Posted by: lifeonislandtime | August 4, 2015


One of my highly-anticipated activities on this trip was the visit to the Waterford Factory. I planned a night in Waterford specifically for that purpose. If we saw other things in town, it was icing on the cake, but what I really wanted to see was the crystal factory. Of course, I also planned to purchase some crystal while I was there. Travis was less enthusiastic.
We ferried over to Ireland from Wales, then drove down to Waterford. We got to town about 3pm, checked into our hotel, dropped our bags and went to the factory. We got on the tour leaving 15 minutes later, and browsed through the gift shop while we waited. Travis looked at the glassware with little interest, and though he found the replicas of sports trophies interesting, he was definitely bored. He was also in shock at the prices. He kept saying “for glasses?!” When he saw prices. 
Our time to tour came. We heard the story of the founding of Waterford Crystal, and heard about the 5-year apprenticeship needed to work there. At this point, the “Apprentice Bowl” was shown. It’s a bowl made as the final test of apprentices wanting to be masters. It has every cut they do on it. It must be created perfectly, from memory. The apprentice has 3 tries to make it. After the 3rd attempt, if it’s not correct, you either start your 5-year apprenticeship over, or find a new career.
We watched each of the different stages of production: blowing, inspecting, marking, cutting, polishing, engraving. It’s all done by hand by master craftsmen. At each stage, the crafters speak to you, let you touch the product in work, and they illustrate their trade. The “one-off” items, special editions, custom pieces, and colored Crystal are made in the Waterford shop. The typical goblets and glasses you get at Macy’s are produced in the same manner in Eastern Europe, where labor costs are lower. All the Eastern European tradesmen go through the same apprenticeship, however. 
The end of the tour puts you back in the showroom. After taking the tour, however, Travis saw the Crystal in a new light. Knowing that each piece is hand-crafted by master craftsmen, the price no longer looks so high. He went from bored observer to active participant in choosing something to bring home. He began looking at the heavily-worked and embellished glasses, as they have more cuts and are a better value. Sadly, those are not my style, and I had to use one of my vetoes. 
We settled on a pair of red toasting flutes, made in the Waterford factory, Waterford Ireland. 


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