From Cobh we made our way to Waterford, Ireland’s oldest town. It was settled by the Vikings in the ninth century, and then by the Normans. Then the English were here for a while too. It has a long maritime history. It also has a long tradition of making quality crystal goods. Waterford Crystal is desired all around the globe today, and some of the major sporting tournaments award Waterford Crystal trophies to the winners.
We spent a little time in the showroom before our tour of the factory began. We were admiring the craftsmanship and beauty of the crystal ware, but also commenting on how costly the items were. It was only when we began our factory tour that we understood exactly why it costs a good deal to purchase a Waterford Crystal product.
Everything is done by hand, one item at a time. We watched glass blowers shaping their bowls by heating the glass until it was glowing red hot, then twisting and blowing to refine the shape, repeating this over and over again until the desired shape and size were obtained. In the next room we watched as the rough edges were removed and the items polished and washed. Then we saw how templates were used to mark lines on the crystal ware to guide the cutters. The cutters used abrasive wheels to cut grooves into the crystal exactly where the marker lines had been made, before more smoothing and polishing was applied.
At the end of our tour we saw a number of specialised items, where engraving was used to write text, illustrate or provide a special effect. Some of these pieces were one-off creations.
This work was slow and meticulous, requiring concentration and a steady hand. Only master craftsmen could create work of such consistently high quality. The process was labour intensive. The finished pieces were superb. It’s obvious now that the high prices in the crystal showroom are also fair prices for the amount of individual attention each piece receives during its creation.