Waterford lead free crystal

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Crystal stemware was a classic wedding gift for many decades and this tradition still stands when it comes to the best, timeless brands of crystal. Waterford crystal is one of those brands.

Whether you’re seeking a replacement for your wedding crystal collection, or simply like the vintage look of crystal items in your home and on your dining table, Waterford crystal can make a wonderful addition to your antique collection. Waterford crystal is often an item people sell at estate sales and many sellers have no idea what their Waterford is worth. If you are looking to sell your Waterford, or purchase some at your next estate sale, read on to learn all about this long-standing tradition in crystal glassware.

What is Waterford Crystal?

Wait a second. Let’s back it up a little and start with this question:

What is Crystal?

Crystal is a type of glass, specifically glass made with lead. Most crystals have a combination of silica, soda and lead-oxide. Lead crystal is very strong and often used in wine glasses and decorative ornaments.

Wait a second… isn’t lead dangerous?

In the 90s, there was a health scare as the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about consuming your food out of lead crystal. Even the Waterford website discourages customers from storing liquids and foods in the crystal, which would give the lead more time to leach from the crystal into the food. Ultimately, the answer is no-lead crystal is no more of a risk to your health than your average diet. The Environmental Protection Agency says it is safe for drinking water to carry 15 micrograms of lead per liter, which is far more than one will consume from drinking wine out of a crystal glass for a few hours. That said, those beautiful Waterford wine decanters are for show-not for actual storage.

The standards for classifying a glass as “crystal” vary across the world. In the US, any glass with a lead monoxide content of one percent or more qualifies as crystal, while in Europe, crystal has to have between 10 and 30 percent of lead monoxide. The increased lead content means that crystal takes longer to cool off than glass, which allows glassblowers more time to carve the intricate patterns often seen on crystal items. 

The lead content of crystal changes many of its qualities. When compared to traditional glass, it is often thinner, more clear, and heavier. The higher lead content also causes crystal to refract light in a different way than glass, which creates that well-loved sparkle. Crystal even sounds different: when you clink together two crystal glasses, you’ll hear a high-pitched, tinny sound, much different from the deep thud one hears when glasses (like beer mugs) are clinked.

Now that we have that settled, let’s revisit our original question:

What is Waterford Crystal?

Waterford has become a casual, household name for very fine, luxury crystal. Waterford Crystal is an Ireland-based crystal manufacturer in the town of—you guessed it—Waterford, Ireland.

The History of Waterford

The original Waterford company was first opened in 1783 by William and George Penrose. The brothers, neither of whom had a background in glass production, produced fine flint glass, a very popular decorative glass in England at the time. England also had a very high import tax for glass at the time—a tax that didn’t apply to Ireland. So, by meeting England’s large demand for this decorative glass and also escaping the import taxes, there was a lot of money to be made. The Penrose brothers were opportunist businessmen..

Lismore pattern Waterford crystal

After 70 years of building a reputation for the finest and clearest glass, including a nod from King George III who had his vacation home outfitted with Waterford crystal, the original Waterford factory was closed in 1853 because of lack of funds.

The Waterford style was picked up again in Ireland in 1947 by two Czech immigrants: Kael Bacik and Miroslav Havel. Havel studied products of the original Waterford company that were on display in the National Museum of Ireland. From the cutting designs created by the original Waterford brothers, Havel created Lismore, a crystal pattern that would eventually be regarded as the best-selling and finest crystal pattern worldwide.

Waterford Crystal Patterns

Waterford has a long history as a company and, as a result, a long list of different crystal items that the company has produced. This includes glassware like wine glasses, goblets and champagne flutes, tableware like bowls, plates and trays, lighting fixtures like chandeliers and home decor like ornaments, clocks and frames.

Waterford crystal clock
A Waterford crystal vase

Not only does the company create a variety of different vessels and decorations, but each item is often carved in multiple patterns. Currently, there are 100 patterns in production in addition to several that have been archived. The Waterford crystal world is large, to say the least, but here are some of the company’s most popular patterns.


The Lismore pattern is rich with history, not only in the sense of the Waterford company but also in the sense that this pattern has been handed down for generations in many families. It is the oldest of the Waterford patterns still in production.

