Crystal Creations

In much of Asia, Belgium’s fame relies far less on its beer and chocolate than its glassware. Nineteenth-century maharajahs loved the stuff, and barely an Indian palace exists that doesn’t sport at least a couple of Belgian crystal chandeliers. The most famous name is Val St-Lambert from Seraing (www.val-saint-lambert.com), founded in 1826, with production peaking before WWI. Although some 90% of its lead crystal was sent for export, distinctive two-colour cut-glass pieces remain prized possessions in many a Belgian home. These days, Val St-Lambert still limps on with a showroom and museum at the former monastery site where it's made. However, most such manufacture has shifted to places with lower labour costs, while changing tastes have also posed a challenge for surviving designers. Should you want pieces of classic Belgian glassware, it’s ironically often cheaper to buy antique items, especially if you don’t need a full set. Some Brussels shops are Val St-Lambert specialists.