Waterford Crystal

Waterford Crystal building in Waterford

Waterford Crystal is a manufacturer of crystal. It is named after the city of Waterford, Ireland. Waterford Crystal is owned by WWRD Group Holdings Ltd., a luxury goods group which also owns and operates the Wedgwood and Royal Doulton brands. WWRD was acquired 2 July 2015 by the Fiskars Corporation.[1]

In January 2009 its Waterford base was closed down due to the bankruptcy of the Wedgwood Group. After several difficulties and takeovers, it re-emerged later that year. In June 2010, Waterford Crystal relocated almost back to its original roots, on The Mall in Waterford City. This new location is now home to a manufacturing facility that melts over 750 tons of crystal a year. 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.


Cut-glass bowl from Waterford, 18th century
Glass blower at Waterford glass factory
A workman at Waterford Crystal glass cutting

The origins of the crystal production in Waterford dates back to 1783[2] when George and William Penrose started their business. It produced extremely fine flint glass that became world-renowned. However, their company closed in 1851.[3]

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,[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]

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 Ltd. was announced in Ireland and the UK.[7]

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[8] The sit-in made the BBC News,[9] hoping to prevail upon receiver Deloitte to retain those jobs.[10] 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.[11] The sit in ended in March, 2009 after workers agreed to split a payment of €10m.[12] The fight by the workers to keep the factory open is chronicled in a PBS online documentary.[13]

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.[14] The sale did not include the factory or visitor centre in Kilbary, Ireland. The visitor centre shut its doors on 22 January 2010.[15] A new visitor and manufacturing facility opened in June 2010.[16]

On 11 May 2015 in a deal expected to close July 2015, the Fiskars Corporation, a Finnish maker of home products, agreed to buy 100% of the holdings of WWRD.[17] 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.[18]


Waterford crystal chandeliers

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.[19] Chandeliers hang in other notable buildings, such as Windsor Castle, and the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.[20] 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 geodesic orb, 12 feet in diameter and is lit by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs.[21][22]

Sporting trophies are also crafted by Waterford,[4] 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.

Also crafted by Waterford are the winning trophies for the French 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.[4] They also design the trophies for the People's Choice Awards.[23]

See also


  1. "Fiskars Corporation has completed the acquisition of WWRD and extended its portfolio with iconic luxury home and lifestyle brands". Press Releases. Fiskars Corporation. 2015-07-02. Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  2. "The Penrose Collection", Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood, retrieved 14 January 2014
  3. Werdigier, Julia (5 January 2009). "Waterford, the Crystal Maker, Is in Receivership". New York Times. Retrieved 3 February 2009.
  4. 1 2 3 O'Neill, Sean; Hamilton, Fiona (4 September 2008). "Miroslav Havel: chief designer of Waterford Crystal". The Times. London. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
  5. Garavan, Thomas N.; O. Cinneide, Barra; Garavan, Mary (1996). Cases in Irish business strategy and policy. Cengage Learning EMEA. p. 347. ISBN 1-86076-014-7.
  6. "Sentimental Journey", House and Home interiors magazine, p74, Dublin, July/August, 2001.
  7. Arm candy (5 January 2009). "Waterford placed into receivership as no buyer found". Irish Independent. Retrieved 5 January 2009.
  8. "Staff protest over Waterford Crystal closure". RTÉ News. 30 January 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2009.
  9. "Workers occupy crystal factory". BBC News. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2009.
  10. Lyall, Sarah (9 March 2009). "Workers and Tourists Keep Showing Up at a Closed Irish Factory". New York Times. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  11. "Waterford Crystal bought by equity firm". RTÉ News and Current Affairs. 27 February 2009. Retrieved 21 March 2009.
  12. Edwards, Elaine (22 March 2009). "Waterford Crystal workers to end sit-in after deal accepted". The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  13. "Wide Angle: Raise the Last Glass". PBS. 1 January 2010. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  14. "WWRD Holdings Limited acquires the assets of Waterford, Wedgwood, and Royal Doulton". KPS Capital Partners. 26 March 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  15. "Waterford Crystal visitors' centre closes". RTÉ News and Current Affairs. 22 January 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2010.
  16. "Waterford Crystal visitor centre opens". The Irish Times. 11 June 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  17. Bray, Chad. "Fiskars Agrees to Buy Owner of Waterford and Wedgwood". New York Times. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  18. "Fiskars Corporation has completed the acquisition of WWRD and extended its portfolio with iconic luxury home and lifestyle brands". NASDQ Global News Wire. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  19. Beeson, Trevor (2002). Priests And Prelates: The Daily Telegraph Clerical Obituaries. London: Continuum Books. pp. 4–5. ISBN 0-8264-6337-1.
  20. Morris, Shirley (April 2007). Interior Decoration – A Complete Course. Global Media. p. 105. ISBN 81-89940-65-1.
  21. MSNBC Times Square ball to get LED makeover (retrieved 31 December 2006)
  22. "New Year's Eve: About the Ball". New Year's Eve. Times Square District Management Association. Retrieved 1 January 2009.
  23. Mulligan, John (26 January 2010). "Waterford Crystal to create 80 jobs at flagship factory in city". Dublin: Irish Independent. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
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