Knoflikarsky prumysl Zirovnice, a.s. (thereinafter KPZ) was established in 1994 as a following up of longtime tradition of pearl button production in Zirovnice.
This longtime tradition has been continuing over 135 years in Zirovnice. The pearl production went through many changes, from original handcrafted production to industrial production which, especially, in last few years became mass production. The old hand equipment was replaced by new automatic technology. The old traditional procedures were also replaced by new ones as well as the pearl button terminology was completely changed. The old original machines for pearl button production are possible to find only in museums or private collections.
Back to the roots of pearl buttons production
The longtime tradition was founded by the pearl workers who moved from Vienna around 1880 to this region. Those workers wanted to gain independence and left Vienna to the countryside to find a cheaper labour power. The first person who settled in Zirovnice was Josef Zampach who married in his early twenties a girl from Zirovnice named Antonie. He brought his own pearl equipment to Zirovnice. A very interesting fact is that he was also bringing the pearl on his back from Vienna and returning to Vienna with the finished goods.
Zampach had a small manufactory with only 6 turning machines in his beginning in 1869. After that year the pearl industry grew increasingly. For comparison there were employed just 40 workers producing pearl buttons and using around 30 turning machines in 1873 about 2 years later the number of turning machines grew up to almost 300 turning machines.
The intense increase caused the necessity of founding a pearl craftsman association which was founded September 5, 1885. One year later was registered 67 craftsmen, 234 workers and 152 scholars.
A few pearl craftsmen also founded a pearl craftsmen association in Zirovnice in 1905 so that the industry could develop faster in this region. The promising development of Zirovnice and its pearl production was suddenly stopped by WW I. 300 men entered the forces, the pearl import ceased and many families lost their source of income.
Right after the WW I the pearl industry passed through a short time fluctuation. Pearl production coop has grown from very small financial support to one of the biggest production and exporting establishment in CSR. The coop dealt with raw materials purchasing and pearl button sales of its members whose number was rising. The positive after WW I period was interrupted by a pearl button price decrease in 1920. The coop recorded substantial losses in the finished pearl button stock which caused almost its liquidation. However, its members did not let this happen and started over again.
The members bought a joint house (commonly called Perlex) in 1927. The coop had a large pearl button stores, various kinds and sizes of buttons. The pearl boom was again ended by WW II. The pearl supply was stopped and the workers had to kick off the old pearl waste from the route in Zirovnice to save a pearl tradition in this region.
After forming independent Czechoslovak republic the coop had the same structure as before the WW II. The pearl button association changed its name after to WW II to Perlex. Besides Perlex there was also the Production association – pearl button exporters which was founded September 9, 1941 as a result of pearl button development in Czechoslovakia.
Zirovnician Pearl button producers were divided into two main plants in 1950. First plant was Koh-i-noor Prague and the second was a production coop Perlex. Those two plants were joined up in 1953 as a Koh-i-noor with the residency in Zirovnice. 3 years later the plant was renamed to Perletarsky prumysl Zirovnice (Pearl industry Zirovnice).
Pearl industry Zirovnice started to teach in their own premises the old pearl craft in 1957. They owned the boarding school for students and they opened 3years free of charge field of study named “pearl button producer”, in that time very popular.
Popularity and good results of Pearl industry in Zirovnice led to decision to build a new plant in 1960 which was finished and open only one year later.
The link between pearl production and the main supplier caused that July 1st 1963 was created a new national plant Knoflikarsky prumysl Zirovnice (Button industry Zirovnice – KPZ). This national plant consisted of 3 independent plants – Pearl Industry Zirovnice, Kornolit Prostejov and Butonie Roudnice nad Labem. The new plant was open 1964 and because of a boom of pearl button industry it was built 5 new production halls which were fully equipped by new automatic machines.
KPZ had its first injection products in 1977. First kind of injection products were, of course, buttons which were treated – colored or electroplated. Then, other kinds of injections followed such as clips or products for furniture industry.
The new plant even reflected the needs of its employees. They provided dormitory Perlex as well as a canteen. Employees increase led to the necessity of building new block of flats, in 1978 was finished the company flats and also there was finished a new dormitory complex near the production halls.
Very important date regarding ownership was January 3rd 1994 when the company was transformed into a joint stock company and it started the modern history of KPZ.
Nowadays, the company still produces buttons and furnishings as a historical heritage but its main field of production is plastics parts for automotive industry.