Waterford has produced crystal since 1783. A business started by George and William Penrose became world famous for the quality of the fine flint glass.
The business closed in 1851 but 96 years later, Waterford’s reputation as a crystal manufacturer was still so strong that Czech immigrant Charles Bacik chose the city to set up his own glass works. It went on to be hugely successful and re-established Waterford as one of the world’s leading centres for crystal production.
The current factory melts 750 tonnes of crystal every year and tourists can visit and see products being made.
A tour of the factory takes in a number of areas so visitors can see the various steps it takes to create the finished product. The Mould Room is where they build the wooden moulds that are used to shape the crystal. Waterford Crystal is one of the few companies in the world that still make moulds.
The moulds rarely last longer than a fortnight because of the heat of the crystal. The next part of the tour is the blowing department. The glass blowers shape the molten crystal in a 1300C furnace. It is dark, noisy and extremely hot. It is here that the skilful craftsmen create the elegant crystals.
The crystal then goes through its first quality inspection. If it doesn’t meet the standards it is smashed up and sent back to be re-melted. The crystals that make it past the quality control go to be hand marked. Visitors can see skilled cutters adding patterns to the crystals.
This is followed by the cutting department where the Master Cutter cuts the crystals. It is here that the crystals get their clear and sparkling cut that Waterford Crystal is famous for. The cutters have to train for at least eight years before they master their craft.
The final part of the tour is the sculpting and engraving department. The sculptors are highly skilled and often take weeks or months to create a perfect piece from a solid block of crystal.
The engraving of a piece can also take days to complete. The engraving becomes more prominent the deeper it has been cut into the crystal.
Waterford Crystal produces several international sporting trophies, most notably in golf. They provided the Irish Open Trophy and have also produced trophies for sports such as tennis, sailing and Formula One motor racing.