In 1783, brothers George and William Penrose established Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland. They did not know anything about glass manufacturing, but they did see economic opportunity—demand was high for plain and decorative flint glass, and the supply was low in England, thanks to debilitating glass excise duties that did not apply to Ireland.
The Penrose brothers hoped to created crystal “as fine a quality as any in Europe… in the most elegant style.” To accomplish that goal, they brought in Quaker glassmaker John Hill, who supervised Waterford’s 50 to 70 employees for about three years. When he left, Hill gave the company’s glass formula to a clerk named Jonathan Gatchell. After William Penrose left the company around the turn of the century, Gatchell took over Waterford, along with two local families, the Ramseys and the Barcrofts.
Waterford blossomed in the early part of the 19th century—King George III ordered Waterford Crystal for his vacation residence. Waterford flint glass had become famous for its distinctive shade of gray, a color caused by sand imported from the King’s Lynn region used in Waterford’s glass recipe.
The company produced a wide array of table and ornamental cut glass, including claret and water jugs, glassware from wine glasses to goblets, bowls, candlesticks, dishes, chandeliers, and, of course, their famous decanters. These decanters featured three rings around their necks, with a mushroom-shaped stopper. One of the most collectible Waterford pieces today is the so-called apprentice bowl. At the end of his Waterford apprenticeship, the former student would carve a bowl that featured every kind of cut found in the entire Waterford line.
After Gatchell died in 1825, Waterford’s growth began to slow. Waterford submitted a hugely successful entry to the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, but heavy British taxes on glass put the company out of business that same year.
In 1947, a small group of workers restarted Waterford as part of a renewed desire for Irish art driven by the independence movement. The new Waterford began with the old company’s designs and expanded from there. The perennially popular Lismore pattern was introduced in 1952, along with Alana, Carina, and Araglin, to name just a few.
In 1986, Waterford merged with Wedgwood, and the company has continued to enjoy a sterling reputation for quality. In fact, the world-famous Times Square New Year’s Eve ball has been decorated with Waterford Crystal triangles since the ball was redesigned in 2000.
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MOVIE REVIEW: Danny CollinsCulver City Observer, March 26th
He's got money in the bank, cocaine up his nose, 100 year old Scotch in a Waterford glass, a 20 year old "fantastic plastic" money grubber on his arm and a "glass house" exposing all for the world to see. And he's miserable. Sick of it all. And then...Read more
Original print value is catch-as-catch-canOcala, March 21st
Q: I appreciated the opportunity to speak with you on the radio show. Enclosed please find photographs of the two items I inquired about. The first is a print behind glass, which I had thought I heard you discussing with another caller some weeks before...Read more
Treasures... Crystal is a clear winnerIrish Independent, March 5th
And dating Waterford glass is especially difficult because there were two factories in the city, 100 years apart. Like so many successful Irish industries, glassmaking in Waterford began as an 18th century cross border tax dodge. From 1777 a series of...Read more
Long-serving musical great mourned by Bradford Catholic PlayersBradford Telegraph and Argus, March 1st
He directed many shows at the Bradford Alhambra, finally retiring in 1994 when the Catholic Players presented him with a specially-commissioned Waterford glass copy of a page of the score of 42nd Street, his last show with the society. He continued to...Read more
Cabinet signs-off on €178m Waterford Crystal pension dealIrish Independent, December 9th
Waterford Glass and Crystal was the iconic industry in the South East. This double insolvency has been relatively rare. When the case was taken, it was in the context of Ireland being in breach of a directive in relation to insolvency," she said. "The...Read more
Crystal is back at the cutting edge of styleTelegraph.co.uk, November 8th
And daring features strongly here – it was a hallmark of Miroslav Havel, the Czech “maestro” who is credited with reviving the Waterford glass industry, which had been dormant for a century when, in 1947, he was enticed to Ireland by promises of a land...Read more
Exploring Waterford's Viking PastIrishCentral, July 13th
It carried a gift of Waterford glass which was presented to the Tsar in St. Petersburg. Vikings aside, it is this glass that has spread Waterford's name worldwide. Waterford Crystal was founded by brothers William and George Penrose in 1783. “They were ...Read more
European court rules in favour of Waterford Crystal workers in pension caseRTE.ie, April 24th
Unite Regional Secretary and former Waterford Glass employee Jimmy Kelly said it is a great day for former Waterford Crystal workers and for others who lost their pensions in similar situations. Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Pat Kenny, Mr Kelly said the ...Read more