Saturday, May 24, 2008

Waterford, Ireland

On Sunday, Julie and I headed out to the countryside of Ireland. We wanted to see the Waterford Crystal factory so that was our first destination. Waterford is located in the south of Ireland, so we decided to make that our first stop!

The tour of how the Waterford Crystal is made was fascinating! The amount of lead in Waterford is what makes it so special and so sparkly!!

Waterford crystal products are made by a strict process of mixing, blowing, cutting and polishing. It is more labor intensive than I ever wonder it is so dang expensive!!! Chemicals are mixed to create a unique formula that gives Waterford crystal its special sparkle and light refractive qualities. It is then heated to 1400 degrees centigrade in a natural gas fired furnace for at least 36 hours to produce molten crystal. A blower, using the traditional tools and techniques as in the 18th century, gathers a quantity of crystal from the furnace on the end of a blowing iron with a twisting motion. This is then smoothed with a wooden block that has been soaked in water and resembles the shape of the desired item.

The craftsman then blows the piece, either by machine or by mouth, to its full shape. Crystal pieces are similarly cut to its unique pattern by either machine or by hand. Those crystal pieces that are mouth blown and hand cut have the highest quality of all crystal products. No other crystal is cut as deeply as Waterford’s. Some of the company’s core competencies are its crystal’s sparkle of light refractive qualities and unique 18th century designs.

Here is a guy blowing the crystal. This guy is applying the handle on a crystal pitcher.
This guy is cutting the scallops on this crystal bowl. These guys are paid only for the products that pass quality control so they obviously take their work seriously and get an enormous amount of training.
The story behind the Waterford trophies was so interesting. For each trophy, 3 are made (1 for the winner, 1 sent to the event just in case something happens to the original one for the winner, and 1 is kept in Ireland in the archives). If the trophy requires engraving, then an engraver (usually from Ireland) is sent with the trophy.

I left the Waterford factory with an incredible vase that can only be purchased in Ireland as well as a Christmas ornament! I love it! Believe me, I could have brought home the whole shop, but I do have to eat over the next year!!

After leaving Waterford, we headed through the countryside and to the farthest south we could go in Ireland. It was to the Hook Head where the oldest lighthouse tower in Ireland and one of the oldest lighthouses in the world is still in operation.

Jack (my GPS) took us on a little adventure getting to southern Ireland! Luckily, there was a ferry waiting on us, otherwise I thought he was going to make us swim!!
Hook Head Lighthouse!!
It took us longer than anticipated to get to the lighthouse, so by the time we made it there, it was getting dark and we had quite a drive ahead of us! Our day did not take us up the coastal drive like we I guess that is left for my next trip to Ireland!

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