Arc International Cristallerie Four Verre Usine (34) Mmm1805
©Arc International Crystal Furnace Glass Factory|Arc International

Arc International and Outlet

Journey to the center of glass

To discover the Arc company is to plunge into the heart of a glassmaking know-how perpetuated since 1825. Based in Arques from the outset, France’s largest glass and crystal factory is open to visitors. In the factory, I went behind the scenes to discover how the collections of the world leader in tableware are made. Before doing some shopping, in the huge Arc Outlet factory outlet.

The Arc saga

Luminarc®, Arcopal®, Arcoroc®, Cristal d’Arques®, Chef&Sommelier®: these brands have accompanied the daily lives of generations of French people. Arc is a fascinating industrial saga. In Arques, a town of just under 10,000 inhabitants near Saint-Omer, 4,500 people work for Arc France.

Near the Neufossé canal, the immensity of the factories, spread over 200 hectares, has always flabbergasted me. Like me, some 20,000 visitors enter the site with its strict safety standards every year, for well-supervised guided tours departing from the Arc Outlet factory outlet.

From glass to crystal

After walking through part of the industrial estate, the tour begins with a film. The glassworks was founded in 1825. 100 years later, Arc built its first basin furnaces and installed its first presses.

The first glass-blowing machines appeared in 1948. Opal glass and impact-resistant glass see the light of day in 1958. Automated stemware production begins in 1960. Ten years later, the company developed the world’s first mechanized crystal manufacturing process, a veritable revolution that made crystal accessible to all. Since then, the Group’s R&D department has continued to innovate. New types of glass have appeared, including Krysta®, an extra-resistant lead-free crystalline as sparkling and sonorous as crystal, colored opal and culinary opal (voted “Product of the Year 2019”)


World leader in glass

World leader in glass

A family business since 1895, run by three generations of Durands, the glass group was taken over in 2015 by the American PHP. The figures make your head spin. The group’s five brands are sold in 160 countries and the group has four production sites: in France, the USA, China and the United Arab Emirates.

Arques is of course the leading production site with3 million items per day, 10 furnaces and 50 production lines.We’re right next to the L furnace, the largest, which produces 700,000 pieces per day and where let’s go in, after a second film that reveals all the techniques involved in glass production. On leaving the room, I know everything (or almost everything) about the techniques of glassblowing, pressed glass, turned glass, stemware creation or tempered glass.

Technical preamble

Before entering the furnace, the guide goes into detail on a few key stages: preparing the mixtures, heating techniques, the organization of a furnace, the importance of mold maintenance (they need to be polished every 8 hours!).

Sand, soda, lime and crushed glass (groisil), heated to 1500°C give birth to a molten glass paste directed to several distribution channels each feeding a different production machine. Each channel releases a drop strictly calibrated in shape and weight. From 35 g for a stemmed glass to 3 kg for a vase.

The underside of glass

It’s time to enter the monster. The noise is deafening, the heat intense, between 30 and 40°C. Here production never stops. Here are the famous molten drops, pressed, blown before our eyes to become stemware, mugs and tumblers. Flames, blasts of heat, firing, annealing, it’s a never-ending ballet. 30 seconds were enough to make a mug, it’s 3 hours for a stemmed glass.

Fully automated production guarantees the highest level of quality.The gangway then takes us to the exit of the annealing tunnel for another ballet. One by one, items are checked for size, appearance and feel, before being automatically packed. All rejects are recycled, the company adheres to a very strict quality charter and process. We could watch the progress of the glass for hours, but let’s head for the factory store, where hundreds of references await us, whose manufacturing secrets we now know.