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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Recent News: Waterford Glass
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Waterford Crystal workers to receive €182m compensation over pensionsRTE.ie, July 31st
Waterford Crystal workers are to receive €182m in compensation for losses to their pension scheme after the company and its pension scheme went into insolvency. The High Court formally approved the closing of the Waterford Crystal pension case and ...Read more
A crafty trio make a success out of Waterford studioIrish Independent, June 20th
THE COLLECTIVE: Jeweller Una O'Dwyer, goldsmith Moritz Schurmann and glassmaker Eugene Young Open Gallery 1 THE COLLECTIVE: Jeweller Una O'Dwyer, goldsmith Moritz Schurmann and glassmaker Eugene Young at Lismore Craft Studio in ...Read more
Waterford Wedgwood sold to Finnish heritage brandTelegraph.co.uk, May 11th
The Wedgwood fortune also funded the scientific career of Charles Darwin who married into the family. Wedgwood joined forces with Ireland's Waterford Glass Group in 1986. This blue and white jasper plaque features the Birth of the Roman god Bacchus...Read more
Treasures... Crystal is a clear winnerIrish Independent, March 5th
'Don't it always seem to go. That you don't know what you've got. Till it's gone…" sang Joni Mitchell back in 1970. Too true. I'm thinking about Waterford Crystal. Massively popular in America, but it was always a hard sell in Ireland...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 Clear: Waterford's problems need fixing…and fastIrish Independent, November 11th
In its heyday the 3,500 employees of Waterford Glass, and its subsequent re-incarnations, were bringing home a relative fortune in wages. The money was spent locally giving life to local businesses. The streets were buzzing, the tills full and the pubs...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
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