Hi everyone. I hope you all had a great week. So last week I shared some traditional Irish wedding traditions. If you do have a wedding coming up you may be looking for the perfect Irish gift for the happy couple. And what could be more perfect than some Waterford Crystal? At The Irish store, we stock their iconic and long-running Lismore collection.
This particular design was created by Miroslav Havel back in the late 1940s when Waterford Crystal was re-established after a long hiatus. So let’s take a closer look at the history of this classic Irish brand.
Irish Crystal; A Brief History
The history of Irish Crystal goes back to the late 17th century. George Ravenscroft started the tradition in 1676. The glassmaker added lead oxide to the silicates that make up the molten glass. The process achieved a softness which allowed the glass to be blown and carved while remaining hard and clear as it cooled. The first crystal factory in Ireland opened in County Tyrone in 1771.
The Creation of Waterford Crystal
The Waterford Crystal we know today back in 1783 with George and William Penrose. Their vision was to “create the finest quality crystal for drinking vessels and objects of beauty for the home.”
The Penrose brothers sought the expertise of renowned glassmaker John Hill in 1785. Hill that began the process of polishing the glass to give the unique Waterford Crystal shine now known the world over. Hill left Waterford in 1788 after a major disagreement with the Penrose brothers. Waterford cut glass was already being exported to the United Kingdom at this time as its popularity grew.
William Penrose passed away in 1796 and the business was sold two years later to James Ramsey, Ambrose Barcroft and Jonathan Gatchell. Gatchell later became the sole owner of the company until his death in 1823. His son George formed a partnership with George Saunders which would last until 1848. However, the business suffered during this period due to new duties imposed on the manufacture and exportation of glass. The factory ceased production in 1851. George Gatchell relocated to England where he lived until his death 30 years later.
The Re-Opening of Waterford Crystal
There was no production of glass in the city of Waterford until after the Second World War. A small factory was established in Ballytruckle near the site of the original Penrose factory. Noel Griffin and Charles Bacik recruited 30 expert glass blowers from Europe who came to Waterford. They trained Irish apprentices in the art of glassblowing. One of these experts was Miroslav Havel from Czechoslovakia. Havel’s first act was to study the pattern books of the Waterford Flint Glassworks from the previous century. As I mentioned previously, it was Havel who oversaw the design and production of the famous Lismore pattern.
The 1960s saw Waterford Crystal’s fortunes begin to soar as they began to sell directly to stores worldwide. In 1973, the company completed the plant in Kilbarry which totalled 425,000 feet. At the time the largest manufacturing unit of its type worldwide. The company continued to prosper until the late 1980s. At this point in time, things started to go awry due to the declining US dollar, falling demand and rising costs of business.
The brand received a much-needed cash injection in 1990 with the arrival of new investors. This decade saw Waterford Crystal introduce the Marquis brand. They also began to utilise celebrity endorsements forging partnerships with John Rocha and Jasper Conran. The biggest moment in terms of marketing for the company was to come during the Millennium countdown in Times Square, New York. 1.2 billion watched a specially commissioned Waterford Crystal ball being lowered. Since then. it appears every December 31 to ring in the New Year. It measures 12 feet in diameter, weighs 11875 pounds and is made up of no less than 2688 crystals!
The economic downturn caused the company to go into receivership on the 30th of January 2009. A year later, an agreement was made between Waterford City Council and WWRD Group Holdings Ltd. They opened a new manufacturing and retail facility in Waterford. This gave a much-needed boost to the brand but also the city of Waterford itself. The facility produces over 45000 units each year. Nearly a million people have visited to shop and tour the impressive plant. In July 2015 WWRD was purchased by the Fiskars Corporation which brings us up to current day.
Waterford Crystal chandeliers can be found in the halls of Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. The name continues to be synonymous with timeless elegance and classic style.
Well, that’s all for this week. Shop our full collection of Waterford crystal vases, wine glasses & photo frames and use BLOG10 at the checkout to get a 10% discount sitewide!
Slán go fóill!