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In conversation with Hamilton & Inches

We recently sat down with Hamilton & Inches CEO, Victoria Houghton, to ask her all about the incredibly inspiring company that she works for whom we are proud to call one of our esteemed partners.

Cumbria Crystal and Hamilton & Inches have worked together for many years now with great synergy. Whilst we strive to be one of the best in the world when it comes to luxury crystal glass, you do the same regarding hand-crafted silver. Tell us about the journey attached to this endeavour, the history of the brand and details regarding the market you operate within.

Hamilton & Inches was founded by Robert Kirk Inches and his uncle James Hamilton in 1866. We have celebrated many key milestones including being first granted a Royal Warrant more than 120 years ago, appointed “His Majesty’s Clockmaker and Keeper and Dresser of His Majesty’s Clocks, Watches and Pendulums in Palaces and Houses in his Ancient Kingdom of Scotland”. Although the original title no longer remains, in 2010 Hamilton & Inches was appointed “Silversmiths and Clock Specialists to her Majesty The Queen”.

We have maintained our own onsite workshops since inception, housing a team of highly skilled craftspeople, including master polishers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, and engravers; all of whom have honed their craft through the knowledge and skills passed down from previous generations. Alongside the team we have invested in exclusive facilities for some of the world’s finest jewellery collections. Delivering an authentic and bespoke service, alongside a contemporary and luxurious offering, the specialist team at Hamilton & Inches provides clients with an unforgettable experience.

Hamilton & Inches has stood the test of time, with 155 years of passion, creativity, artistry, and dedication to craftsmanship.

Your team of craftspeople consists of silversmiths, goldsmiths, polishers and engravers. Like Cumbria Crystal, you are committed to the heritage crafts using traditional techniques. Can you tell us a little more about that? How long does it take to create a single item?

Our team are a blend of masters and apprentices, a group of unassuming friends who, when put to task, create pieces of magic. They are incredibly diverse in age, in culture, in inspiration and technique but one thing unites them; they have crafted some of the finest pieces of silverware and jewellery in the world.

For 155 years they have passed their knowledge and skills from one generation to the next. We are fortunate to have several specialists in a variety of fields, who continue to keep the crafts alive through the H&I Academy.

Our two-resident hand-engravers are exceptional artists, who work using their expert eye and perfectly steady hands. Each piece of work they undertake has their own unique footprint, from their individualistic styles to their own distinctive artistic nuances.

Our silversmith team, Panos, David, Paul, George, and Ruth have over 59 years of silversmithing experience between them, in that time creating exceptional items for the worlds of rugby, football, whisky, education and more. They have created candelabras and bookmarks and tumble cups and dinosaurs; each with their own unique style, all with absolute devotion.

Colin Golder is our award-winning polisher who celebrates his 30-year anniversary with us this year. His keen eye for detail is vital to the design and production of our silver, guiding how pieces will be assembled to ensure that they can be polished effectively.

Alan and Jenna (left) are our expert goldsmiths, tasked with taking care of exceptional items of jewellery and creating new, ranges including our exclusive Scottish Gold Collection and The H&I Engagement Collection.

The length of time required to create one item depends on the exacting requirements of the client. Although each job varies, from the University of Glasgow Mace which took over 100 hours of work (and a year from brief to completion) to our silver Luna earrings which are hand-crafted every day, the dedication and devotion applied to the craft of each piece is constant.

We both develop bespoke items for customers on request. Can you share with us what that process looks like for Hamilton & Inches?

We have been handcrafting bespoke silverware, fine jewellery and sporting awards for generations.

The commission process begins by outlining the design concept. This can be inspired by something a customer already owns, a sketch or an idea. Our team will then work to create initial sketches before the client reviews, prior to preparing full design drawings so you can see your piece coming to life.

Once the drawings have been reviewed and agreed our expert teams will begin to craft the piece in our Edinburgh workshops. Each element crafted by hand, the care and devotion of our craftspeople is truly visible in each and every piece our team create. 

On April 26th you opened your doors open to your newly refurbished showroom in Edinburgh, which I am sure our readers will love to visit when venturing afar is a little easier. Tell us what has changed and what we can expect.

