Destinations Magazine

Our Tour of the House of Waterford Crystal in Ireland

By Frame To Frame - Bob And Jean @frametoframebJ

house of waterford crystal - waterford - ireland

The skies were leaden gray our first morning in the town of Waterford, and the shimmer on the street below our hotel window betrayed a light drizzle that had dampened the area.  The House of Waterford Crystal was a short walk from the Granville Hotel so we were not deterred by the weather but set out on foot to check out the world-famous crystal manufacturer.

main showroom at house of waterford crystal - waterford - ireland

Immediately that we entered the front end of the business, we were bedazzled by the shimmering surfaces of so much crystal.  The ceiling of the showroom, alone, was hung with dozens of elaborate chandeliers.

jean and bob reflection in waterford crystal mirror - waterford - ireland

While waiting for our guided tour of the workings of the factory, Bob and I passed the time perusing hundreds of pieces of crystal for sale in the retail store and on display in the showroom.  The workmanship was outstanding, and the price tags sky high.  Here, you see us reflected in a massive mirror that is edged with hundreds of individually cut crystal pieces.

crystal glass edge of mirror - house of waterford crystal - waterford - ireland

Later, on the tour, we came across the frame of another similar mirror as it was being assembled.

main showroom - waterford crystal - ireland

The House of Waterford Crystal features the largest collection of the world’s most coveted crystal right there in the opulent retail store.  I love coloured glass so was immediately drawn to the vibrant vases and bowls that so sharply contrasted the clear crystal of most of the other pieces.

cyrstal gramophone - house of waterford crystal - ireland

waterford crystal piano - waterford - ireland

The artistry of the pieces ranged from delicate and diminutive…

elephant - waterford crystal vase - house of waterford crystal - ireland

to sturdy and tall, and each was created to exacting standards.

touring waterford crystal production plant - waterford - ireland

Finally, we were ready to start the tour of the Waterford Crystal plant, joined by a dozen or so other guests.

wood moulds - justin timberlake charity golf tournament trophy - waterford crystal - ireland

The first area we visited was the Molding Department.  Wooden molds are constructed out of beech and pear wood because they have a high tolerance to heat.  Molten glass is poured into the molds to form the crystal shapes.  Some previously-used molds were on exhibit including one for a product that had been commissioned to do with Justin Timberlake.

carving a wooden mold - waterford crystal - waterford - ireland

The wooden molds are made by hand as they have been for hundreds of years.  Here, we see a wood carver in action.  For Bob, this was particularly interesting since he, himself, carves wood as a hobby.

glass oven - house of waterford crystal - waterford - ireland

Next up on our walking tour was the Blowing Room where our senses were affronted by a heady mix of heat, cacophonous noise and bustling activity.

glass blower blows into molten glass vase - house of waterford crystal - waterford - ireland

It was very exciting as we edged ever closer to the 1300-degree furnace.

glass blowers work base of crystal vase - house of waterford crystal - waterford - ireland

Before our eyes, we saw glowing balls of red-hot molten crystal transformed into wondrous elegant shapes.

glass blowers work molten glass vase base - house of waterford crystal - waterford - ireland

The miracle of this transformation is owing to the meticulous skilled craftsmen who have two hundred years of accumulated knowledge behind them.

glass blower forming molten glass - house of waterford crystal - waterford - ireland

Over and over again, the craftsmen repeated the process with each piece essentially identical to the last.

quality control room at house of waterford crystal - ireland

Once each piece of crystal is fashioned into its final shape, it is sent to the Quality Inspection Room where it must pass a stringent examination for faults.  Even if a piece is rejected, it will be smashed and remelted to use again.

quality control room - house of waterford crystal - waterford - ireland

Those pieces accepted as meeting Waterford’s high quality standards wait to be sent to the next stage of production.

sanding and smoothing out waterford crystal - house of waterford - ireland

It was mind boggling how so many pieces could look exactly alike when being individually handmade.

ink markings on a crystal glass - house of waterford crystal - ireland

At the next stage of production, the uniform crystal figures are each marked in preparation for cutting the patterns into the glass.

hand marking a crystal glass - house of waterford crystal - ireland

This next stage of production takes place in the Marking Room where finely calibrated tools aid the craftsmen in hand-marking each piece of the crystal in precisely the same pattern, for those that are duplicates of one another.  There is no room for shaky lines at this task.

ink markings on various crystal objects - house of waterford crystal - ireland

The variety of geometric patterns, including horizontal and vertical lines, are drawn on with a marker, but no trace of the lines will remain after the final cleaning process.

hand marked dishes and glasses - waterford crystal - ireland

Examples of some of the detailed marking could be seen on pieces set to one side.  Some of the line patterns are extremely detailed representing very fine work.

