HOUSE OF WATERFORD CRYSTAL
New Visitor Center and Factory Tour in Waterford City
Waterford Crystal is a world famous brand of leaded crystal glassware. As a company and brand it has gone through a complex history of closures, acquisitions and rebirths. The manufacture of what was known as flint glass crystal was originally founded in the city of Waterford in the southeast coast of Ireland by George and William Penrose in 1783. The fine heavy glass with sparkling prismatic light catching the cut pattern designs became world renowned for its place on the tables of the wealthy and decorating the palaces of royal kings and potentates. But the first company in Waterford only lasted as a going concern until 1851. In the post WWII years, in a Ireland of depressed economy, the crystal business in Waterford was revived by two Czech immigrants, Charles Bacik and Miroslav Havel in 1947. Jasper Conran began designing a signature range of crystal for Waterford in the late 1990s, revitalizing the brand in the modern era. Waterford Crystal merged with the fine china companies of Royal Doulton and the famous Wedgwood earthenware brand in England (see Wedgwood Factory Tour), but even the combined company went into receivership in 2009. The large factory in Waterford closed, still a campus of empty buildings at the edge of town, but the beauty and majesty of the art glass remains. Waterford-Wedgwood is operating again. Most of the consumer products are now made in factories around the world, but for the visitor to Waterford City in Ireland, a brand new visitor center has opened in the heart of the city, called the House of Waterford Crystal.
The Waterford Crystal visitor center, in a brand new very modern structure across from the Royal Theater on The Mall, just a block from the medieval Reginald’s Tower, houses a stunning retail showroom with the largest collection of Waterford Crystal in the world - a wonderland of sparkling masterpieces produced by the master artisans. This is no museum, the brilliant pieces of intricate glasswork on display are mostly all for sale. If you have a loose 35,000 Euros of change jangling in your pocket you can take home Cinderella’s Glass Coach, or for half that, a crystal football helmet, though there are less pricey pieces to take home for souvenirs - table and glassware sets of Waterford's signature rich colored crystal stemware and even Christmas ornaments.
The heart of the House of Waterford Visitor Center is the tour. Though more a demonstration facility than factory, actual products are indeed made here, with thousands of the luxurious high-end designer hand-crafted crystal pieces turned out per year by the skilled craftsman using traditional and unique artisan techniques, aided by modern technology. A tour of about an hour, first explores the history of Waterford Crystal, then takes you in close observation from the blowing of glass from the glowing hot kiln ovens - to quality control, where the imperfect are smashed and returned to the smelter - to the marking of design patterns on the smooth glass in magic marker - to the cutting of the crystal by hand on the whirring diamond-tipped grinding blades. Watch intricate sports trophies and seemingly impossible glass designs take shape, sculpted from solid pieces of crystal, and engraved by copper wheels, forming limited edition pieces, Some of the more unique pieces made to order are Formula One and World Cup trophies and can take up to hundreds of hours to finish. After the tour, you return to the showroom for some shopping.
Visiting the House of Waterford Crystal
The retail store at the House of Waterford Crystal is open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Saturday and 10:30am to 5pm on Sunday. Last entry for the factory tours are 4:15pm Mon-Sat and 3:15pm on Sunday. Admission is €12 for adults, €9 for seniors and students, €4 for children 5 to 18. During summer months a separate walking history tour of the city called the Viking Triangle Experience departs from the front of the Waterford Crystal visitors center for exploring the city (see Waterford 1100 Anniversary). More of Waterford City's crystal history can be seen at the Waterford Museum of Treasures (see Waterford Treasures) a few blocks away on the waterfront Merchant's Quay. © Bargain Travel Europe
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Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre
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