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Thursday, March 15, 2012

All Things Irish~ Crystal

There are medieval documents that show glass making has existed in Ireland since the middle of the 13th century. Today one of Ireland's most leading and well known exports is its lead crystal. Companies such as Waterford, Galway, Cuchulainn, Heritage and Tyrone all produce beautiful crystal pieces.

Waterford crystal was begun in the town of Waterford by two brothers, George and William Penrose, in 1783. They created crystal that produced such remarkably pure color unmatched anywhere else. But due to excessive taxation the company closed 100 years later. In 1947 Czech immigrant Charles Bacik set up another glass factory in Waterford and once again began producing crystal of the highest quality.
Glass making has been around since 2 B.C. in the area of Mesopotamia. Egyptians produced glass by a method known as glass forming. Glass blowing was begun at the end of the 1st century A.D. It revolutionized glass production. As the Roman Empire increased, so the art of glass making spread to other countries.
The glass industry developed and flourished in the 13th century. It is believed the information was spread via the crusades. Venice became such an esteemed producer of fine glass that the glass makers were forbidden to leave the island of Murano, lest their secrets travel with them.

Another two centuries later in 1676 an Englishman named George Ravenscroft began adding lead to the molten glass mixture which produced dazzling clarity (clearness). It also increased the weight of the glass and allowed it to be cut without fracturing. It came to be known as lead crystal.

It is easy to understand how the process of creating lead crystal came to Ireland as England is so close by.
Ireland now produces some of the finest cut crystal in the world. Major awards such as the Stanley Cup, World Series and Super Bowl trophies have all been made from Waterford crystal at one time or another. Interestingly enough, the Times Square New Years Eve Ball is also made by Waterford crystal.
Several of the Irish crystal companies offer tours of their factories where you can view the time consuming process of creating each piece. Many pieces are still entirely handcrafted.
                               I hope you enjoyed this post from the DTA March 2009 archives.


jewelstreet said...

Very interesting! I've always wanted to work with glass whether it was blowing glass or fusing or whatever. I find it absolutely fascinating.

~~gail~~mooselovingmamabear said...

Beautiful, just beautiful....

I collect teacups and am just getting into Waterford (admiring)...LOL

Terri and Bob said...

I love waterford. My favorite by far. I love crystal, and my interior decorator thinks I use too much of it. I can't help it!

Muthering Heights said...

I actually own ONE piece of crystal, so I suppose that it is my favorite!

LiLi M. said...

This is so interesting! Now I know why I spend so much time blogging, just kidding, I'm always eager to know anything about artisans and culture, especially about other countries. I hope to visit Ireland one day. Here in the Netherlands the glass industry (not crystal) is located in Leerdam, not far from here, one of their main designers was A. Copier.
His work is highly collectable over here and though I have nothing like that, I still love to watch it at my brothers house who has quite a collection
Thank you, have a nice weekend!

Kathy said...

I do, I have a beautiful lead crystal vase and 2 bowls that belonged to my grandmother and were passed down to me. The sad thing is I almost never use the bowls. They are so heavy and I am so afraid of chipping or damaging them. I should make an effort to use them. You only live once and they've been around a long time. Beautiful post today and very informative.

~♥~ Monica S said...

I have some crystal glasses (red wine glass) that are called Finn.. same as my husband :-)

Have a great weekend Laura!


knitandputt said...

did you know that waterford filed for backruptcy this past January? Makes you want to go out and buy all the pieces that one has been considering!!!

Lorrie said...

Crystal is one of my favourite things - I have several vases, some tableware, and one piece I especially treasure - a lead crystal bowl given as a wedding present by my husband's grandparents. I love to fill it with lemons or other fruit and watch the colours play off the facets of crystal.


Rue said...

Hi Laura :)

I'm loving this tour of all things Irish! I love Waterford, but my favorite crystal is Lalique. My mom has collected it for years and has passed some of it on to me :)

Have a great weekend!!

PS Happy Blogoversary ;)

Shimmy Mom said...

I have loved your tribute to Ireland so much. I've had internet issues and haven't been able to leave you comments until now. I do have some lead crystal that I absolutely love, and I enjoyed learning more about it. Also I have to say that I LOVE Finians Rainbow and Darby O'Gill and the Little People. Oh, such childhood memories. I immediately clicked over to ad them to my netflix list.
Most of all I loved the thatched roof post. I made my kids come over and read it with me and we were all greatly surprised and honored when you thought to ad the link. My kids are having so much fun designing their own cottages. We haven't finished them yet. But they are very excited to. Thanks again. I hope you have a great weekend.

jenjen said...

What beautiful crystal. That chandelier is amazing! I have some beautiful crystal vases that I cherish.

Thanks and have a wonderful weekend!


Glenda said...

I have a weakness for crystal. I have some beautiful pieces that I have picked up over the years. Shiny crystal with candle light is a favorite combination of mine.

Thanks for the background.


Charlene said...

I had no idea of the history. Thank you so much for sharing that! My favorite photo you showed was the chandalier. WOW! Another fixture I love was seen at the Art Museum in Oklahoma City. It was made of Waterford Crystal & done by artist Dale Chihuly. I have photos at
if you would like to see it. Thank you again for sharing that history. Have you been to Murano? It is one of my dreams to visit there.

Blondie's Journal said...

Thanks so much for the info. I thought Waterford was from England! And I do have two small wine glasses.


ScrappinAway said...

I have several pieces, but now that my little one is walking they are all put up...I desperately need a china cabinet!

Kasey said...

so beautiful!

Liz said...

Actually I do! I have 3 crystal baskets that are beautiful with roses in them.

