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KOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH a.s.

Establishment of KOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH
This year the KOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH Company celebrates 225 years since its founding. The company, which was established by Josef Hardtmuth in 1790, originally produced stoneware and building materials because Josef Hardtmuth was a very proficient architect and builder. His work includes the very beautiful Lednice-Valtice complex of the Lichtenstein Chateau on the South-Moravian estate, but his work is much more extensive and his fame even gained him the interest of Napoleon. Josef Hardtmuth was a typical inventor, he developed several types of building material and stoneware and even the modern lime-sand brick and the technology for its production. His profession placed great requirements on drawing. However the drawing tools at that time were only the handmade and therefore very expensive and poorly available English pencils or unsatisfactory German pencils, both made of a single piece of graphite. As a competent constructor Joseph Hardtmuth combined his knowledge and technologies used in building materials manufacturing and developed a pencil lead based on a mixture of clay and ground graphite along with, and this was fundamental, the revolutionary technology for series production. The basis of this technology is still used by all pencil lead manufactories worldwide.

Manufacturing in Ceske Budejovice (Budweiss) and Gradational Graphite Pencils
Over time, manufacture of pencil leads and pencils became more important than production of stoneware and building materials, so a completely new factory was built in 1848 in Ceske Budejovice (Budweiss). Franz, the grandson of Joseph Hardtmuth, was also a skilled engineer who fundamentally improved production technology and assured transition from manufactory to fully industrial and effective production methods with a guaranteed high quality. Gradational graphite pencils and the first 12 coloured leads, followed by the black dry velvet Negro lead, which is still manufactured today, saw the light of the world for the first time as a result of innovations by Franz Hardtmuth. Graphite pencils were initially produced in 17 grades under sequence number 1500 and because they were a shiny yellow, they were named KOH-I-NOOR after the famous yellow diamond. Immediately after production was launched this 1500 pencil became a worldwide sales success and is still made today as standard in 20 grades under the same identification and name. This is why the name KOH-I-NOOR was combined with the family name of HARDTMUTH as the name of the whole company – KOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH. The whole grading system was subsequently described using the letters H, B and F – the first letters of the names Hardtmuth, Budejovice (Budweiss) and Franz. This grade identification system was also adopted worldwide but today no one knows where it originated from.

Traditional trademarks
The subsequent development of the factory and brand was very rapid. During the period at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, between the World Wars, the company could rightfully be called a world leader, highly active in innovation. A whole range of products developed and sold during this period are still being sold today. A unique set of patented product trademarks also originated during this time and are still used today. Some examples to serve as demonstration are the elephant pictured on erasers under id. 300, theProgresso trademark or Polycolor, Mephisto or Scala trademarks. During the period following the Second World War the fame of the brand continued to expand, particularly towards the east into the countries of the former Soviet Union, even when the company lost a number of subsidiary factories in states of the so-called socialist camp, because they were nationalised and renamed (in Romania, former Yugoslavia and in Poland). In spite of the difficult times the KOH-I-NOOR holding was expanded by a number of additional production lines, so that the collection of products at the time was very imposing and unique, even on a worldwide scale. Apart from pencils the company also produced pastels, markers, ballpoint pens, mechanical pencils, erasers with elephant, rulers and triangles, paints, glues, modelling clays, inks and drawing inks, carbon copy paper, reproduction membranes, toys, sports equipment including skis and hockey sticks, office files and exercise book covers and many other products. The group of famous trademarks was also expanded, chiefly by Versatil (mechanical pencils), Mondeluz (watercolour pencils, etc.), Toison D´or (soft pastels) and Gioconda (pastels etc.), Centropen (markers and liners), Logarex and Grafo. 

Nowadays just the trademark Centropen doesn't belong to the KOH-I-NOOR's portfolio of products. The markers&liners factory was separated from the holding by an administrative decision during the turbulent revolutionary period of transition from the old socialist system to democracy. Nevertheless, KOH-I-NOOR holding managed to successfully substitute the missing R&D and production of fibre pens and markers Centropen, which was lost by this external intervention, by R&D and production of a newly developed KOH-I-NOOR HemusMark collection.

Island of High Quality
The quality and fame of the primary flagships from the KOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH Company’s collection are demonstrated by the fact that the aforementioned trademarks and products, which are represented by these trademarks, have been demanded by customers and purchased by them for over 160 years, but even the age of approximately 65 years for the “younger trademarks” is evidence of the stable high utility value that our products have for customers. In today’s turbulent times, when progress is measured in months and weeks, the island of such enduring products is like “another world“.


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