Dedicated to enhancing the customer experience, we recently embarked on an incredible transformation, with elegant upgrades taking place across its showroom, workshops, and service department, creating a space that celebrates heritage whilst innovating with contemporary design.

To accentuate the glamour of the new showroom, we implemented a striking new store front, which sees us rejuvenate our original design, installing curved glass panels set in an antique bronze, with jewellery displayed on a carved breccia marble plinth topped in silk.

Our new interior features, influenced by historic photographs of the Victorian Hamilton & Inches, include an extravagant traditional design palette, reimagined for today. Every new detail accentuates the ornate historic elements of the dramatic Georgian ceiling, alongside chandelier lighting, which creates a generous glow that spills out onto George Street.

We have a beautifully curated new lifestyle area situated within the showroom beside the 19th century Adam fireplace which offers clients a space where they can drop in to shop, and stay for a cup of coffee, or a glass of champagne. We incorporated residential elements into a retail environment to achieve an inviting and comfortable atmosphere.

At Cumbria Crystal, having a partnership with such a high-level silversmith allows us to develop products which are of the highest, luxury quality in both crystal and silver. How has working with us enabled to expand your offering to your own customer base?

Partnering with likeminded suppliers, who value quality allows us to expand our offering knowing that what we produce will meet company standards and the expectations of our clients.

We currently have a beautiful selection of Cumbria Crystal items on our website and in the showroom and we’re working on an exciting new barware collection which heavily features crystal, including a unique crystal and silver cocktail shaker.

Custom commissions continue to be created in the Hamilton & Inches workshops today, using the ancient skills and crafts essential to creating iconic items that will be remembered and celebrated forever, including bespoke silver and crystal designs.

Which is your most popular hand-crafted item?

The Double Oval Link Pendant in Sterling Silver from the Luna jewellery Collection is our most popular silver item, designed and hand-crafted in the workshops above the showroom by our silversmith, Ruth Page.

It is inspired by the natural landscape of the moon, and the collection name comes from the Latin word luna, meaning moon. The textured silver finish is inspired by the surface of the moon with countless volcanoes and craters. The interlocking silver links reflect light like moonlight dancing on the water’s edge.

Explore the Cumbria Crystal x Hamilton & Inches collection

Visit Hamilton & Inches online or at their stunning showroom at 87 George Street, Edinburgh.

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The story of glass and crystal polishing

Cumbria Crystal uses hand, acid and fire polishing in the making of its crystal. The company’s unique selling point is that it is dedicated to the creation of the best crystal that can be made exclusively by hand, using traditional 2000 year-old glass making processes. Therefore, it is little wonder it takes an average of 12 days to create each and every piece of crystal.

Below takes you on a small journey of lead crystal and why polishing is such a fundamental part of what we create.

For millenia the holy grail for glass makers was clear, colourless glass. The discovery of English lead crystal, subsequently called flint glass or white glass, by George Ravenscroft at the Savoy glass furnace in London led to huge improvements in the quality of glasses available.


Prior to the patenting of English lead crystal in 1674 the world centre of glassmaking was the Italian city of Murano. Despite the use of the best ingredients Italian glasses had colour casts caused by impurities in the raw materials. To counter this the trend with Venetian glass was to blow vessels incredibly thin, effectively diluting the colour and making the glass appear clear.

The discovery of lead crystal dramatically shifted the sands and led to the rise of the English lead crystal industry & development of new styles of glass that would dominate global crystal production for the next 300+ years.

The introduction of lead oxide into the glass recipe brought significant benefits.

Most importantly ‘clear’ glass could be produced without needing to be thin; lead crystal, with a high specific gravity refracts light better than other glass – in practical terms this means that when cut with the distinctive patterns we associate with lead crystal, it sparkles far more

It could be blown heavier, whilst remaining clear, leading to the evolution of traditional baluster glasses with beautiful heft.

Crystal possesses a longer working life than other glasses as it stays malleable for longer making it easier for the glassblower to work and it could also be melted and worked at lower temperatures reducing the amount of energy required. Being slightly softer than other glasses, it is uniquely suited to the application of decorative cutting with abrasive wheels; one of the most distinctive features that evolved from the development of lead crystal.

