New life was breathed into Waterford Crystal today as small-scale production was brought back to its Irish birthplace.
The furnace was switched off at the world-renowned plant and manufacturing outsourced after its parent company Waterford Wedgwood went into receivership last year.
Centuries of tradition and craftsmanship have now been fired up again with the official opening of a new manufacturing facility and visitor centre in the heart of the firm’s native city.
Around two tonnes of molten crystal will be produced every day at the House of Waterford Crystal on the Mall, with master blowers creating about 40,000 hand-crafted high-end pieces annually.
The facility contains a new continuous melt tank furnace and will also act as a central laboratory for the brand’s designers. Tourists can observe the craftsmen at work and watch all aspects of production, from furnace work to engraving.
The centre, housed in former ESB offices and adjoining garages, will employ 79 full-time and 33 part-time staff, with up to 40 temporary staff during peak season.
The opening of the new multimillion-euro centre comes after an agreement between the brand’s owner, WWRD Holdings Limited, and Waterford City Council.
At its height in 1987, Waterford Crystal employed 3,500 staff, with the majority of workers in highly skilled, well-paid jobs. But Waterford Wedgwood went into receivership last year following a long struggle with falling sales and rising costs. All production was moved out of the region to Germany and Eastern Europe after the company’s businesses were sold to New York investment group KPS Capital Partners LP.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, chief executive of Waterford Wedgwood owner WWRD Pierre de Villemejane said the firm was extremely proud of the venture. “We look forward to welcoming visitors from all over the world to our new centre, and to continuing the city of Waterford’s extraordinary tradition of producing crystal of the very highest quality,” he added.