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crystal and glassware


:: Waterford Crystal :: A History of Brilliance ::

Although glass making had been practiced in Ireland since the 13th century, one may argue that it was born as an art form at the near close of the 18th century.  Brothers George and William Penrose, already prominent business men in Ireland, started the Waterford Glass House in 1783 in the port of Waterford.  The brothers did not want to make just any glass.  Rather, the Penroses wanted to make extraordinary crystal.  With 10,000 pounds of seed money, the Penrose brothers opened the Waterford Glass House with some 50 to 70 employees.  In a realtively short time, this small, but dedicated and talented group was able to produce the type of glass of which the Penrose's dreamed-- crystal unmatched in Ireland or England.  The quality of their products created a world-wide market and, the merchant ships took this unparalled crystal to the far reaches of the Western World.  In addition to supplying the eurpean market, the merchant ships left the port of Waterford for New York, New England, Nova Scotia and the West Indies, with their crystal treasures packed carefully for their voyage to the New World.

Sadly, great artistry and remarkable quality sometimes are not enough.  In 1851, overcome with the burden of insufficient capitol and overwhelming taxes, the owners closed the Waterford Glass house.  Although the Waterford Glass House had operated for only 68 years, the quality and beauty of its creations endured, and the dream of the George and William Penrose was not forgotten.  Almost 100 years after the original Waterford factory was closed, a small factory was opened in Waterford, dedicated to recreating their extraordinary crystal.  

Today over 200 years since George and Wiilliam Penrose opened their Glass House, Waterford employes approximately 9,000 people world-wide.  There are now 3 manufacturing plants in County Waterford.  The Waterford line has expanded to include the following divisions and products.Waterford China; Waterford stainless flatware;Waterford bed and table linens; Waterford silver gifts; and

Waterford writing instruments.  

In 1986, Waterford, the single greatest crystal manufacturer merged with Wedgwood, the world's preeminent china manufacturer.  The marriage of these two companies, both known for their artistry and exceptional quality, seems destined and has been an unbridled success.  Waterford Wedgwood, plc, as the two merged companies have come to be known also owns other luxury brands, including W C Designs, Rosenthal and All-Clad.

More than two centuries have passed since George and William Penrose opened their small factory in a Waterford.  The scope of the company and its products surely has grown beyond anything that the Penroses could have imgained.  However, neither the passage of time nor the exponential growth of the company have changed the fundamental tenents of the Waterford Glass House of 1783.  The simple, but bedrock, traditions of cutting patterns and striving for color purity are still practiced at Waterford today just as they were over two hundred years ago.  Perhaps that is why Waterford Crystal was named by a survey of American consumers as the brand with the highest quality.  One cannot help think that George and Williiam Penrose would be proud.

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