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Waterford Cut Glass Crystal. Made Where Now?
Waterford Glass Closed Down
The mismanagement, misdirection and general shenanigans that has befallen the craft workers of The Waterford Glass Company in Ireland is one for the record books.
The once mighty and well known brand has fallen on hard times... by design.
The collapse of the Waterford glass factory, is more curious than any fiction writer could invent. Indeed as is often the case. The truth is stranger than fiction.
How did it all go so wrong. An inside source tells all.
Glass-blowing in Waterford
A Little History
They have been making crystal cut glass and glassware in Waterford since the 18th century.
(Founded 1783 by George and William Penrose)
There are still a few Waterford artisans keeping the hand made glass tradition alive.
The Waterford folk are proud of their glass making heritage and have benefited from a long period of sustained steady work.
Many families in Waterford had a member of their family either working directly for the factory on in supporting industries including packaging and transportation.
When the factory closed in 2009 the subsequent mass unemployment decimated the whole of Waterford and surrounding areas.
This is the problem of relying on one industry, and reflects the 3rd world status of the Irish Economy.
Glass Industry Flint Crystal
Although Ireland is just a few miles away from the mainland of the UK and Europe it may as well be a banana republic in the Caribbean sea.
Over the years the product range and materials used has changed. In the early days the Waterford glass workers produced flint crystal which was used for making optical lenses and high quality diamond simulants.
It was only many years later that the Waterford factory, developed the methods and design that they became world renowned for. The skills and techniques developed at the Waterford factory took many years to perfect and new glass-workers had to serve long apprenticeships.
The manufacture of these beautiful products must go through several stages and each stage requires different skills. Skills not easily acquired.
The first company closed in 1851 and it was not until almost a 100 year later that a Czech immigrant Charles Bacik opened the new company in1947.
Waterford Crystal ?
Waterford Glass from Slovenia!
Waterford Crystal as a brand is associated with art glass, high end, quality products. So high quality in fact that it is used in some of the most prestigious buildings in the world and also for making top of the line sports trophies.
There is a wide variety of art and designs types including Adare, Alana, Colleen, Kincora, Lismore, Maeve, Tramore, and many others.
Below is a small selection of Waterford Crystal seen in a social context.
Chandeliers in Westminster Abbey to commemorate 900th anniversary of the Abbey.
Chandeliers hang in Windsor Castle, and the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.
The 2,668 Waterford crystals of the New Year's Eve Ball in New York City.
Sporting trophies. The Masters Series crystal shield for professional tennis.
The AFCA National Championship Trophy for US college football
The trophies for the French and German Grand Prix in Formula One.
The end game for the Waterford factory has more twists and turns than a fancy crystal chandelier. To go into the full shenanigans, take my word for it, would make your head spin.
Suffice it to say that the Waterford glass workers gradually lost ground to the changing ideas of the owners (WWRD Holdings Ltd)
The global Financial the economic tidal wave, that was destroying the buying power of the US dollar; which accounted for almost 50% of sales. It was argued was the real culprit.
Added to the fact that tastes were changing and, there are only so many high end customers (Waterford crystal is not cheap) Eventually all of these factors lead to the closure of the plant and manufacturing being transferred to?... Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.
The workers did not take this lying down and fought a terrific rear guard action and managed to get a compensation package totaling 10 million Euro's.
For Waterford Glass it was a way out.
The curious thing is that under European Law many products can only be specifically named and sold if they come from a particular area or region. For example Champagne can only be called Champagne if it was made in the Champagne region.
Any other wine manufactured using the champagne method can only be called sparkling white wine. The same applies to many such products. Waterford crystal is still trading and being sold as "Waterford Glass".
There are a few craftsmen still producing small scale in Waterford and it keeps a few of them employed but the town has suffered massively from unemployment.
The irony is that Waterford glass was created as we have seen by the Czech immigrant Charles Bacik.
Bacik opened the company that we know today in 1947. And the fact that the glass is now manufactured in Czechoslovakia could be construed that it has returned to it's ancestral home.