Waterford Crystal is a manufacturer of crystal, named after the city of Waterford, Ireland. The brand is owned by WWRD Group Holdings Ltd., a luxury goods group which also owns and operates the Wedgwood and Royal Doulton brands, and which was acquired on 2 July 2015 by the Fiskars Corporation.
In January 2009, the main Waterford Crystal base was closed due to the insolvency of Waterford Wedgwood PLC. In June 2010, Waterford Crystal relocated almost back to its original roots, on The Mall in Waterford city centre. This new location is now home to a manufacturing facility that melts over 750 tons of crystal a year, although most Waterford Crystal is now produced outside Ireland. This new facility offers visitors the opportunity to take guided tours of the factory and also offers a retail store, showcasing the world's largest collection of Waterford Crystal.
Early crystal production
The origins of crystal production in Waterford date back to 1783 when George and his nephew William Penrose started their business. It produced extremely fine flint glass that became world-renowned. Their Waterford company closed in 1851, and re-opened 100 years later.
Foundation of 1947
In 1947, Czech immigrant Charles Bacik, grandfather of Irish senator Ivana Bacik, established a glass works in the city. Skilled crystal workers were not available in Ireland so continental Europeans were used. Aided by fellow countryman and designer Miroslav Havel, the company started operations in a depressed Ireland. By the early 1950s it had been taken over as a subsidiary of the Irish Glass Bottle company, owned by Joseph McGrath, Richard Duggan and Spencer Freeman of the Irish Hospitals' Sweepstake, heavy investors in Irish business at that time.
In 1970 John Aynsley and Sons was taken over by Waterford and renamed Aynsley China Ltd.
Jasper Conran began designing his signature range of crystal for Waterford in 1999. The endeavour has evolved into four unique lines for Waterford and a complementary tableware collection in fine bone china for Wedgwood in 2001. The Chinese fashion designer John Rocha started designing a range of cut crystal stemware and vases in collaboration with glass designer Marcus Notley in 2001.
Due to rising competition Waterford Wedgwood announced the closure of its factory in Dungarvan in May 2005, in order to consolidate all operations into the main factory in Kilbarry, Waterford City, where 1,000 people were employed by the company. The move resulted in nearly 500 Dungarvan workers losing their jobs.
Waterford Crystal Limited was, until March 2009, a subsidiary of Waterford Wedgwood plc, itself formed through the acquisition by the then Waterford Glass Group of the famous pottery manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood in 1986. The last chairman was Tony O'Reilly, and the CEO John Foley. The leading shareholders of the holding company were former billionaire O'Reilly and his family, joined in the last decade by O'Reilly's brother-in-law, Greek shipping heir Peter Goulandris.
Waterford Wedgwood was forced into receivership in early 2009. On 5 January 2009, news of the receivership of Waterford Wedgwood PLC was announced in Ireland and the UK.
On 30 January 2009 it was announced that the Waterford Crystal plant in Kilbarry was to shut down immediately, despite earlier promises to discuss any such move with the unions in advance. The Kilbarry operation featured a tourist centre offering guided tours of the factory, a gift shop, café, and gallery. Many of the employees performed an unofficial sit-in. The sit-in made the BBC News, hoping to prevail upon receiver Deloitte to retain those jobs. On 4 February 2009, there were protests across the city at how the workers were being treated. On 27 February 2009, the receiver, David Carson of Deloitte, confirmed US equity firm KPS Capital were to purchase certain overseas assets and businesses of the Waterford Wedgwood Group. The sit in ended in March 2009 after workers agreed to split a payment of €10m. The fight by the workers to keep the factory open is chronicled in a PBS online documentary.
Under the receivership managed by Deloitte, ownership of most of Waterford Wedgwood plc's assets was transferred to KPS Capital Partners in March 2009. Waterford Crystal, along with Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, and other brands, were transferred to the new company WWRD Holdings Ltd. The sale did not include the factory or visitor centre in Kilbary, and the visitor centre shut its doors on 22 January 2010. A new visitor and manufacturing facility opened in June 2010.
Acquisition by Fiskars
On 11 May 2015 in a deal that closed in July 2015, the Fiskars Corporation, a Finnish maker of home products, agreed to buy 100% of the holdings of WWRD. On 2 July 2015 the acquisition of WWRD by Fiskars Corporation was completed including brands Waterford, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Royal Albert and Rogaška. The acquisition was approved by the US antitrust authorities.
Most Waterford crystal is now produced outside Ireland in countries such as Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Germany. Waterford produces many patterns of lead crystal stemware, including lines such as Adare, Alana, Colleen, Kincora, Lismore, Maeve, Tramore, and many others.
In 1966 Waterford's chandeliers were installed in Westminster Abbey for the 900th anniversary of the dedication of the abbey after Christoper Hildyard, a minor canon of the abbey for 45 years, convinced the Guinness family to pay for them. Chandeliers hang in other notable buildings, such as Windsor Castle, and the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. Waterford Crystal made the 2,688 crystals for the famous New Year's Eve Ball that is dropped each year in New York City's Times Square. The ball is an 11,875-pound (5,386 kg) geodesic orb, 12 feet (3.7 m) in diameter and is lit by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs.
One of the most popular products in their collection is the "Apprentice Bowl". It requires 600 precision cuts, all done by hand. Cutters would set out to complete this bowl in their fifth and final year of apprenticeship. They were only permitted three attempts, where the cutter would then be graded and if they passed it would receive the Waterford Crystal watermark.
Sporting trophies are also crafted by Waterford, such as the Masters Series crystal shield trophies that are awarded to the winner of each of the nine men's professional tennis Masters Series tournaments, the AFCA National Championship Trophy that is awarded to the US college football team which finishes the season at the top of the Coaches Poll, and a representation of the Ashes urn that is presented to the winners of the Test cricket series between England and Australia. The trophy for the Masters snooker championship is also made by Waterford Crystal, as is the Scottish Open snooker championship trophy.
Also crafted by Waterford are the winning trophies for the French, Belgian and German Grand Prix in Formula One, a bat and ball trophy presented at the final game at Yankee Stadium to Derek Jeter and a glass tennis racket for Boris Becker. They also design the trophies for the People's Choice Awards.
Waterford Crystal Ball, designed for the New Year's celebrations at Times Square
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- NBC News Times Square ball to get LED makeover (retrieved 31 December 2006)
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- Connolly, James. "Waterford Crystal Apprentice Bowl". waterfordcrystalcollection.com. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Waterford Crystal.|
- Waterford UK Official site
- Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre
- "Raise the Last Glass" PBS online documentary.