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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Waterford Crystal Ball to support Torbay Crohns and Colitis groupTorquay Herald Express, October 21st
The event, being held on Saturday November 29 at the Livermead House Hotel, will raise money to go towards providing equipment for the Gastroenterology Team at Torbay Hospital. The ball has been organised by Tarasa Van Martin, the owner of the ...Read more
McGrath family silver to auctionIrish Times, October 17th
He amassed a personal fortune from the venture which he and his family used to create a business empire that at one time comprised Waterford Glass and the Irish Glass Bottle Company. McGrath, who also owned a stud farm, lived in Cabinteely House in ...Read more
Cultural tales of South-east IrelandThe Guardian, October 17th
Later, after a tour of the factory where the famous crystal is still handblown and handcut, I stood nervously next to what must be the most expensive piece of Waterford glass in the world: a crystal harp with a price tag of €30,000. History lovers...Read more
Antique glass with a twistIrish Independent, October 16th
This is how Waterford Glass was founded. White opaque twist stems were decorated with threads of white glass in the interior of the stem. They were made from about 1750 until 1800. Rods of opaque white enamel glass were placed upright in a circular ...Read more
In the salesroomsIrish Independent, October 9th
Also, a signed late c19 theodolite on tripod is estimated at €300-€600; sets of old Waterford glass from €100-€200; Victorian mahogany-painted dial grandfather clock, €1,200-€1,500; antique tabernacle and missals, €100-€150; three Edwardian inlaid...Read more
Crown Isle Ladies have funComox Vallety Record, October 3rd
What a fantastic lady captain she has been for the last two years. Judy Aldcroft, our new lady captain for 2015, presented Katy with a gorgeous Waterford glass golf ball. The Ladies' website will be under the capable hands of Janet Phillips and Jenny...Read more
Stephenson House auction biggest yetThe Edwardsville Intelligencer, September 25th
Items offered this year include a large number of glass and ceramic items such as Roseville, crock bowls, Waterford glass, crocks and jugs, figurines, assorted glassware, a number of high quality framed prints of all sizes, modern crystal lamps and...Read more