Monday, July 29, 2013

Waterford Crystal

‘Fashion fades, only style remains the same’
    Coco Chanel     


In this week's exploration of the '101 things to do...' we will be taking a look at Waterford Crystal's history, manufacturing processes and its visitor centre; the House of Waterford Crystal  Waterford Crystal and their beautiful, handcrafted products are internationally admired and have been instrumental in placing Waterford on the world map. As such, their visitor centre proves to be one of Ireland's most popular tourist attractions.

The production of crystal in Waterford can be traced as far back as 1783 when George and William Penrose started their business. Uniquely, they began producing extremely fine flint glass which, throughout the centuries, has become world-renowned. In 1947, Czeck native, Charles Bacik, was drawn to establish a glass works in Waterford City, due to Waterford Crystals’ excellent reputation. However, he found that skilled crystal workers were not available in Ireland, so some of Europe’s finest craftsmen were employed. By the early 1950’s, the company quickly became an important business in spite of a weak economic climate. Throughout the 20th Century, the brand’s reputation and international appeal grow from strength to strength. As a result, the brand has attracted many renowned designers to develop collections for Waterford Crystal; such as Jasper Conran and John Rocha.  

One of the House of Waterford Crystal’s main tourist attractions is its factory tour, which traces Waterford Crystal’s dynamic history and intriguing manufacturing process. The first stage of the tour explores the mould making process. Waterford Crystal is one of the few glass produces or companies which still adheres to the traditional mould making technique. The tour then makes it way to the blowing room, where the Master Blowers use wood moulds and hand tools to shape the molten crystal.  This room’s unique atmosphere mix is created through a mixture of heat, noise and bustling activity, and the experience reaches a breathtaking climax as you edge closer to the 1300 c furnace. Guests get to observe the meticulously skilled craftsmen transform the gleaming molten crystal into elegant shape, adhering to the age- old tradition which is embedded in every piece produced. After this, the tour moves to the hand- marking department where the crystal is marked with a temporary geometric grid to assist the Master Cutter to cut the pattern onto the crystal. 

One of Waterford Crystals distinctive characteristics is the way the crystal is cut, which visitors witness in the cutting room. Two types of cutting practices are adhered to, Wedge Cutting and Flat Cutting and a diamond tipped wheel is used to cut the crystal, ensuring superior quality. However, the crystal obtains its hallmark clearness and sparkle through expert hands and knowledge of master craftsmen. The final stage of the tour explores the sculpting and engraving processes which make Waterford Crystal unique. Furthermore, each piece is thoroughly inspected at each stage of production. Only pieces which adhere to Waterford Crystal’s stringent quality standards are allowed to proceed through each stage. Every piece is subjected to a minimum of six quality tests, ensuring that each piece will become a timeless classic for its owner. After the tour, visitors enjoy the retail store’s opulent display of the world’s largest collection of Waterford Crystal. Visitors often purchase an engraved piece as a momentum of their visit.

Over the years Waterford Crystal’s reputation, timeless style and elegant designs has garnered much international appeal. For instance, in 1966 Waterford Crystal  chandeliers were installed in Westminster Abbey for  its  900th anniversary.  Additionally, Chandeliers hang in other distinguished buildings, such as Winder Castle, and the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. Waterford Crystal has enjoyed a long established appeal in America, and each year on St. Patrick’s day the Irish  Taoiseach presents shamrock is a specially commissioned Waterford Crystal bowl. Additionally, Waterford Crystal made the 2,668 crystals for the famous New Year's Eve Ball which hangs each year in New York City's Times Square. Furthermore, Waterford Crystal design pieces for many prestigious sporting events such as the Master Tennis series, the Ashes test-cricket urn, the Masters snooker trophy, baseball torments and many Formula One races.

So, for a fascinating and ornate exploration of one of Ireland’s most famous exports, the House of Waterford Crystal; 28, The Mall, Waterford City;  is a must see visitor attraction. If you a planning a trip to Waterford Castle Hotel, why not view our ‘101 things to do’, which contains a variety of activities which can be enjoyed during your trip. To view the list, please visit www.waterfordcastle.comAdditionally, if you are planning to visit Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort or if you have recently stayed with us, why not visit our Tripadvisor page .

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