Waterford Crystal – What you Need to Know
Waterford crystal is a hand-crafted luxury crystal that is known for its beautiful patterns. Many brides feature Waterford crystal on their wedding registries, and we see a fair number of beautiful sets at estate sales in Tacoma, Gig Harbor, and Seattle. Let’s learn more about the history of Waterford, and what you should look out for if you’re looking to score a set.
A Brief History
Waterford Crystal was first established in 1783 in the Irish harbor town of Waterford. Founded by brothers George and William Penrose, the two “set out to create the finest quality crystal for drinking vessels and objects of beauty for the home." (Waterford.) The brand was well respected for its clarity and craftmanship.
Waterford was a successful business until the mid-1850s when factories were closed due to poor economic conditions.
It wasn’t until 1947 that the Waterford brand made a resurgence. The then owners, Charles Bacik and Noel Griffin traveled Europe to find glass blowers to come work at a small factory that was established in Ballytruckle, just outside of Waterford.
In 1950, additional capital was invested into the brand, and a new site in Johnstown was built. It featured new, more efficient furnaces, and the space needed to increase production.
In the 1960s and 1970s, demand increased, and it was difficult to keep up with supply. In 1970 a new factory was built in Kilbarry. Demand was continuously increasing so additions were made as construction continued. Completed in 1973 it took up almost 10 acres.
In the 1980s, technological advances improve materials and the overall quality of the product thanks to diamond wheels that the craftsmen use when creating patterns.
In 1986, Waterford acquired Wedgwood, a company well-known for their China and earthenware, but for the rest of this decade, suffered economically.
In 2000, Waterford Crystal was beautifully featured at the Times Square New Year’s Eve Millennium Ball. The six-foot crystal ball was seen by more than a billion people during that New Year’s countdown.
In 2008, the global economic crisis wasn’t kind to Waterford (like many other companies) with the company going into a brief receivership in 2009.
However, in June of 2010, a new manufacturing facility was built in Waterford. This new facility can produce 45,000 pieces a year.
Crystal vs Glass
Crystal is a type of glass made with a combination of silica, soda, and lead-oxide. Lead crystal is very strong and often used in wine glasses and decorative ornaments.
The lead-oxide makes it so it takes longer for the glass to cool, giving glass blowers more time to complete their intricate patterns.
Popular Waterford Patterns
This pattern was created in 1952. Its diamond and wedge cuts were inspired by Lismore Castle, which is located in the countryside near Waterford.
Introduced in 1953, This pattern is known for its combination of oval and diamond cuts, its intricate pattern is one of the most difficult for the Waterford glass workers to master.
Produced from 2002-2017, this discontinued pattern was influenced by the ancient crest of the city of Waterford.
Learn more about all of Waterford’s patterns and collections here.
What to Look for When Collecting
First and foremost, authentic Waterford will say “Waterford” on the item. Modern Waterford (post-1990) includes both “Waterford” and a seahorse design.
Secondly, Waterford crystal won’t have a seam. A seam indicates that the piece was machine-made, and all Waterford pieces are hand-blown.
When collecting, be sure to inspect the piece for any damage. Damage on crystal includes scratches, chips, or cloudy glass. We also recommend you research the pattern. Some are discontinued, so they hold more value, but it will be difficult to complete the set.
Waterford crystal’s beautiful and intricate patterns make it a worthy addition to any China cabinet.
If you’re looking to get your collection started or want to add to your collection, check out our upcoming estate sales.