Between Kalmar and Växjö -- within an hour's drive -- are several glassworks, including Orrefors and Kosta Boda. Kosta Glassworks and Boda Glassworks have been the leading names in Swedish crystal since the 19th century. However, they have pooled their resources to become "Kosta Boda" and now operate as one empire, although many of their original factories still maintain separate identities. Not only can you go on Sweden's grandest shopping trip here, but you also can see master glass blowers -- among the world's finest -- at work.

Buying Swedish Glass

The temperature inside the furnace is 2,066°F (1,130°C). The gatherer reaches into its flaming interior, gathers the glowing melt on the blowing iron, and hands it over to the blower. The caramel-soft material sizzles as it is shaped against wet newsprint in the hands of the gaffer. Only an expert's touch will do now -- a touch schooled by years of experience. When it's time for the gaffer to put the handle on a pitcher, he has to "see" how hot the glass is. If it's too hot, the attachment will run off or go through the pitcher. If it's too cold, it will be impossible to attach. Handblown glass is a living craft, born in the hands of glass workers.

Shopping in the Kingdom of Crystal is one of Sweden's best activities, especially if you keep the following points in mind: An ordinary purchase can save you as much as 75% off stateside prices -- and if you're willing to settle for seconds or glass with certain flaws, you can save still more. On other items, assuming you're getting a bargain, the cost of glass purchased in the "kingdom" can still be about 50% cheaper in Sweden than in the United States, even when shipping costs are added. Even if it is flawed, the glassware sold in the area is superior to what you are likely to find in your local shopping mall back home. Still, it's always best to do some advance scouting of the glass outlets in Stockholm so you'll be familiar with the prices when you arrive. Seek out the red tags in the Växjö outlets; they signal that the glass has been greatly reduced in price for quick clearance. You can always look for special promotional deals that might be offered at any time of the year, depending on an outlet's inventory.

Bumps, discoloration, nicks, and bubbles are the most common faults in "seconds," but sometimes they are virtually unnoticeable except to a trained eye. Ask a factory if it's selling any discontinued styles. These products are invariably marked down for quick clearance. If you're a collector, you no doubt already know that a signed piece of art glass has value, whereas an unsigned piece does not.

Before leaving the store, make absolutely certain that the piece of glass you purchased (obviously not art glass) can go into the dishwasher. If it can't, you'll have to wash the glass by hand. Detergents can cause glass to lose some of its luster.

If you're a light shopper, you can hand-carry your purchases back on the plane, providing they are carefully wrapped. You can also have the store ship your glass home for you. As a rule, shipping costs equal about 30% of the marked price on the item. If your glass arrives broken, take a picture of the damaged merchandise and send it with a letter along with a copy of your receipt to the factory at which you made the purchase. All breakage is replaced.

Finally, count on visiting no more than five outlets per day. Pick up a map at the tourist office in Växjö and devise your attack plan from that.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.