Stories from the Past and Present: Waterford Crystal Part 1

Snow is finally falling in Greater-land Minnesota and we watch in both awe and concern as it blows against our windows and turns the outside world into a real-life snow globe. But whether or not you are one to enjoy the snow, we can admit that we all like things that sparkle. Looking around the store, Past and Present Home Gallery has lots of things that twinkle and sparkle. We have vintage Christmas decorations that reflect the lights of Christmas’s past. We have the Diva Den full of bedazzled and sparkling things. And then there is the oak hutch against the north wall that always seems to grab our attention—it’s the hutch that holds the Waterford Crystal.

Waterford Crystal: The Crystal of Queens

Glass and crystal have been Irish traditions since the 13th century and this long and proud history hosts one of the world’s most recognizable names in its manufacture: Waterford. Established on October 3, 1783 by the Penrose brothers, the new crystal company was named after its town of Waterford. The Penrose brothers, William and George, were determined to “create the finest quality crystal for drinking vessels and objects for the home.” However, they didn’t actually know anything about glass making. The brothers hired master glass maker John Hill and together they were on their way to realizing their dream.

Mr. Hill brought many unique ideas to the company, it was his idea to polish the glass after it was cut which would give it a much brighter and reflective surface. This became the required procedure at Waterford and its effect helped make their glass famous. But after being with the company for only 3 years, Hill left the company and turned over his glass formulas and projects to his apprentice and clerk Jonathan Gatchell.

Two years later, the Waterford Company would reach one of its goals as this was written in the Dublin Chronicle on August 21, 1788:

"A very curious service of glass has been sent over to Milford for their Majesties’ use, and by their orders forwarded to Cheltenham, where it has been much admired and does much credit to the manufacture of this county…"

The Penrose brothers had done it. The company they had started just five years before had created a fine quality crystal for drinking vessels and other objects for the home. With the help of master glass maker John Hill and the dedication of his apprentice Jonathan Gatchell, they had made crystal that caught the eye of the royal family.

The best part of the Waterford story is that it doesn’t end in 1788. The company would see many more hardships and celebrate many more successes throughout the next century. But that is a story for another time. Meanwhile, come in to Past and Present Home Gallery to browse our selection of Waterford drinking vessels and other objects for the home. They sparkle just as much as the snow and make wonderful Christmas gifts.

Can’t wait to see you at Past and Present Home Gallery, the antique store with character!