The Irish Store is delighted to announce that we have expanded our Waterford Crystal range which you can find on The Irish Store. To mark this announcement, we have decided to put together a short history of the world famous brand “Waterford Crystal”.
The Creation of Waterford Crystal
The Waterford Crystal we know today began all the way 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”, something which is still synonymous with the Waterford brand over 200 years later.
The Penrose brothers sought the expertise of John Hill in 1785 who was a renowned glass maker. It was Hill that that began the process of polishing the glass post cutting to give it the Waterford Crystal shine now known the world over. Hill left Waterford in 1788 after a major disagreement with the Penrose brothers and never returned. Waterford cut glass was already being exported to the United Kingdom by that date and was admired by many.
William Penrose passed away in 1796 and the business was sold two years later to James Ramsey, Ambrose Barcroft and Jonathan Gatchell. Interestingly, Gatchell was a clerk only 11 years previously but received the departing Hill’s process for glass compounding due to their friendship which drastically accelerated his standing within the organisation.
Gatchell later became the sole owner of the company until his death in 1823. The Gatchell name would continue to be involved with his son George forming a partnership with George Saunders which would last until 1848. However, the business was not thriving during this period due to new duties being introduced on the manufacture and exportation of glass which crippled profits. Despite receiving acclaim at various awards, the factory ceased production in 1851 and with its closure George Gatchell relocated to England where he lived for at least 30 years until his death.
The Re-Opening of Waterford Crystal
There was no production of glass in the city of Waterford until after the Second World War, almost 100 years later. A small factory was established in Ballytruckle, just over a mile from the site of the original Penrose factory. Noel Griffin and Charles Bacik recruited 30 expert glass blowers from Europe who came to Waterford and trained the Irish apprentices in the art. One of these experts was Miroslav Havel from Czechoslovakia. Havel’s first act was to study the pattern books, located in the National Museum in Dublin, of the Waterford Flint Glassworks from the previous century. It was Havel who oversaw the design and production of the famous Lismore pattern. As Chief designer, Havel’s influence was incredibly strong in the beautiful designs we are now accustomed to with Waterford Crystal.
The 1960s saw Waterford Crystal’s fortunes begin to soar as they began to sell directly to stores worldwide with the United States is one of their largest markets. 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 but it was at this point in time where 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 who still saw huge potential. This decade saw Waterford Crystal introduce the Marquis brand and began to utilise celebrity endorsements such as their partnership 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 where 1.2 billion people watched the Waterford Crystal designed and produced crystal bowl is lowered.
The economic downturn caused the company to go into receivership with the announcement coming on the 30th of January 2009. A year later, an agreement was made between Waterford City Council and WWRD Group Holdings Ltd. to open a new manufacturing and retail facility in the middle of Waterford which gave a much-needed boost to the brand but also the city of Waterford. The facility produces over 45000 units each year and 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 and ensures the Waterford Crystal brand is firmly at the forefront of crystal design and production across the world.
We hope you have enjoyed our guide into the history of Waterford Crystal and if this has sparked your desire for a timeless piece you can find our full range of Waterford crystal on TheIrishStore.com. We ship Waterford Crystal to the United States, Canada and the rest of the world and all purchases are tax-free for our North American customers to make it that little bit sweeter!
Full range of Waterford Crystal on The Irish Store
Interested in getting some gorgeous Waterford Crystal for your home or as a gift for a friend? We sell a full range of Waterford Crystal in our store here.