Finally, it is able to take a brilliant polish whether done by hand or through the use of acid.

Polishing glass is an art that requires huge patience, skill and nerve. It will generally be polished using at least one of the three ways describe below, by:


Hand-polishing uses processes, albeit with different materials, similar to those used for polishing wood, metal or stone. Consecutive grinding with progressively finer & finer abrasives until a smooth finish is achieved. Being a hard material, this means hand-polishing glass is a slow and delicate process with the ever-present risk of cracking if too much localised heat is generated through friction.

The abrasives used for grinding and hand-polishing glass include a diamonds, carborundum, aluminium oxide and sandstone. Once ground smooth a pre-polish is obtained by using a slurry of pumice power on a rotating cork wheel. All being well, the final polish is achieved with cerium oxide on a compressed felt wheel.

Achieving a full polish often requires 5-6 different stages. Discovering a single erroneous scratch requires the whole process to be repeated.


To polish the individual facets in cut crystal is not possible by hand. The distinctive sharp edges would be dulled during the abrasive processes and it is impossible to reach the finer sections of the design inner sections well enough to polish properly.

However, it is possible to achieve an extremely high polish in all the details by immersing lead crystal in a solution of 70% sulphuric and 30% hydrofluoric acid, at a temperature of 50C for 42 minutes. This process is exceptionally effective with lead crystal and is the reason the cut crystal industry was able to produce such decorative and ornate designs. Acid polishing, being incredibly dangerous and expensive to operate, is now only be done in a few specialist places in the UK and most companies shy away from it.

Hand-cut and acid-polished crystal is noticeably different to the imitation cut crystal produced through press or injection-moulding processes. Once you know what to look for the differences are obvious – sharp and precise cutting, with high refractivity, looks and feels very different to mass produced imitations.


Finally, fire-polishing. Intense heat can sometimes be used to polish glass which has been partially ground. Cumbria Crystal uses this process to achieve a high polish to the delicate rims of drinking vessels which are prone to crack with the aggression of hand polishing. The rims, once ground to the correct height (or to remove a chip), are heated in an intense flame which causes the glass to partially melt and become shiny. Once complete the glass is brittle due to internal stresses caused by the heat. This is removed by a process called annealing which involves slowly heating the glass to 420C, soaking at that temperature to equalise the temperature throughout the piece, and then gently cooling it back to room temperature. This can be a very slow process as glass is a worse conductor of heat than wood!

Many mass-produced glasses often use an extreme variation to this process extreme heat to separate the glass vessel and create the rim simultaneously. Rims with a distinctive bulge at the top are very unlikely to be hand finished.

Fire polishing in inherently risky, as glass when heated or cooled too quickly, will crack through thermal shock. The temperatures required are very high as the glass needs to approach its melting point with the consequential risk of deforming.

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The History of Glass V1 | Ancient Mesopotamia & Egyptian Glass – 3000 – 1000 BC

Ancient Mesopotamia & Egyptian Glass – 3000 – 1000 BC

Figure 2. Portrait of King Amenhotep II, Egypt, 1426-1400 BC. Deep blue glass with light tan surface. Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (79.1.4).

By Dr Jessamy Kelly, glass artist and educator

Humans have made glass for over 5000 years and over time glass objects have shaped and changed human history. Glass is a material that people have worn as amulets, beads or jewels, traded, exchanged and longed after. They have drunk and ate from glass, the have cooked with it, they have treasured it, looked through it as windows or eyeglasses and into it as mirrors.

Figure 2. Portrait of King Amenhotep II, Egypt, 1426-1400 BC. Deep blue glass with light tan surface. Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (79.1.4).  

In more recent years, it has become apparent how the invention of glass has fundamentally changed humankind. In the 17th century, glass was pioneered by alchemists who first used it for their experiments, glass has led to many great scientific discoveries. Since then many great innovations have been made, from optical glass for lenses, microscopes and telescopes to test tubes, light bulbs, fibre optics, mobile phones and televisions. Finding ways to access the cultural values and significance of glass as a material over time brings the history of these objects into a new light. When handling and using glass in our everyday lives we can make a connection to the history of glass and the interesting stories it tells through its use. This series of articles, will introduce the history of this beautiful medium, providing a deeper understanding of how glass is made in both an historical and contemporary context.

