Handmade crystal makes a return to formal dining

A revival in formal dining could well be on the way with the help of traditional glassmaking craftsmen

There is one company that has brought a sparkle to television drama and a boost to formal dining with its handmade crystal. Cumbria Crystal has been working with the production team of Downton Abbey advising on the correct glasses to suit the dining tables of the time.

‘The crystal used on set is one of our oldest and most classic designs called Grasmere,’ said Katy Holford, designer and managing director of the Ulverston-based glassmaking company.

‘The fine Georgian design combines an intricately cut, tight diamond band with flat flutes and thumbprints to create a unique pattern on inverted bell-shaped wine glasses, its classic English elegance.

‘It’s a real delight to see the glasses on screen in such sumptuous settings, the light really dances off the glassware from the candlelight and you can see how important crystal was to laying a proper table.

‘The attention to detail on the programme is important. Cut crystal had a different weight and feel than ordinary glassware. Props like whiskey tumblers have a real heft to them, so an actor can use them to great effect. Pouring a drink into an IKEA glass doesn’t have the same effect.

‘Contemporary living has seen the demise of the dining room with the rise of the kitchen supper. Programmes like Downton Abbey are reviving a more formal approach to tableware which can only be a good thing for a business like Cumbria Crystal.

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‘We are the last remaining full lead crystal manufacturer in England and we use only traditional glassmaking techniques. It takes seven craftsmen to produce one glass for the series.

‘Each glass is hand blown, cut and engraved in a series of glassmaking processes. We could cut corners, but the integrity of the glass would suffer. We’re proud of the English quality of craftsmanship. I suppose they are the hallmarks of the Downton Abbey era.’

Cumbria Crystal employs 17 people at its factory on the edge of the Lake District where visitors can watch craftsmen and women at work producing crystal in the time honoured way.

Cumbria Crystal

Katy Holford was winner of the Laurent Perrier Design Award in 2004 and has worked with Wedgwood, Czech & Speake, Crabtree and Evelyn and Wentworth Pewter.

She has launched the company’s new Six Gift Collection. The range comes in six different cut designs and three sizes. The cuts are ideal for arranging flowers and sparkle brilliantly in candlelight. ‘Six is a play on words,’ said Katy.

‘To make a single glass, there are six individual processes, each step completed by a highly skilled craftsman. From blowing to cutting, every step is done by hand, creating a glass of superb clarity and an artisan finish.’

For more information go to cumbriacrystal.com

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