The Irish Files: A Tour of the Waterford Crystal Factory
Most people have at least heard of Waterford Crystal. It’s the best crystal in the world and the ultimate symbol of both excellence and craftsmanship.
Excuse me while I Americanize my remarks here, but remember that glittery piece of glass held up by the college football national champion every year? That’s Waterford Crystal. Recall the Peoples’ Choice Awards? That’s Waterford Crystal. Visualize the winner of the Santa Anita Derby hoisting a trophy? That’s Waterford Crystal.
That doesn’t even begin to note all the awards and sporting competitions in Europe and the rest of the world which include a special-made prize crafted at the original factory of the Waterford name, located in (where else?) — Waterford, Ireland.
Call me terribly naive, but I just assumed that Waterford Crystal was made in England. It’s not. Blasphemy. This is an Irish product, brought about because of a perfectly positioned port on the south coast of Ireland, which has allowed for the import of raw materials needed to make the crystal, and then the plentiful ships sailing out all over the world which take the finished products to market. By the way, since the Waterford empire has grown, other factories have opened up elsewhere. However, the most prestigious items are made here in Waterford.
Of course, most of us know of Waterford products as candles, glasses, stemware, bowls, vases, and various decorative ornaments. Waterford also makes clocks and chandeliers.
Earlier this week, Marieta and I took a guided tour, which cost 10 euro and lasted about an hour. We were able to see the process of making crystal, from start to finish. By the way, some of the most expensive pieces, with lots of detail, retail for six-figures or more. Tread carefully here. Although I didn’t see any “You break it, you bought it” signs, you don’t want to slip and knock anything over.
One major difference between Waterford products and many of the crystal items made by other companies, mostly manufactured throughout Eastern Europe is — any flawed Waterford product is immediately destroyed. There are no mark offs or outlet centers. Every piece is absolutely perfect. As for imperfections in crystal, such flaws would include bubbles in the glass as it’s being blown, chips, scratches, and other tiny details. Much like a diamond, many of these differences are barely noticeable. But Waterford takes great pride in their trade name and genuine authenticity.
Here are several photos we took of the factory, located near the port town center of Waterford (the first picture shows a mold for what was presumably a “Kentucky Basketball Trophy” — guess that didn’t exactly work out as planned):
Finally, how could we pass up the fresh desserts, all made in-house? Once tasty treat was someone called a Tunisian Orange Cake at right), which is stunning delicious. This was the perfect way to depart our guided tour.
Note: Special thanks to everyone at Paddy Power Poker for making this trip possible, including Padraig Parkinson, Patrick Thronton, Clodagh Hansen, and John Buckley.