Our Visit To The House of Waterford Crystal In Ireland

Our Visit To The House of Waterford Crystal In Ireland

An image of the exterior of House of Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

The skies were leaden grey 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.

An image of the main showroom inside the House of Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean

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.

An image of Jean and Bob reflected in a large mirror at House of Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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.

An image of the crystal glass edge of a mirror at House of Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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

An image of crystal glass vases at House of Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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.

An image of a crystal gramophone at House of Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

An image of a crystal piano at House of Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

The artistry of the pieces ranged from delicate and diminutive…

An image of two crystal vases with Elephants and Giraffe on them at House of Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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

An image of a group of people touring the Waterford Crystal production plant in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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

An image of wooden molds used to make crystal objects at Waterford Crystal plant in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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 to do with  Justin Timberlake.

Image of a man carving a wooden mold at the Waterford Crystal plant in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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.

An image of glass blowers heating glass in the furnace at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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.

An image of a glass blower, blowing glass at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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

An image of glass blowers attaching molten glass to the base of crystal vase at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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

An image of glass blowers attaching molten glass to the base of crystal vase at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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

 An image of a glass blower working with molten glass at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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

tour group above the quality control room at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, 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.

An image of the quality control room at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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

An image of a worker in the quality control room at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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

An image of a glass being ink marked for cutting at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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

An image of a craftman hand marking a glass with ink for cutting at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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.

An image of various crystal objects with ink markings for cutting at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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.

An image of various crystal objects with ink markings for cutting at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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.

A closeup image of a crystal goblet being cut at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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

An image of a glass cutter, cutting a crystal goblet at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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.

An image of a glass cutter, cutting a crystal goblet at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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

An image of a glass cutter, cutting a goblet at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Despite the demands of their jobs…

An image of a glass cutter taking a happy break from cutting a goblet at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

each craftsman in the factory was affable and keenly willing to share their knowledge with members of the tour group.  We learned a lot during the hour and a half tour.

An image of Jean holding a crystal goblet awaiting cutting at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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.

A closeup image of a vase being cut at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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.

An image of Jean watching a master cutter cutting a vase at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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 the House of Waterford Crystal products.

An image of a master cutter, cutting a vase at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

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.

An image of Jean taking picture of various crystal objects at the Waterford Crystal factory in 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.

An image of a crystal bird of peace at the Waterford Crystal factory in 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.

An image of the Toronto Indy trophy being carved at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland.  Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

When we entered the Engraving Room at the House of Waterford Crystal, 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.

An image of the Toronto Indy trophy being carved by hand at the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland

The bowl was commissioned as the trophy for the Indy 500 car race being held in Toronto later in the year.

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 500 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.

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