Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth a.s. is a Czech manufacturer and one of the world’s largest producers and distributors of art supplies, writing equipment and stationery. It was founded in 1790 by Joseph Hardtmuth of Austria. In 1802, the company patented the first pencil lead made from a combination of kaolin and graphite. In 1848, Joseph’s sons, Karl and Ludwig, took over the family business, and the production was relocated to the Bohemian town of Budweis, within the current Czech Republic. The products were given awards in many world exhibitions, including in 1855 in New York City, 1856, 1900 and 1925 in Paris, 1862 in London, 1882 in Vienna and 1905 in Milan. At the 1889 World Fair in Paris, the Hardtmuth’s displayed their pencils rebranded as “Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth”. Each pencil was encased in a yellow cedar-wood barrel.
The inspiration for the name was the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond (Persian for “Mountain of Light”), part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, and the largest diamond in the world at the time. After the Second World War, Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth became a state-owned company, before again becoming privately held in 1992. Since 2007, it has been a member of the Czech parent company KOH-I-NOOR Holding a.s. The company has production facilities in more than 80 countries. It is also a contract manufacturer of small injection-moulded plastic products. Koh-i-Noor was a partner in making Jiří Barta’s 2009 animated feature In the Attic, and its pencils appear frequently throughout the film.