Awesome post!


Melissa Lester said...

Those photos are beautiful! I have a Mikasa crystal vase that I love. I actually have two in the style and probably would have bought more if they hadn't discontinued the pattern. I also have bedside table lamps that my sister-in-law's father made from crystal vases that are very special to me.

You mentioned that you visited a garden in Georgia, and I wondered if it was Calloway Gardens. My mother-in-law has volunteered there, and it is really beautiful.

Kathy's Red Door Welcome said...

I have a crystal cookie jar that I inherited from my mother filled with memories of cookies waiting for my children when we would come for a visit. It was very interesting to hear about Irish crystal. Thanks for doing all that research.

Draffin Bears said...

Lovely post Laura. Crystal is so beautiful and I love all the wonderful pictures you have shared with us.

We have two Waterford champagne flutes that we splurged and bought for ourselves to celebrate the Year 2000.
They only come out on special occasions.
I will have to post them on my blog one day.
Also for our wedding present we were given some lead crystal bowls that are so heavy even before you put something in them.

Have a great weekend

Vintagesquirrel said...

Are all those photos of items that you own? Well, except for that amazing chandelier - I cannot imagine that would be hanging in anyone's home.

Paula said...

I didn't know that Waterford was from Ireland. You learn something new everyday!

I inherited my grandmother's crystal and several of her serving pieces. I don't think that I have any modern crystal.

We visited Simon Pierce in VT and saw some glassmaking there. It is a very interesting process.

Wanda said...

I love the new look and I'm loving the All Irish series. :) You make learning new things so much more interesting.

GeorgiaPeachez said...

I love my Waterford Millenium crystal flutes. I use and enjoy them as often as I can! xo, suzy

Suey said...

Laura, My favorite Waterford piece is a large bowl that Mr. Sullivan gave me for Christmas about 5 years ago. It is a large contemporary bowl with just a few facets. It is extremely heavy. This contemporary line was very unusual for the company to have produced.
Incidentally, there are some pieces of Waterford that are NOT being produced in Ireland and are, therefore, not as expensive. To ensure someone is getting an authentic Irish product, buyers should consult with a knowledgeable seller/business or check the packaging.
Am loving the Irish series....
~ Sue

Jorgelina said...

This is so interesting!
What beautiful crystal.

Susie Q said...

I love Waterford....they declared bankruptcy in the UK a few months ago. I was so sad. One of my favorite books as a kid (and still) Goneaway Lake and Return to Goneaway feature kids whose parents buy an old house...and there is a Waterford CHANDY in the entrance!

Coastal Sisters said...

My favorite piece of crystal belonged to my mother and it's a footed bowl that sits in my foyer filled with little bits of this and that, depending on the season. It's my most cherished possession :)


Maija said...

I love your beautiful photos, but I especially adore the education I can get scanning your blog! Thanks!

Allidink said...

Neat pictures and information! I love crystal! I don't personally own any crystal but I stand to inherit my mother's and grandmother's amazing collections. Which include a lot of Waterford! Yay!

All the best,

Tales From My Empty Nest said...

I have quite a few lead crystal pieces that were passed down to me from my Grandmothers that I love to use. I have also picked up some pieces at Flea Markets. Thanks for the very interesting post. Love & blessings from NC!

Em @ Bunch of Scrap said...

I always thought crystal was a dime a dozen - never saw the true beauty in it. Thanks for opening my eyes! I just received some pieces from my grandmother and her sister and I appreciate them much more now!

Connie said...

I have been to Waterford and their glass factory. It is truly amazing to watch them hand blow the crystal. I got just one glass there as a reminder and 25 years ago it cost me $27.00 for one glass. I intend to do a blog about it soon. We stayed in thatched cottages and it was a wild time.

Liz said...

EEEWWWW! Pretty new Dress for the Blog I see.... Very nice! very nice!


Tea Time With Melody said...

Oh I want all of it. Very interesting story this is.

sweet momma luv u said...

Such a lovely post about Waterford crystal! I love it and my crystal is Ballyshannon by Waterford. It rings like a bell and the cuts are so deep. They just look beautiful on my dinning table with my china and silver.

One of my other favorite crystals is Lalique made in France. I have several pieces that I purchased when in Paris as a young lady before I was married. Love it!!

I am back in blog land at least commenting. Still have to update my blog.

Mimi Sue said...

Thanks for the info on crystal. My favorite is my mother in law's crystal glasses. She died when my husband was 11 so I never met her but my father in law saved them for his son's Very sentimental and very beautiful. Mimi

Alkemie said...


I love Crystal and I love how you shared some fascinating history behind it. My other half is Irish (although he doesn't seem so at times as he is 1st generation here in the states). His mother still has a really cute Irish brogue. Waterford crystal is indeed beautiful. My favorite crystal are a set of Baccarat candle sticks. Their prices are atrocious so everything else I have that is from Baccarat is vintage from Ebay :)

Karen O.

Ann@A Sentimental Life said...

Laura, the waterford wedding bowl in the first picture we were lucky enough to get as a wedding present years ago. I cherish it and it is such a beautiful piece.

Nezzy said...

I did, I did enjoy this most beautiful post. I'm simply in awe of that magnificent chandelier, what an awesome sight that is!!!

God bless and have yourself a sunshiny kinda day sweetie!!! :o)

Debbie said...

I really did enjoy this! I didn't know a single bit of that except where Waterford was made.

Now, I'm going to read about the china below. I've been so busy and distracted that I've missed tons of good stuff.

Auntie Em said...

Another lovely blog post! Crystal is so pretty sitting in the spring time sunlight. :)