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.