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Issue: CC104
22nd November 2021

At the end of the rainbow

The dazzling intricacy of Ireland’s Waterford Crystal

All illustrations by CC

Can’t think of anything more boring than crystalware? Then I beg a moment of your time to show that crystal is anything but dull, in both senses of the word.

I’d never given crystal a second glance. To me, crystal was the stuff that my mum carefully shuffled me past in Clements department store when I was a child (I’m sure whoever chose to place the toy department behind the glassware department lived to regret that decision). That was until I met Aidan McAdam, a trader at Marcel Fairs. Each month he carefully lays out a dazzling display of Waterford Crystal that lights up the centre of Sarratt Village Hall. He enthusiastically showed me the different patterns cut into seemingly similar glasses, explaining about the history and appeal of each piece.

Master Cutters vase

The main appeal of lead crystal lies in the craftmanship used to create its intricate and exact designs. From the characteristic ‘ring’ to the sparkling spectrum of light afforded by its 24%+ lead oxide content, lead crystal is synonymous with luxury. McAdam says the three most important things are the quality, the design and the workmanship. The pictures above are of one of McAdam’s favourite pieces, a Master Cutter vase. This is the ‘pièce de résistance’ of crystal, a one-off piece that allows the Cutter to show off his skills. A piece that has been signed (etched) by the Cutter is particularly valuable. Isn’t that cut top edge beautiful?

Identifying marks

The different versions of the Waterford sticker
Seahorse 10” vase (first edition)

The changing Waterford logo is a helpful way of dating your crystal, if it still includes its sticker (as shown on the vase above).

You can also look for an etching, usually on the bottom in a gothic script, though it may have worn away with use. The gothic script was replaced with a stencil-style ‘Waterford’ overlaying the seahorse logo in 2000.

Pre-2000 and post-2000 etching marks

Waterford’s seahorse logo was designed by their chief designer in 1947, an adaptation of the sea creature that is on the City of Waterford’s Coat of Arms.

Identica’s 2021 rebrand

At the start of this year Waterford’s new branding was unveiled, a more modern look in the hope of broadening their appeal to a younger audience. New photography showed the tumblers being used to hold liquorice allsorts or as pencil pots – what would grandma say?!

Suites and cuts

On the following pages we show our appreciation for this artisan glassware, as well as providing a guide for identification, with a selection of the shapes and cuts found in Ireland’s Waterford Crystal, from its second period of ownership/activity (1950s – 1970s). We’ve focused on stemware but as you see from the photos here the designs are also used on vases, decanters and other items.

We’re showing the designs as flat repeats, their proportions will change to fit each glass shape. You will notice that a number of designs share the same glass shape and that all of the designs are given Irish names and locations, which lent the brand extra authenticity with the tens of millions of Irish Americans wanting a piece of home. The USA was a far more important market to Waterford than Britain or Ireland and by the 1980s Waterford had claimed 30% of the USA crystal market for itself.

Suite: Adare, Eileen, Tramore and Galtee

Suite: Cashel, Donegal, Maureen, Kathleen and Boyne

Suite: Comeragh, Glengarriff and Kildare

Suite: Innisfail and Royal Tara

Suite: Kylemore, Kenmare, Rosslare and Kinsale

Suite: Templemore, Sheila and Glenmore

Suite: Lismore, Clare, Alana and Ashling

Alana ships decanter

All photographs are of pieces from McAdam’s collection, available at Marcel Fairs (see our fairs calendar for dates).