Waterford glass

Waterford Crystal Glass
from the
Glass Encyclopedia

Waterford Crystal Glass: A short explanation

There was a glasshouse in Waterford, Ireland, advertising flint glass and green glass in the Dublin Journal as early as 1729. It lasted only a few years until the owner, John Hood, died about 1737, and for the next fifty years, through some very troubled times in Ireland, the glass industry struggled. It was not until 1783 that George and Henry Penrose set up another glass house in Waterford and brought a Stourbridge glass master, John Hill, to manage it.

above: Waterford cut
crystal bowl made 1999
by Maurice Whittle
Master Wedge Cutter
for Waterford Glass.

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Waterford Glass there
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Waterford glass
This second Waterford Glass House operated from 1783 until 1851, and earned the town its high reputation for prestigious quality glass. Waterford Glass was mostly heavy crystal which was brilliantly clear, polished on the outside, and deeply cut on the wheel. It was quite distinctively different from Cork glass. Unfortunately the heavy tax which was imposed on glass in Ireland made the operation uneconomic and it closed in 1851. Other Irish glassworks in Belfast and in Dublin struggled equally under this tax and closed before the end of the century. There was no glassworks operating in Waterford for nearly the next hundred years (1951 to 1947).

In 1947 at the end of the second world war, glass artists in Prague and other parts of Europe fled to the west to avoid Communist regimes at home. A number of them were recruited into Ireland and a small glassworks was established in the suburbs of Waterford. This company was successful and attracted more local investors. In 1951 they built a major new glassworks in Waterford and in 1966 Waterford Glass Ltd. became a public company. This company had rapidly established a reputation for high quality cut crystal, which it exported around the world. The picture at the top of this page is a very large heavy cut crystal trophy in the shape of a bowl, being held up proudly by the cutter who was decorating it. The modern plant welcomed visitors to its large restaurant and glass cutting and glass making displays and it became a very popular venue for tourists. Waterford became part of Waterford-Wedgwood plc in 1986 and this merged company continued to play a major role in the Irish glass industry for a few years.

But in January 2009, struggling like so many other companies to compete with imports from Europe, the Wedgwood Group went bankrupt and the Waterford glassworks went into receivership. A US-based finance company purchased some of the assets of the Group and WWRD Group Holdings Ltd purchased the brands of Wedgwood, Waterford, and Royal Doulaton. In June 2010 this company opened a new Waterford Crystal glassworks and visitor centre close to Waterford City centre. In July 2015 Fiskars, a Corporation based in Finland, took over WWRD Group so adding Waterford and Wedgwood and Royal Doulton to their other holdings which included Caithness Glass and Iittala Glass. Waterford Crystal continues to produce high quality crystal at their Waterford glassworks and to welcome visitors on guided tours of the factory and its retail store. They are proud of their collection of Waterford Crystal, the largest in the world.
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