In the past few issues of Cigar Journal we’ve been on the exciting discovery journey of tracing the wonderful ceramic jars – from Habanos S. A. as well as the various distributors worldwide. In this issue we’ll dedicate ourselves to the history of crystal jars, also better known as glass jars or “glass office jars.” Production of these was halted in the 1970s and 1980s, but began again in 2009. We owe the invention of the crystal jars to H. Upmann, which dates back to the first decades of the 20th century. The first crystal jar was adorned on the front with a single, oval-shaped, light-gray label bearing the brand logo in black – other than this, no other brand labels were placed on the jar. To date, I have failed to find a genuine copy of this jar. So far, I’ve only been able to admire photos of it in Min Ron Nee’s An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars. The use of these crystal jars was established in the 1940s and 1950s, when many brands started to market their cigars in jars such as these.
A closer examination of all the brands that sold cigars in so-called glass jars over time shows that H. Upmann has brought most of the editions to market, such as the following vitolas, which were all released in glass jars:
• H. Upmann Amatistas, 50 cigars,
• H. Upmann Arcadias Claro, 25 cigars,
• H. Upmann Petit Crystales, 25 or 50 cigars,
• H. Upmann Coronas, 25 or 50 cigars,
• H. Upmann Cristales, 25 or 50 cigars,
• H. Upmann Noellas, 25 cigars,
• H. Upmann Petit Coronas, 25 or 50 cigars,
• H. Upmann Short Coronas, 25 cigars.
A vitola by H. Upmann has a peculiarity in terms of its name. Until the late 1990s, it was released onto the market – and this was certainly no accident – under the name of Cristales as well as the name Crystales. These jars were already difficult to obtain in the 1980s. Upon closer inspection, these jars by H. Upmann have some differences. The jars from the pre-Castro era were closed by hooks attached to the lids, which fastened the container, whereas the jars from the later years had this locking mechanism attached to the lower part. This consisted of hooks that closed the lid by rotation. All the jars of the H. Upmann brand were equipped with a handle made of leather, which was useful for transport, and carried an imprint of the brand name. These nice pieces were packed in a cardboard box. In addition, there was a red label affixed to the underside of the jar that stated, “the cigars contained in this jar stay as fresh and as soft as if they were smoked in Havana.” This method of cigar humidification, as described in the book An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars, can be equated with the maturation process of wine, since cigars can slowly mature in a well-protected environment. Hoyo de Monterrey is another brand that launched its cigars in glass jars, namely the following:
• Hoyo de Monterrey Coronas, 50 cigars,
• Hoyo de Monterrey Cristales No. 1, 25 or 50 cigars,
• Hoyo de Monterrey Diplomats, 50 cigars.
A special feature of these vessels is the handle necessary for transport; rather than the usual leather, it was made from silicon. The Punch brand also sold cigars in glass jars with silicon handles until the 1970s and 1980s:
• Punch Petit Coronas, 25 cigars,
• Punch Presidentes, 25 cigars.
However, if we look back in history, other brands had already circulated beautiful glass containers before the 1960s:
• La Corona La Corona Grandes, 50 cigars,
• La Corona Invencibles, 50 cigars,
• La Corona Invencibles No.2, 50 cigars,
• Benson & Hedges Coronas, 50 cigars,
• Benson & Hedges Coronados, 25 cigars.
The jars from the La Corona brand had the transport handles made from silicon, while the glass containers by Benson & Hedges had a leather handle, although both productions stem from the same period. A peculiarity that all productions have in common is that, in addition to the vitola de salida, the words “Claro” or “Claro Claro” could also be depicted. This indicated the color of the cigars packed in the jars. In some catalogs, here and there, one finds illustrations of Partagás jars containing 50 Classics. After searching for this fabled jar for many years, I began to doubt its existence – until I was recently able to actually admire one in person, thanks to the help of a friend. The main body of the jar containing the cigars is of course made of glass, but the lid is made of aluminum and is screwed to the glass container. On the front is a sticker that depicts the old “vista,” which was enclosed in the cigar boxes at the beginning of the 20th century. In the meantime, these jars – both with and without the accompanying cigars – are much sought-after collectors’ items.