Lismore Castle in Waterford County

It’s said that Havel’s inspiration for the crystal pattern was found on a castle in the Irish town of Lismore. The ancient structure is balanced precariously atop a cliff beside a river. The wedges and diamonds in the Lismore pattern echo the towers and windows of the castle.

Crystal beer mug
Lismore pattern wine glasses

Lismore Diamond

Waterford updated its most popular pattern in 2012. The pattern’s name—Lismore Diamond—is a nod to the 60-year history of the original Lismore pattern, which was celebrating its “Diamond Jubilee” in the year 2012. A series of ring and upright cuts result in a diamond pattern etched on the glass.


Colleen-patterned sherry glass

Another of Waterford’s most popular patterns is the Colleen. A combination of oval and diamond cuts, the Colleen is a very advanced and intricate design and often one of the last to be mastered by Waterford crystal glass workers. Colleen is not only a woman’s name, but also translates to “young lass” in Gaelic, a reference to the beauty of both person and crystal.


Perhaps one of Waterford’s most timeless and iconic cuts, Waterford’s Seahorse pattern echoes the curves of the sea creature’s tail and the ridges along its back. A dynamic and embellished cut, the Seahorse pattern is an homage to the Waterford city crest, which features a seahorse. A seahorse is also the symbol for the Waterford crystal company and for many years, Waterford crystal was identified by the green-and-gold seahorse sticker that adorned its products. This sticker still appears on some modern items, but it was the primary method of marking Waterford before 1950, when the stickers were largely replaced by the “Waterford” etch mark. 

Waterford seahorse sticker on perfume bottle

Alana and Alana Essence

A goblet in the Alana pattern.

Like the Colleen pattern, the Alana pattern is also named after a Gaelic term of endearment. This sleek, simple pattern features a clear diamond pattern achieved with a criss-cross cutting. The original Alana pattern was first introduced by the company in 1952 and has since been discontinued.

2 Waterford crystal pitchers

The Alana Essence, a similar pattern meant to appear more modern than the original Alana, was introduced in 2009.


A Gaelic term meaning “dream of beauty,” Ashling is a common girl’s name in Ireland like many of the other Waterford crystal designs. Ashling was first produced in 1968.


The Aurora pattern is identified by the long, slender cuts that run vertically on often-oversized stemware. The glasses and goblets in this design are generally very large and have a long, pulled stem. The Waterford Company began production of this pattern in 2004 and discontinued it in 2012, so it can only be found through replacement companies now.


The Leana pattern is a series of overlapping bursts cut in to the crystal that make for a very dynamic and sparkling piece of crystal. A later pattern, the Leana was introduced in 1995 and has since been discontinued.

How to Identify Waterford Crystal

Even if you are confident that a crystal item is carved in a Waterford pattern, that doesn’t mean it’s a true Waterford product. Many imitators have copied the very popular Waterford patterns. The expansive array of Waterford items (and knock-offs) on the market would make it nearly impossible to identify true Waterford crystal if not for one important quality shared by all of the company’s products: a Waterford crystal marking.  

Example of Waterford crystal etching

“Every piece of Waterford crystal will say ‘Waterford,’” says Michelle Nestel, owner of Irish Crystal Company. “The marking is in a brocade etching on the bottom of the piece or between the cuttings of the bottom or the side. You have to find that stamp to know.”

Alas, it is possible that an item without a marking could potentially be a true Waterford. In some of the oldest Waterford glassware from the Penrose brothers era, the marking has worn away. More modern Waterford items (post 1990) include the name Waterford and a seahorse design etched into the crystal. But there are some additional things to look for when trying to assure yourself that an item is Waterford. For one, a seam is a bad sign, says Nestel.

“A seam in the crystal means it is a machine-made piece and hasn’t been hand blown,” she says.

But, as with many antiques and craft items, Nestel advises shoppers not to buy something just because of the brand name.

“I’m big on buying it because you like it,” she says. “Don’t buy it because it’s Waterford.”

That said, Waterford is often well-liked because of the company’s history of high quality products. If you are looking for a true Waterford item, use the above identification tips when you go shopping at the next estate sale near you.

Thank you to the following individuals and businesses who shared their images of Waterford crystal for this blog post: 

Tags: collectibles, crystal, home decor, waterford

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how safe are decanters

Almost everyone seems to go gaga over the lead in decanters and other crystalware. The reason? Well, lead is dangerous to your health.

