Waterford Crystal Factory Tour

During a recent trip to Ireland my wife and I participated in the House of Waterford Crystal factory group tour. This hour long tour reviews the history of the company. It then walks participants through the company’s manufacturing facility in Waterford, Ireland. Even though my wife and I do not collect Waterford Crystal, we both enjoyed the informative tour.

All of the images in this article were captured hand-held while the tour was in progress. I used a Nikon 1 J5 and a 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 zoom lens.

The hour-long tour began in the foyer of the manufacturing facility where information about the history of the company was provided. We then followed the tour guide into the actual manufacturing facility. Throughout the walking tour the guide discussed the various departments in the factory. These included mould making, blowing, quality inspections, hand marking, cutting, etching, engraving and sculpting.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 19 mm, efov 51.3 mm, f/5.6, 1/15, ISO-3200

Adjacent to the manufacturing facility you’ll find a retail store with a number of custom crystal creations on display.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 27 mm, efov 72.9 mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-1600

Some of them are quite unique… and dare I say spectacular.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 60 mm, efov 162 mm, f/8, 1/80, ISO-1600

Many of the pieces created at the factory begin with a custom mould being produced out of wood. A collection of decommissioned moulds was available for viewing.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 12 mm, efov 32.4 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-3200

I found it fascinating to watch the heated crystal being blown and shaped by the craftsmen at the facility.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 35 mm, efov 94.5 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 34 mm, efov 91.8 mm, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 16 mm, efov 43.2 mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 48 mm, efov 129.6 mm, f/5.6, 1/15, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 20 mm, efov 54 mm, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 42 mm, efov 113.4 mm, f/5.6, 1/20, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 39 mm, efov 105.3 mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-3200

After each piece has been fashioned by hand, then allowed to cool, a rigorous inspection process begins. There are quality checks throughout the entire process.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 58 mm, efov 156.6 mm, f/5.6, 1/200, ISO-3200

Inspections focus on a number of potential defects including stone, seed, bruise, thick and thin, and cord defects. Samples of each type of defect were on display and explained to us.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 32 mm, efov 86.4 mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-3200

Parts of the tour were interactive, with participants encouraged to handle various samples.

I particularly enjoyed the hand marking, cutting and sculpting departments. The demonstrated skills of all of the craftsmen at the House of Waterford Crystal facility were amazing.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 29 mm, efov 78.3 mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 56 mm, efov 151.2 mm, f/5.6, 1/200, ISO-3200

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to photograph a wide variety of manufacturing facilities for my industrial clients. This allowed me to anticipate the types of shooting conditions we would encounter on the tour.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 41 mm, efov 110.7 mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-3200

I decided to shoot in Aperture priority with a dedicated ISO setting of ISO-3200. This allowed me to keep noise to acceptable levels. Using the 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4.5-6 zoom lens provided me with the focal range flexibility needed to react quickly to various photographic opportunities.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 23 mm, efov 62.1 mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-3200

While the majority of crystal pieces produced at this House of Waterford Crystal facility are cut by hand, an automated cutting machine is also used for certain products.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 12 mm, efov 32.4 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-3200

The handwork done in the etching, engraving and sculpting departments is quite intensive.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 56 mm, efov 151.2 mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-3200

All of the sculptured pieces produced begin as solid blocks of crystal. Many creations combine a number of different block segments that are then put together in the final assembly.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 54 mm, efov 145.8 mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-3200

It was interesting to see various custom pieces in various stages of production in the sculpting department. Some were in the preliminary stages…

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 62 mm, efov 167.4 mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-3200

Some were well advanced in the production process…

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 34 mm, efov 91.8 mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-3200

While others, like the custom crystal piano pictured below, were nearing completion after months of handwork…

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 22 mm, efov 59.4 mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 100 mm, efov 270 mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 29 mm, efov 78.3 mm, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-3200

Specially commissioned commemorative pieces are produced in triplicate to guard against unforeseen damage or breakage that could potentially occur before the presentations have been done.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 100 mm, efov 270 mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-3200

All authentic House of Waterford Crystal pieces are etched with the company’s mark.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 100 mm, efov 270 mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-3200

My wife and I spent 4 weeks on the ground in Ireland doing field work for a potential travel photography eBook. Having just returned a couple of days ago, we are still going through our images and assessing them.

It will likely be a number of weeks before we can decide whether we have a sufficient amount of good material to produce an Ireland travel photography eBook. During this period we will be sharing some of our work here for you.

Technical Note:
All photographs were captured hand-held using gear noted in the EXIF data. All images in this article were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

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8 thoughts on “Waterford Crystal Factory Tour”

    1. Hi Colin,

      It is actually a very simple process. I have a large number of custom presets programmed in DxO PhotoLab. My presets are specific to the camera used and the type of subject material photographed. I do have a small number of presets that are also lens and/or lighting specific. Each of these custom presets includes the use of PRIME noise reduction (the auto setting). When processing an image, I simply select one of my presets, apply it, then export a DNG file into CS6 and the Nik Collection for further processing. Every one of my images goes through a DxO PhotoLab custom preset. If I happen to create an image that doesn’t seem to work as well as I want with my existing presets, then I spend the required time to develop another custom preset for that situation.

      Anyway… all of my images go through an automatic application of DxO PRIME noise reduction. It’s as simple as that.

      Tom

        1. Hi Colin,
          I agree that there are lots of options available to us. It really comes down to what an individual photographer likes to use and if the program, or a combination of programs, can produce finished images that meet our individual expectations. I’ve been using DxO PhotoLab (and earlier versions of the software under a different name) as my primary RAW processor for quite a few years. I then export a DNG file into CS6, then use Nik as needed after that.
          Tom

  1. Tom,
    Another incredible and informative article showing once again that equipment can be trumped (sorry) by operator skill any day of the week. I’d love to know your response to your recent article on the catastrophic loss of equipment.

    1. Thanks Ron… I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

      With your statement, “I’d love to know your response to your recent article on the catastrophic loss of equipment”, I assume you mean what gear would I chose under that scenario. I would most likely look at the Olympus OMD E-M1 Mark II or OMD EMX, along with some of the Olympic pro zoom lenses.

      Tom

  2. Tom,

    Fascinating piece of photo-documentation.
    Proves to me that even in this age of mechanized-everything,
    handcrafting and artisanal skills still reign supreme.
    The pieces are also exquisite, especially that harp and all-fashioned horse carriage that looked straight out of a period movie.

    Oggie
    http://www.lagalog.com

    1. Thanks Oggie… I’m glad you enjoyed the article! It certainly was a wonderful experience to watch these artisans create beautiful pieces before our eyes.
      Tom

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