I look at the handcrafted daffodils, rosettes and butterflies on the Welsh Royal Crystal glassware and marvel at how skilled someone must be to do such pieces. Their patterns are so rich, the engravings impeccable. I lift one of the tumblers towards the light and I turn it in my hand. Small colourful flashes of light hurry through my arm. I’m in Rhayader in Wales, at the Welsh Royal Crystal’s Visitor Centre. I look around the glass display and I can’t stop wondering, how do they do this?
‘We use diamond wheels of different sizes’, Alan O’Neil, the master craftsman and the co-runner of Welsh Royal Crystal, explains to me. Alan is open and affable and when he shows me how the glass is cut, I am overawed with his dexterity. He gives the glass surface a completely new trim. The ornamentation is just magnificent, so much so you quickly realise that you are dealing with an artist as well as a craftsman. Alan says that it was his cousin, a glass decorator, that inspired him. ‘If it wasn’t for my cousin’, Alan reminisces, ‘I would probably end up working in the mines, in South Wales, just like my father’. Alan says that he wasn’t attracted to the pitch-black route; his journey was meant to be crystal clear.