Waterford Crystal designs, manufactures and markets an extensive range of crystal stemware, barware and giftware for distribution throughout the world. In recent years, Waterford has built upon its reputation as a leading source of prestigious tabletop and gift products by expanding into several new businesses. Significant expansions into tabletop and gifts have occurred with the launch of the Marquis by Waterford, the addition of Waterford Fine China, Waterford Fine Flatware, and Waterford Holiday Heirlooms. Each of those initiatives reflects the company's commitment to creating prestigious products -- for gift giving, entertaining, and home decorating -- whose classic designs transcend time.
The company of Waterford was first established in 1783 on land adjacent to Merchants' Quay in the heart of the Irish harbor town of Waterford. Its founders were two brothers, William and George Penrose, who were important developers and principal exporters in the city. Their vision was to "create the finest quality crystal for drinking vessels and objects of beauty for the home." More than two hundred years later, the reputation they established for creating glass of unsurpassed beauty and quality has transcended the intervening centuries.
The beginnings of glass making in Ireland are lost in the mists of time but there is sufficient archaeological evidence to show that, from the early Iron Age, glass was regarded with respect. Indeed, medieval documents can prove glass making existed in Ireland back in the middle 13th century.
However, the Waterford Crystal story started to blossom in 1783 when two brothers, George and William Penrose, founded their crystal manufacturing business in the busy port of Waterford. They were important developers and the city's principal exporters. The development, they told the Irish Parliament, cost £10,000 - a great deal of money in the 18th century.
They employed 50 to 70 people, led by a fellow Quaker, John Hill, from Stourbridge in England, and succeeded in producing crystal with a purity of colour unmatched in Ireland or England. Merchant ships sailed regularly from the port of Waterford with cargoes of crystal bound for Spain, the West Indies, New York, New England and Newfoundland.
But less than 100 years later the initial company failed due to lack of capital and excessive taxation. In what seems a remarkably short time, Waterford Crystal acquired an unequalled reputation that has transcended the intervening centuries.
Another century passed before the enterprise was revived. In 1947, while Europe was still in ruins after the second World War, a small glass factory was set up in Waterford just 11/2 miles from the site of the original glass factory.
Waterford Crystal today has very strong links with its illustrious predecessor. There is today the same dedication to the purity of color, to the same design inspiration and to the same pursuit of highest quality levels possible. The traditional cutting patterns made famous by the artisans of Waterford became the design basis for the growing product range of the new company.
Products which have extended the power of the Waterford brand beyond its core crystal products include Waterford China, Waterford Table & Bed Linens, Waterford Stainless Flatware and Silver Gifts, Waterford Writing Instruments, Waterford Holiday Heirlooms and Waterford Crystal Jewellery.
Waterford Crystal, today, is the leading brand of premium crystal. Its products - superb handcrafted crystal stemware, giftware and lightingware - are designed and manufactured to the highest standards.
The brand's reputation among its target market - upscale men and women - in its major markets is such that it has taken the brand to the heights that it now occupies. The target consumers simply regard Waterford Crystal as the best for self and gift purchase.
Recent research has confirmed the standing of Waterford Crystal in both the US and the UK.
In November 2000, Waterford Crystal was named as the top world class brand in the United States by a survey conducted among 30,000 people by the Princeton, New Jersey, based independent market research company, Total Research Corporation. Total Research said that Waterford Crystal was judged by American consumers as the brand with the highest quality out of 19 world class brands in the US market. Other brands in the league table below Waterford include Rolls-Royce Bentley, Bose stereo and speaker systems, Philadelphia cream cheese, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Kodak, Heinz ketchup and National Geographic magazine.
In 2002, Waterford celebrated the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Lismore pattern of crystal. Almost every year since its inception, Lismore has topped the popularity list and has been the biggest selling pattern of crystal in the US and the world. But there are others among the repertoire of Ireland's most famous export that have gained their own following - Alana, Carina, Araglin.
Waterford Crystal has become almost a synonym for the finest quality crystal sought after by collectors and connoisseurs around the world. Each piece of Waterford is watermarked with the word "Waterford", a signature indicating the name of the finest crystal in the world.