closeup of cut pattern on crystal goblet - house of waterford crystal - ireland

Once the pieces of crystal move on to the Cutting Room, the geometric patterns are assessed before cutting begins.

cutting a pattern on a crystal glass - waterford crystal - ireland

During his training years, each Master Cutter will have learned and memorized each pattern used by Waterford Crystal.  The temporary geometric grid only serves to assist the Master Cutter.

cutting a crystal glass - waterford crystal - ireland

Great focus and attention to detail is required by each Master Cutter when cutting the pattern into the crystal.

man cuts crystal goblet - house of waterford - waterford - ireland

Despite the demands of their jobs…

the joy of cutting a crystal goblet - waterford crystal plant - ireland

each craftsman in the factory was affable and keenly willing to share their knowledge with us.

As you see in our video, we learned a lot from speaking firsthand with the craftsmen during the hour and a half tour.

jean holds a crystal glass in cutting room - house of waterford crystal - waterford - ireland

Our close proximity to each workstation allowed a very close look at the ongoing work.  Here, I am scrutinizing one of the Waterford crystal goblets from the set the cutter was working on.

cutting a pattern on a crystal vase - waterford crystal - ireland

Each Master Cutter that we observed was specializing in one type of product.  It was interesting to watch them manipulate some of the larger pieces such as this vase against the diamond-tipped wheels.  They must exercise their own judgment when applying pressure for too much will have the wheel cutting right through the crystal.

jean watches cutting of a crystal vase - house of waterford crystal - ireland

Each Master Cutter trained for 8 years or more to master their craft, and each is responsible for giving every piece of crystal the clear and sparkling cut that is the distinctive hallmark of Waterford products.

checking a cutting on a vase - waterford crystal plant - ireland

It was easy to see why Waterford Crystal demands such a high price when you consider the hours of work that go into each and every piece of crystal.

jean takes picture of crystal dove - house of waterford crystal - waterford - ireland

Towards the end of the tour, a series of tables was loaded with items on display that featured examples of sculpted and/or engraved crystal.

waterford crystal bird of peace - waterford - ireland

A Master Sculptor uses wheels to sculpt the crystal unlike the mallets and chisels that are employed when carving wood or stone.  Because a sculpture is sculpted from a solid block of crystal, it may take days, weeks or even months to complete one piece.

waterford crystal Toronto Indy trophy - house of waterford crystal plant - ireland

When we entered the Engraving Room, it was a shock to see one engraver working on the skyline of our hometown, Toronto, Ontario.  Nicely filling one side of a massive bowl, the skyline featured, among other things, the CN Tower and the Air Canada Centre.

custom waterford crystal honda indy trophy being cut - waterford - ireland

The bowl was commissioned as the trophy for the Honda Indy car race held in Toronto.

Toronto Honda Indy Waterford crystal trophy - waterford crystal plant - ireland

master Waterford crystal carver holds Toronto Indy trophy - waterford crystal plant - ireland

race car on side of Honda indy waterford crystal trophy - waterford crystal plant - ireland

On the opposite side of the massive international trophy, the engraver had fashioned a number of Indy race cars.

waterford crystal chandeliers - house of waterford crystal - ireland

And so, with the tour completed, Bob and I retired to the showroom once again to revel in the stunning display of crystal wares.

jean takes a pic at house of waterford crystal - waterford - ireland

We had fun taking pictures of the mirrored ceiling that so beautifully reflected the glistening and glimmering crystal chandeliers as well as the elegantly appointed dinner table that showcased lots of sparkling stemware.

jean stands beside waterford crystal display - house of waterford crystal - ireland

Other crystal pieces made us laugh for their modern take on sculpture.  Whimsy is always in fashion.

crystal bowl - waterford crystal - ireland

It is the deep cutting of the crystal that radiates such brilliance and sparkle,

waterford crystal vases and glasses - house of waterford crystal - ireland

but my preference is still for the bold and vibrantly coloured crystal.

waterford crystal

Bob and I enjoyed our educational tour of the House of Waterford Crystal, and it certainly gave us an appreciation for the world-famous glassware.

Checkout some of our other Ireland adventures

The Round Tower - at Glendalough - Ireland

Glendalough, one of the most beautiful places in Ireland

Powerscourt - view from triton lake -  Ireland

Powerscourt House and Gardens, A World Of Floral Glory – Ireland

green country road - near Oonagh Bridge - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

Driving the Intriguing Backroads of Wicklow County – Ireland

jean stands above upper lake - glendalough - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

Hiking In Wicklow Mountains National Park – Ireland

jean stands in front of the brownshill portal tomb -  county carlow - ireland

Our visit to the Neolithic Brownshill Portal Tomb in Ireland

Frame To Frame – Bob & Jean

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