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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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
The humbling of Ireland's golden boy Tony O'ReillyIrishCentral, July 10th
He also got control of Waterford Glass in Ireland and the Wedgwood china business in the U.K., which he put together with the aim of establishing a prestigious tableware company at the luxury end of the international market. 1 · 2 · Next > · Show Full...Read more
Donal Og and the true meaning of public serviceIrish Independent, July 5th
The tone of its coverage on the collapse of O'Reilly's fortunes sold him short, particularly his principled stand against Provo propaganda and his sacrifice of his fortune to try and save jobs at Waterford Glass. The Irish Times coverage misreads the...Read more
Irish Economy 2014: Recovery on track; keep champagne on iceFinFacts Ireland, July 4th
In last year's budget, he raised the private pension levy, which was due to be abolished and he introduced a 'Waterford Glass' levy. It's interesting that Ibec is lobbying for income tax cuts to save its business members raising wages. ISME, the SME...Read more
AIB hounding of O'Reilly was a 'PR exercise', say leading financiersIrish Independent, June 28th
"After Waterford Glass, he was perplexed. He didn't know why it had all gone wrong when he had done all that could be done to save it. This time round, he's at peace with the world. Only the other day he was speaking to his son Cameron. His son had...Read more
Mobile phone technology will sound death knell for many middle-class professionsIrish Independent, June 24th
Worse still, the decimation of the working classes and skilled manufacturing classes of Ireland, America and Britain has been called "progress" by those whose lives were unaffected by the closure of factories (such as Waterford Glass), shipyards and mines...Read more