The History Of Early Waterford Crystal (i.e. Penrose Crystal)

Early Penrose Decanter

This Penrose Crystal Decanter, dated 1783, was featured in the Irish Times top 100 historical Irish Objects.

In 1783, brothers George and William Penrose founded the Penrose Glass House in the busy port of Waterford, Ireland, and began to make crystal “as fine a quality as any in Europe … in the most elegant style.” The Penrose’s knew the secret of mingling minerals and glass to create crystal with beauty and mystery. When tapped, it sang sweetly. When touched, it felt warm and soft. Yet it possessed strength and durability and, most wonderful of all, the crystal shone with a romantic, silvery brilliance. Patience, skill, and artistry had forged a triumph.

The magnificent pieces created in Penrose’s early period set the standards now recognised as the hallmarks of Penrose Crystal: incomparable purity of colour and distinctive, deep-cut patterns that reflect light into brilliant, dancing prisms. Although by 1851 the fame of Penrose Crystal had spread throughout Europe and America, culminating in several gold medals at the Great Exhibition in London, but just as Penrose’s art was reaching its full bloom, the financial climate turned grim and the factory was forced to close, largely due to excise duties. A great tradition lay dormant. However the mystique of Penrose and its place in Irish lore remained in the hearts and minds of many.

Penrose Crystal’s great tradition lay dormant for over a hundred years.

Each piece of Penrose Crystal stands today as a testament to the traditions and standards of excellence that have survived with the Penrose name for more than 200 years… to be enjoyed and displayed now… to be cherished as an heirloom for generations to come..

Today the old crystal pieces are unique and rare collectable items, especially those imprinted with “Penrose Waterford”. John Coughlan S.C.A., A.B.C. (Master Engraver and Designer, and the only Irish artist to practise the art of pointillism on glass), reformed the Penrose Crystal business in 1974, and for the first time after a lapse of 122 years, crystal inscribed “Penrose Waterford Ireland” came on the market. The Penrose Crystal Studio is situated in the heart of the ancient city of Waterford, and we are proud to carry on this tradition, in particular through our Limited Editions including the George & William Penrose range of fine crystal.