Stories from the Past and Present: Waterford Crystal Part 3

Christmas is almost upon us and Past and Present Home Gallery is busy helping you find those last minute gifts for your loved ones—gift certificates to our store are great, by the way. And as you take home a ceramic Christmas tree, china set, or a treasure found in the Man Cave, we also get busy with finding new things to fill any empty spaces on the shelves. This constant rearranging of items brings a freshness to our store that we know you appreciate, and we have a lot of fun with, too. And it’s this theme of “new” that brings us to the final part in the story of Waterford Crystal:

  Etching of original Waterford Crystal factory. Retrieved December 19, 2016. waterfordvisitorscentre.com

Etching of original Waterford Crystal factory. Retrieved December 19, 2016. waterfordvisitorscentre.com

Waterford Crystal: New Beginnings

In 1896 the flint glass industry had ceased to exist in Ireland. The turn of the century brought new ideals and great change everywhere including Ireland: there was a war that engulfed the world, an economic depression that crippled nations, and another war that re-defined freedom. This search for freedom is what brought Kael “Charles” Bacik from Czechoslovakia to Ireland in 1947.

  Havel (front in white coat) with fellow engravers. Retrieved December 19, 2016. nytimes.com

Havel (front in white coat) with fellow engravers. Retrieved December 19, 2016. nytimes.com

Bacik and his business partner Noel Griffin wanted to re-open a crystal factory worthy of the Waterford name. But the flint glass industry had not existed in Ireland for almost 50 years. Bacik and Griffin toured Europe in search of the best glass blowers and master craftsmen to help train the eager Irish apprentices. A total of thirty glassblowers took them up on their offer including lead glass designer Miroslav Havel who was only convinced by Bacik after he promised that Ireland was a “fine country that had plenty of oranges and bananas.”

The partnership was official formed among Bacik, Griffin, Havel, Fitzpatrick, McGrath and others and they got right to work. Havel studied the original Waterford Flint Glass Works patterns and formulas developed by the John Hill, Jonathan Gatchell, and the Penrose brothers to develop the new products for their new company. The company flourished. By 1955, the recorded profits allowed them to cease contracting with third parties for the sale of their products in New York and Waterford began to sell to the retailors directly. In the 1960’s Waterford Crystal was named the best in the hand crafted crystal. And by the 1970’s new factory space was needed, so much so that a 10-acre factory space was constructed in Kilbarry and was the largest of its type in the world.

  "A page from one of the factory's original pattern books." Retrieved December 19, 2016. waterfordvisitorscentre.com

"A page from one of the factory's original pattern books." Retrieved December 19, 2016. waterfordvisitorscentre.com

Innovation after innovation was introduced to the new company and it continued to thrive: in the 1980’s computers were implemented to help with the measurement and mixing of raw materials. In 1986 a natural oil furnace was installed in the foundries and saved the company £2 million. And in 1987 the glass makers switched to diamond wheels in their cutting techniques.

Waterford Crystal continued to grow and expand its business. The company faced many challenges but always strove to uphold the name of Waterford and its rich history. As the turn of the millennium approached, it was Waterford that crafted the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball and the six-foot sphere dazzled audiences the world over.

Today, the company known as Waterford may be organized differently and owned by different parties, but the dedication and passion first held by the Penrose brothers and later by Bacik and his associates is still appreciated in the manufacture of the crystal that bares the Waterford mark. Come into Past and Present Home Gallery to browse our selection of Waterford Crystal including various sizes of drinking vessels. After all, you will need something to toast in the New Year, why not celebrate the new beginning with some “new” Waterford Crystal?

Happy Holidays from Past and Present Home Gallery, the antique store with character!