This past weekend, just a day after picking up the Land Rover, we drove down to Waterford to tour the House of Waterford Crystal. I have a few friends who absolutely adore Waterford, and we do plan to go down for a more in depth visit at some point during these two years, but the point of this trip was to do some shopping! We got rid of all of our wine glasses when we moved from the U.S. – a mishmash of freebies we’d gotten at various wine festivals, and the remaining one or two we had from nicer sets – so we definitely needed to buy some new ones. I’d thrown out the idea of picking up a set of Waterford as it’d be great to have them years from now once we’ve moved on from here.
This was the first time we’d driven the car for any extended period of time, and it drove like a champ! We had to pull over once because the hood (bonnet here) hadn’t been closed properly when inspected at the time of purchase, but otherwise it was an incredibly comfortable trip down. We left around 10:30 a.m. and made it to the factory around 12:45 p.m., plenty of time to get lunch in the cafe, peruse the shop, and wait for the tour to begin.
I’d seen snippets of the tour from TV shows and blogs but I really didn’t know what to expect. It was a fairly large group, so immediately we were split off into two smaller ones. The tour began with a history of the factory and information about how it operates today. For a really fascinating read on the factory’s history, I strongly recommend you check out this link. I was going to post a summary below but there’s really too much information for one blog post.
The tour itself was rather fascinating and I was surprised to be able to watch the artisans up close and personal. We learned that each person there trains for at least 8 years to have that position. And it’s not just training either. There are tests they must complete upon the conclusion of that training and if they fail, they have two choices: (1) start the training all over again from the beginning, or (2) find a different profession. As our guide said, “no pressure!” I think I expected a huge factory with machines doing the majority of the work, but it wasn’t like that at all. This is truly hand made crystal, beautifully forged right there in the factory and then cut and sculpted by master artists. It was kind of staggering just how awesome their skill levels were. Even more surprising was the fact that one of the master cutters offered to let me pick up and hold one of the bowls he was working on. No thanks sir! I’ll just touch it while it sits securely here on your table.
One of the most interesting parts of the tour for me personally was the history of the Lismore line. Back in 2013, I spent the majority of the week at Lismore Castle, 40 minutes from the factory, for an executive offsite with my team. While I was one of a handful who stayed down the road at the local B&B, I spent many hours at the castle and got to see first hand some of the amazing details of the place.
Lismore is the most enduring crystal-cut in history. Its beauty and elegance had made it Waterford’s most loved collection. In 1952 the Lismore Collection was launched. Now over 50 years later it is the only design from this period that still remains. Of all of Waterford Crystal’s cuts Lismore is the most loved. Lismore will add grace and beauty to any home.
The Lismore Castle in the village of Lismore, Co. Waterford inspired the collection. The Lismore Castle is perched spectacularly on a cliff high above the River Backwater near the Knockmealdown Mountains. It has passed through many owners and endured many wars. It was once the seat of archbishops; from Sir Walter Raleigh to the Earl of Cork and it has been in the possession of the Dukes of Devonshire for centuries.
The Leaded windows and turrets of the picturesque Castle have been recreated in the cutting pattern. A classic crystal that has simple cuts and balanced beauty are as fresh today as they were when they were first inspired. It is the combination of wedge cuts and open plain diamond cutting, which has become synonymous with the Lismore Collection.
2013 celebrated the 60th anniversary of Lismore. The Lismore 60th Anniversary Collection acclaims a design so esteemed and iconic it has been admired and emulated for 60 years as the zenith of perfection, brilliance and beauty. The celebration piece of the collection, the Lismore Saucer Champagne, venerates both an esteemed crystal pattern and the universal symbol of chic elegance and sophistication. We celebrate a special toast to the next sixty years of Lismore and the dream of living a crystal life!
In the end, we didn’t leave with wine goblets. They were just too heavy and the rims too thick to be – in our minds – proper wine drinking glasses. No, instead we left with four whiskey glasses! (Of course we did.) I tried to convince Alan that we also needed the decanter on the right but he wasn’t feeling very indulgent of my whims that afternoon for some ($$$) reason.
If you’re ever in Ireland and find yourself down in Waterford and wonder whether or not the tour is worth your time and money, I strongly recommend you spend the hour or so to do it. And if you’re here visiting, you’ll even get a VAT discount on your purchases in the store, making it that much less expensive for American tourists.