likely the man smoking the pipe. He is wearing a wide-brimmed hat, a fur-edged dagger, tight trousers and boots, a typical 19th century Szentgál gentry's outfit. The cobalt blue ‘grabbing ring’ was also typical of the Somhegy butelias.
The early 19th century saw a change in the operation of the glassworks (hutas): the leaders of the manorial forestries increasingly protested against the unrestrained wood-fellings associated with the operation of the glassworks. This trend was also observable nationwide, which was the main cause of the gradual disappearance of potash burning.
As the country's industrialisation progressed, cheap raw materials and lower transport costs became increasingly important. The glassworks were far from the railway line, they were still fuelled by wood and the soda that replaced the potash was very expensive too. For this reason, they were simply not profitable to run.
In the 1860s, the brown coal deposits in Ajka (Csingervölgy) were discovered, which made it possible to establish the Ajka glass factory in 1872. It was much more profitable to produce glass directly next to the coal mine. The founder, Bernat Neumann, was already present at the glassworks in Úrkút, and his workers were glass blowers from Somhegy and Úrkút.
The Ajka Glass Factory operated differently from the traditional glassworks, using different technologies: it was the first factory in the county to use coal as a fuel. In 1878 the glass factory started its operation, which changed hands in 1892. The new owner was János Kossuch and his family. He made a major investment, building 12 pottery kilns and a two-storey workers' accomodation. In the beginning, they mainly produced utility glass: medicine bottles, lamp cylinders, cut glassware. In the 1880s, bottles, stemware and various tableware using sophisticated techniques, including polishing, gilding and engraving, appeared.
The company won a gold medal at the 1904 World Exhibition. The Art Deco style that flourished in the first half of the century was reflected in the factory's products, both in terms of objects and designs. At the same time, they sought to broaden the range of colours, adding specialities such as azurite and topaz glass and jasper glass (opalised glass from coloured material).
By 1907 the factory employed 200-300 workers, produced around 100,000 bottles a year, and their products were also sold on foreign markets.
The introduction of sandblasting and portrait engraving in the 1920s was a great step forward, both processes requiring a great deal of skill on the part of the craftspersons. Portraits of, for example, Franz Joseph I and William II appeared on plates. Later, the production of lead crystal in both white and coloured forms was introduced, and this was reflected in the name of the factory from then on. The name Ajka Kristály Kft. from the 1960s also indicated that the factory's image was then mainly defined by the production of lead crystal products. A new decorative element, the so-called rose decoration, was a favourite motif for designers for many years; the so-called overlay or cameo glass (based on the contrast of two, later three layers of glass of different colours) was introduced.
Ajka was the home of outstanding designers such as János Fábry, Magda Németh and Erzsébet L. Szabó.
In 1990 the factory was privatized and its production gradually decreased until it finally closed down in 2019. By now most of the factory's buildings have been demolished and the last Hungarian glass factory with a long history has finally ceased to exist.