Period Piece: Duralex Tumblers
When I recall school-dinners three things come to mind. First, searching through the pile of plastic trays to try and find one free of baked-on food remnants. Second, the dinner ladies’ signature cheese-flan, and third, the little glass tumblers for our juice. I remember these tumblers because each one had a different number stamped on the bottom which was revealed when you finished your drink (see below) .
What I did not know was that I was drinking from a global design classic, a glass so iconic that it has a permanent spot in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, a glass that has serviced the lips of both James Bond and Indiana Jones, a glass that has been magnificently described as the “ultimate drinking vessel created by man“: The Duralex tumbler.
Proudly French, the legendary status of Duralex tumblers comes not only from their iconic designs, but also because they are about as indestructible as a glass can get. The name ‘Duralex’ is inspired by this strength, derived from the Latin motto, “Dura Lex Sed Lex” (The law is tough, but it is the law).
The toughness comes from a tempering process of using extreme heat to mould the glass followed by rapid cooling. When Duralex first launched them in the 1940’s, the marketing said they could be “used as hammers”. You can fill them with boiling water, chill them in the freezer, even drop them on the floor (within reason!) and they will abide. After the apocalypse cockroaches will be toasting their survival with Duralex tumblers.
Duralex tumblers now come in all shapes an sizes, but in terms of true classics there are three to watch out for:
Gigogne: The first tableware sold by Duralex in 1946 and favourite of school canteens across the globe. Also good for gin.
Picardie: The quintessential French bistro glass and James Bond’s tumbler of choice in Skyfall.
Universel: Classic chic French design. Simple, elegant, but most importantly, used by Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
You can buy half a dozen of any of these classic French tumblers for under £10. There can’t be many museum-worthy design pieces you can get for that price.