A showcase for the most well known product of the area, Waterford Crystal, the factory was founded in 1783. It produced its most acclaimed work in the late 18th and early 19th centuries while provided ornate, heirloom quality pieces for English nobility as well as functional pieces for everyday use. The factory closed in 1851 due to the famine, and was reopened in 1947. Today, it is a world-class operation that employs many area residents. The United States represents a large part of its market, which includes ornate stemware and chandeliers.
Tours of the factory are offered at 60-minute intervals. Visitors can observe the tremendous amount of time and skill involved in creating these intricate pieces, against a background of roaring furnaces. They see molten glass (932 C) and wedge cutting done on a diamond wheel. Waterford Crystal is made from a particularly thick glass that allows for deeper cuts and facets. The pieces from the late 18th century can be distinguished from those of today by their deeper cast. A single piece of Waterford Crystal passes through many processes and is handled by about two dozen different workers before it is ready to leave the factory.
Waterford Crystal employs about 1,600 workers, and the master craftspeople serve an eight-year apprenticeship. The factory has an excellent Visitor’s Centre that explains the complete production process in detail, and finished pieces are available for sale.