But exactly how safe are decanters? Lead crystal decanters are not safe to use because of possible lead poisoning. And if you ingest lead daily, it can accumulate to toxic levels before you know it, so it is best to stay away from lead decanters.

However, people are still enticed by the beauty and functionality of decanters. To finally end the debate regarding decanters’ safety once and for all, we have laid out all the facts.

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What is a Lead Crystal?Crystal

First of all, let us clear the path for crystalware, such as decanters and stemware used for drink storage. Lead crystal is a misnomer since these are not crystals. 

Crystals are more common than we know - sugar, table salt, and gemstones such as diamonds. So technically, crystalware is not crystal but a type of glass. For this article, we use the word crystal to mean something that contains a lead oxide, which gives it brilliance from its high reflective value.

Before anything can be called crystal, it has to have the following attributes:

The European Union (EU) standard is at 24% lead oxide. Aside from that, it has to have a density of more than 2.9 and a reflective index of more than 1.545. These particular requirements make it easy to classify as crystal. 

However, the US Federal standards label anything with more than 1% lead oxide to be crystal. The EU standard is currently used to classify crystals in the international arena, so anything that satisfies these criteria is considered crystal.

Are Crystal Decanters Safe?

Research shows that keeping wine in a crystal decanter shoots up the leached lead into the wine in just 4 months. This results in more than 5,000 mcg/L of lead in wine. The US FDA has set a standard of 50mcg/liter. Although the half-life of lead is low, just 36 days, consuming it daily can be dangerous.

Is it Safe to Use Lead Crystal Decanter? Lead in a test tube

No, it is not safe to use a lead crystal decanter for any liquor or spirit. 

Lead poisoning can result in worsened conditions in adults, especially if you have aggravating illnesses like paralysis, kidney disease, or hyperthyroidism. It can also be aggravated when a woman is pregnant, lactating, or in the menopausal stage. 

The lead deposits in adults reside in the bones and teeth. These lead reserves are released into the bloodstream when a person has the aforementioned aggravating issues. Lead is removed from the body at a much slower rate than it is accumulated.

In adults, treatment is recommended in persons with more than 80mcg/dL of lead in the blood. The safe level is 10mcg/dL.

Is it Safe to Store Liquor in Crystal Decanters?

Wine decanter and wine glass

No, you should not store liquors or water in crystal decanters. Although water is less aggressive in coaxing the lead to leach out, the lead still leaches out. Taking pipe fittings and faucets that leach lead contaminating the water.

Acidic liquids like vinegar, wine, and other liquors react with the lead in the crystal decanter, making it leach more than leaching when filled with water. 

Is it Safe to Store Whiskey in a Decanter?Whiskey decanter and whiskey glasses

Granting that it is made of glass and there is no threat of lead leaching into the whiskey, it is still not advisable to store whiskey in a decanter. 

Some pro tips tell us that whiskey can flatten out after a decanter since these are not airtight. When the alcohol dissipates from the whiskey, the aromas and flavors leave with it, resulting in a dull taste.

Are Waterford Crystal Decanters Lead-Free?

Waterford Crystal Decanters

Not all Waterford decanters used lead crystal. The Linsmore collection uses the lead crystal for their decanters and drinkware, but the Elegance and Marquis collections use lead-free crystals. These collections use crystalline, which is also a high-quality glass with the sparkle of crystal but without the threat of lead intoxication. 

Only those familiar with real crystalware’s nuances can differentiate the crystalline between the crystal in the Linsmore series. The biggest tell is the lower price of these glassware and decanter series.

Are Waterford Decanters Safe?

Waterford is very upfront with its crystalware’s lead content, containing over 33% of lead oxide, higher than the standard 24% for the full lead crystal. Given this fact, Waterford or any crystal decanters, for that matter, are not safe to use.

Do All Decanters Have Lead?

For the sake of this article, any mention of crystal equates to having lead oxide in it. However, not all decanters made of crystal have lead. For example, if you read the product description for decanters on Amazon, it is normal to read phrases like “lead-free crystal.”

Does My Decanter Have Lead in it?

Here are a few tests you can do to know if your decanter has lead in it.

