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Articles > Waterford Crystal

Introduction to the World of Waterford Crystal

Handcrafting One of the World's Most Legendary Brands, One Piece at a Time Marquis by Waterford Rotondo Assorted Colored All Purpose Glasses, Set of 4

For centuries, Waterford has carved out an unassailable reputation as the most highly regarded manufacturer of premium crystal pieces on the planet. In its drive to expand the brand in recent decades, Waterford has broadened its horizons well beyond exquisite crystal objets d'art: the current parent company, Waterford Wedgwood, plc, manufactures a product line ranging from fine china and flatware to lighting fixtures, clocks, jewelry, writing instruments, luxury gifts, and linens. The brand is also very well-known in the world of sports; Waterford master glasscutters and engravers have handcrafted crystal trophies to commemorate numerous professional championships, including the Super Bowl, World Series, and Stanley Cup. Now based in Dublin, Waterford Wedgwood employs 9,000 people in more than 80 countries around the world.

History of Waterford Crystal

It's not likely that a global luxury goods empire anywhere near this scale was envisioned by the company's founders, George and William Penrose, when the two brothers first established the firm in 1783. The Penrose brothers broke ground on a plot of land in the center of the bustling Irish port city of Waterford, and named the company after the town. (In addition, the 10,000 pounds said to have been spent on developing the land and building their facility provided badly needed jobs to local workers.) While documents dating back to the Middle Ages confirm the fact that the Irish have been engaged in glassmaking for more than 700 years, there is no evidence that medieval glassmakers were able to consistently produce anything approaching the quality of Waterford crystal.

The Penroses' original manufacturing facility employed 70 people, and Waterford pieces were dispatched on cargo ships making for ports in the West Indies, Newfoundland, New England, and Spain. Despite a growing reputation for making crystal unmatched in quality and purity of color, the company foundered under the stress of mounting taxation; by levying excessive export taxes on Irish glass, the British Parliament virtually destroyed the entire Irish flint glass industry. Due to its inability to obtain the operating capital necessary to continue operations, the company was forced to close its doors after less than a century in business.

Waterford Crystal lay dormant until 1947, when a group of local entrepreneurs revived the world-famous brand name and opened a modest glass factory located within two miles of the original Penrose facility. The reborn Waterford Crystal company soon gained a reputation for quality that equaled its predecessor, and incorporated traditional cutting patterns – first made famous by Penrose-era artisans – into its own designs.

Waterford Wedgwood, plc, is the result of the 1986 merger of Waterford with Wedgwood, the premier name in fine bone china. In all, the company runs three manufacturing plants in County Waterford, including its principal factory located on 40 acres bordering Waterford's city limits. Here the traditional values behind Waterford Crystal – designing and manufacturing crystal to the most exacting standards – are zealously maintained.

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