I always associated Waterford Crystal with Christmas. For the first few years of my marriage, I would congregate with others in the early morning darkness outside a department store, waiting to be one of the first to buy drastically marked down Christmas décor. Occasionally, a beautiful crystal ornament would catch my eye.
But I never really thought much about Waterford Crystal beyond that—mainly because I couldn’t afford it—until my Aunt Linda toured the factory on her trip to Ireland. As she described watching the master blowers form the crystal and the master cutters decorating the pieces, I got a little envious. I wanted to see how the intricate crystal pieces were made and, maybe, even pick up a small piece as a souvenir.
So, when a press trip brought me to Waterford to explore the city’s Viking heritage in 2017, I had to visit the House of Waterford Crystal Factory and Retail Store. Unfortunately, I missed the last tour of the day, but I was able to gawk at the impressive pieces on display in the store and left with a lifelong appreciation for fine crystal. Purchasing your own Waterford Crystal piece is a great way to bring travel home when you can't visit Ireland.
Why is Waterford Crystal Special?
Crystal is a type of glass made with added lead. The higher lead content refracts light differently than typical glass, causing it to sparkle, and creates a distinctive clink when two pieces touch. Lead also makes the crystal stronger than glass, allowing for thinner walls and lighter pieces.
Waterford Crystal dates back to 1783 when two brothers opened a decorative glass company in Waterford. Known for its quality and beautiful patterns, Waterford Flint Glass Works thrived for a while but eventually went out of business in 1851.
But the Waterford story didn’t end there thanks to Karel Bacik and Miroslav Havel, two Czech immigrants who came to Waterford after World War II. When Bacik opened a crystal factory in Waterford, Havel studied the flint glass company’s patterns and adapted them for Waterford Crystal. The combination of the crystal’s quality and the intricate patterns etched into the pieces helped establish the brand as the premier crystal manufacturer in the world.
Identifying Authentic Waterford Crystal
Authentic pieces can be tricky to spot because many imitators copy Waterford Crystal's more famous patterns, including Lismore, Lismore Diamond, Colleen, and Seahorse. Look for “Waterford” etched somewhere on the piece to verify you’re holding an authentic piece. Sometimes, the company’s trademark seahorse will accompany the “Waterford” label.
Don’t be put off by a sticker saying the piece was made in Slovenia, the Czech Republic, or another country. Today, few pieces are still produced in Ireland, but this doesn’t mean the others are of lesser quality. The exception is the entry-level Marquis line, which is formed and not hand cut. The Marquis pieces are still Waterford Crystal, just not the same quality and not nearly as ornate as other Waterford lines.
Visiting the Waterford Factory and Store
The best place to purchase authentic pieces is at the factory’s retail store. Kick your visit off with a 50-minute guided factory tour. Tours are available daily, March through October, and on weekdays the rest of the year. On a tour, you’ll see how the glass is blown, molded, marked for cutting, and cut using diamond-tipped wheels.
Even if you don’t have time for the tour, stop by the retail store, which houses the largest collection of Waterford Crystal in the world. Not only can you purchase authentic pieces there, but you can see rare ones as well. You might also be able to watch a master cutter at work.
However, don’t expect to find amazing deals at the factory. Unless you are purchasing a piece from the Marquis line, you’ll spend about $70 for one wine glass, $300 for a decanter, or more than $300 for a vase.
Purchasing Waterford Crystal Online
You don’t have to travel to Ireland to purchase directly from the factory. Waterford Crystal sells everything from wine glasses to perfume bottles online. The Waterford website also carries hard-to-find items like chandeliers, light fixtures, wall sconces, and lamps. Looking for something special? Items purchased online can also be monogrammed.
You can also purchase Waterford Crystal online. The key to purchasing Waterford Crystal online is to look for the Waterford logo etched in the crystal. While it is more difficult to ensure authenticity online, the best online sellers show detailed photos and use descriptions. Do be aware that some people sell Marquis pieces at prices comparable to other lines. Research the product you want to purchase before clicking the “Buy Now” button.
At Wander With Wonder, we recommend checking out ChandlerEstate on Etsy. The owner, Suzanne, is based in New Jersey. She searches for small estate sales and offers the items at reasonable prices. She shows the etched logo in detail for each listing.
Purchasing Pieces in the US
Waterford Crystal has company stores in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia outlet malls. These stores sell many of the same items you’ll find on the company's website at roughly the same price.
If you don’t live near a company store, you can purchase Waterford Crystal at major department stores. Typically, department stores sell glassware, decanters, vases, candle holders, frames, and decorative items such as small clocks and Christmas ornaments.
Waterford Crystal Christmas ornaments are also available online from Amazon or Etsy. The ornaments on Amazon are new while the Etsy ornaments are often from antique and vintage dealers. There are ornaments to hang on your tree along with others to help decorate your home.
Sometimes department stores carry the Marquis line, and you may be able to find Waterford at upscale home furnishing stores. Just be sure pieces that are not in authentic packaging have the “Waterford” label and/or seahorse trademark.
Decorating with Waterford Crystal
Crystal adds elegance to your home. Add tumblers and a shaker to your bar top for a classy look. Or, break out the martini and wine glasses for a special dinner. A few select serving items can add a nice touch to a buffet table while a vase filled with fresh flowers can make a dramatic statement.
In your living room, showcase your favorite photo in a Waterford Crystal frame and place it prominently on a bookshelf or mantle. Or, invest in a beautiful pair of crystal candlesticks you can use as accents in your décor. Even wildflowers seem elegant in a crystal vase.
And, of course, at Christmas, even a few crystal ornaments can add sparkle to your tree.
Although I didn’t purchase anything at the Waterford factory, I will be watching for pieces at estate sales. I might even pick up a few online. And, Aunt Linda, if your sons don’t want your pieces when you downsize, I’d be more than happy to take your collection.