  • A simple test to know if a decanter has lead is to hold it against the light. If rainbows form on it, it means that it works like a prism, giving it a high reflective index that indicates lead oxide. 
  • Lead crystal decanters are also heavier than a glass one of the same or larger size. 
  • Price is also a good indicator since crystals are pricier than glass ones, even if the glass is as elaborate as the crystal.
  • Tap the decanter with a metal utensil - knife, fork, or spoon. The sound has a good and clear ring compared to the slightly dull sound from a glass decanter.
  • Crystal decanters also do not have visible seams. Because they are more malleable and more comfortable to work with than glass, the edges are smoother, and the seams are well-hidden.

If you already have a decanter that you are not sure if contains lead, you can use a lead test kit. Although the test can be a bit of an expense, it is still less expensive than a laboratory lead test, and you can see the result in just seconds.

Decanter Safety Tips

The most basic safety tip is the shortest: Stop using crystal decanters and other wares and furniture with lead paints.

If you still prefer to use lead crystal decanters, one way to lessen exposure is to wash it with a 1:1 water-vinegar solution. Soak it overnight and wash it with dishwashing detergent and rinse well the following day.

Do not leave your liquors and wine in a crystal decanter overnight. If some are left after you and your friends have drunk your fill, transfer it to an empty bottle. Do not pour it back into its original bottle to prevent contaminating the contents.


Crystal decanters can be touted as “beautiful death in a bottle.” On their own, they are not evil, but caution should not be thrown to the wind when it comes to health. Keep using crystal decanters and other crystalware to a minimum to protect yourself. 

Alcohol can have harmful effects on the body, and you don’t want to take it a notch further by adding lead to it. Check out our monthly free samples or sign up for our free VIP club to avail of our exclusive rebate program. No credit cards are required—no need to purchase anything. We just want to say thank you.

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Lead Crystal & Glass general 

  • Crystal and Glass should be hand washed separately in warm soapy water, rinsed thoroughly and dried with a lint free cloth.
  • When washing and drying do not twist the bowl in opposite direction to stem as this can cause damage.
  • Dishwasher heat, friction and detergent can dull or scratch the surface.
  • Extreme temperatures can crack or break your crystal/glass. Avoid pouring hot liquids into cold crystal/glass, or very cold liquids into warm crystal /glass.
  • Do not use product in a microwave or conventional oven.
  • The finely made rims are the most fragile part of your product. Do not turn upside down while drying or storing.
Lead Crystal Decanters & Carafes
  • Avoid storing food or beverages in crystal containers for extended periods of time.
  • Change liquid contents of all crystal containers frequently. This will help preserve the products finish, avoid film build-up and the chemical erosion of the crystals interior surface.
  • Prior to first use, fill with 50/50 solution of vinegar and water and let stand overnight. Rinse and dry.
Non Leaded Crystal Decanters & Carafes
  • Wash inside of decanter /carafe with warm soapy water and rinse prior to 1st use.
  • Avoid storing food or beverages in glass containers for extended periods of time.
  • Change liquid contents of all glass containers frequently. This will help preserve the products finish, avoid film build-up and the chemical erosion of the interior surface.
Color Coated Crystal & Glass
  • Do not allow color coated surface to come into contact with bleach materials or solvents, as they can damage the painted surface.
  • Do not allow color coated surface to come into contact with sharp or rough implements that may scratch or damage the paint or surface finish e.g. rings, knives, etc.
  • Do not place in a dishwasher.
  • Color coated crystal / glass should be hand washed separately in warm soapy water, rinsed thoroughly and dried carefully with a clean, soft, lint free cloth.
  • Do not allow the candle to burn within one inch (25.4mm) of the holder, otherwise this may result in damage to the candleholder.
  • Ensure that electrical supply is isolated before cleaning.
  • All fittings should be cleaned regularly with a soft cloth.
  • Do not use abrasive cleaners as this may damage the surface.
  • Do not use damp cloths or water on the metal or electrical fittings.
Crystal Chandeliers
  • Instructions for installation, connecting, cleaning and maintenance are in the chandelier assembly instructions (included in each chandelier).
Flatware with Crystal Handles
  • Do not expose to excessive heat.
  • Do not wash in a dishwasher.
  • Do not exert undue force which may damage the flatware item.
Sours: https://www.waterford.com/en-us/customer-service/care-guide
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