What’s It Worth: Waterford Crystal Stemware

Waterford Crystal Stemware

So, you’re thinking about downsizing and you’re not sure what to do with your formal table setting of china, silver, and crystal? Good news! There is a busy resale market for these items.  Estate Sale expert Daniel Sanders with Four Sales in the Washington DC area gives us the inside scoop on Waterford Crystal stemware.

While times have changed and formal dining is less a part of daily life, it is almost certain that, at some point, most people have gathered for the holidays and found the holiday table to be set with fine china, silver flatware, and accessories, and crystal stemware. The sparkliest part of these functional decorations was almost certainly the lead crystal stemware that refracts light throughout the room and adds to the festive atmosphere through both light and sound.

What is Lead Crystal?

As we know from archaeological remnants found in Mesopotamia, glass with a lead content has existed since about 1400BC. It is only since the 17th century that lead crystal has served to beautify homes and dinner tables by adding elegance and beauty. Lead crystal was developed in England by George Ravenscroft in 1675 and made use of lead as an abundant raw material. While glass stemware can be made using metal oxides other than lead oxide, these are referred to as crystalline or crystal glass. Glass made with at least 24% of lead oxide is what is commonly referred to as lead crystal.

The shapes and patterns have changed over time to match the decorating trends of the period, but the basic shapes have remained the same. The structure of crystal stemware consists of a rimmed bowl perched on a thin stem and supported and given balance by a foot. The bowl, stem, and foot may have different patterns produced by molding, cutting, etching, or occasionally a transfer appliqué.

Famous Makers of Lead Crystal Stemware

There are many, many, manufacturers of lead crystal stemware, a few of which have become household names. These famous companies include Waterford, Baccarat, Orrefors, Daum, Nachtmann, and St Louis. Other manufacturers, although they are better known for china, like Noritake and Lenox, have also produced or branded lead crystal stemware products. However the most well-known of these companies is, without question, Waterford Crystal.

Waterford Crystal was produced in Waterford Ireland starting in 1783 when George and William Penrose started their business. The company operated until 1851 and then was closed until it reopened in the early 1950s. In addition to stemware, the company makes all manner of vessels and containers from biscuit jars to ring holders to bowls and more. Although the name is firmly tied to the company’s origins in Ireland, their products are now produced outside Ireland in countries like the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary, and Germany.

Marquis by Waterford

It has been interesting to see a company like Waterford Crystal (officially WWRD Holdings Ltd owned by the Fiskars Corporation) change and adapt in response to market trends over the past 30 years. As formality waned and demand increased for more contemporary styling, Waterford made a major shift in 1991. At that time, in addition to their traditional products, like Lismore (which remains the most ubiquitous lead crystal pattern sold by Waterford), they introduced Marquis by Waterford, which was the first new line since the company’s inception.

Unlike traditional patterns, Marquis by Waterford is an affordable quality crystalline glass. The glasses are well‐weighted, and the patterns are more contemporary than its lead crystal cousins. Marquis by Waterford also pursued a more omni‐present retail channel and is actively sold through big box retailers like Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Ross for Less, etc. It could be argued that the shift to provide a more affordable product impacted the value of Waterford crystal product sales, since the average consumer draws little distinction between the classic Waterford products and the Marquis products. Additionally, the nature of the selected distribution channels lends itself to lower prices with an average resale price of $10‐15 per glass.

Waterford Crystal Stemware

How Do You Know It’s Waterford?

Authentic Waterford Crystal stemware will most commonly have an acid stamp in Gothic script on the foot of a glass that says “Waterford”.  New or like-new pieces may have a foil sticker with the seahorse. Marquis by Waterford is distinguished by a blue rectangular label or square foil label that say Marquis, or an etched watermark that says Marquis by Waterford.

See more tips on identifying Waterford Crystal Here.

So, What’s It Worth?

As with just about everything we discuss in our “What’s It Worth?” column, the value of Waterford Crystal stemware are different depending on where you buy! Online and in-person retail for a new Waterford lead crystal Lismore wine glass is about $80‐$90 per stem. The same item sold in as-new condition on eBay sells for about $40‐50 per stem. And, finally, the same item sold in as-new condition at auction or estate sale sells for about $15‐25 per stem.

While there are consumers who still purchase directly from Waterford via online or in-person retail channels, the secondary marketplaces ‐ like online sales, auctions, or in-person estate sales are a very common retail/resale environment in which crystal stemware still enjoys a strong demand. At the time of this writing, one could purchase four of the water goblets pictured here on Ebay for $95 plus shipping.

Daniel Sanders is the owner of Four Sales Estate Sales, serving the Washington DC area.

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