“There is a story that once a ship belonging to some traders in nitrum* put in here (the coast of Lebanon) and that they scattered along the shore to prepare a meal. Since, however, no stones for supporting their cauldrons were forthcoming, they rested them on lumps of nitrum from their cargo. When these became heated and were completely mingle with the sand on the beach a strange liquid flowed in streams; and this it is said, was the origin of glass”. (Pliny, Natural History, xxxvi, 191-2.)

This quote is from a roman naturalist named Pliny the Elder, who explained the invention of glass in the second half of the first century AD in his book Natural History. However, we now know that glass was actually made well before this. The origins of glass can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia (3000 to 1000B.C) which is known today as the Middle East, and includes modern day Iraq and northern Syria. This article will introduce some of the earliest forms of glass, which can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Egyptian faience dates from around 4000 B.C. it is a ceramic material made from sand or quartz, when fired a very colourful glassy surface is created. It was usually formed into beads, rings, amulets and statues that resembled semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli and turquoise (see figure 1). They were seen as magical objects, instilled with the powers of rebirth and the bright colours were connected with the intense radiance of eternity. This funerary collar was used for burial, similar bracelets and anklets were found within the Tomb of Wah, in Thebes.

Figure 1. Broad Collar of Wah, Faience, linen thread, Egypt, early Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, (40.3.2). Collection of the Met Museum

Figure 1. Disk Pendant with Star Pattern, cast glass, Northern Mesopotamia, 1500-1200 BCE, Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (63.1.26).

One of the earliest examples of glass, is a cast glass pendant which has an eight-pointed star (see figure 3, left) which has been traced back to Northern Mesopotamia, 1500-1200 BCE. The star pattern is connected to the goddess Ishtar, who is often associated with the goddess of love and war. The process is called glass casting and predates glassblowing, it is often how solid glass objects are made, pieces of broken up glass ‘cullet’ are put into a mould and then fired high.

Figure 3. Disk Pendant with Star Pattern, cast glass, Northern Mesopotamia, 1500-1200 BCE, Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (63.1.26).

One of the earliest known portraits to be made in cast glass is the head of Amenhotep II, a Pharaoh who ruled Egypt 1426–00 bce (see figure 2, at the top of the article). Glassmaking was introduced to Egypt during the reign of Thutmose III (the father of Amenhotep II). Most likely glass makers were captured during the Egyptian expansion into the Middle East and brought back to Egypt to make glass and share their secrets.

Egyptian perfume bottles and vases are among the first examples of core formed objects, a process which also predates glass blowing and reached its zenith by the 18th Dynasty. Glass objects were formed around a soft ceramic core; the ceramic is then removed leaving a hollow glass form. The colour of this object imitates the semi-precious stone turquoise, with the yellow and white decoration representing gold and silver (see figure 4, left).

Figure 4. Vase, 18th Dynasty, 1400-1300 B.C. Egypt Turquoise & opaque cobalt blue, yellow, white, with translucent cobalt blue; core formed, trail decorated. H. 10.7cm. Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (66.1.213).

Next month’s newsletter will introduce Glass from the Hellenistic period, which includes the years between the reign of Alexander the Great and the advent of the Roman Empire.

By Dr Jessamy Kelly

Jessamy Kelly is a glass artist and educator based in Edinburgh, she has worked as a freelance glass designer for Cumbria Crystal since 2016.

Do you have any questions or feedback? We would very much like you to share by emailing

* nitrum is an alkali such as soda ash, which is a material used to make glass.

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The art of commissioning

Definition Verb

to order or authorise the production of (something). 
“the crystal glass was commissioned by his wife” 

There are various reasons why our customers choose to shop with us – they adore beautiful, luxury
crystal; they desire to fill their home with elements of luxury; they just enjoy gifting beautiful,
items to family and friends. However, the single over-arching reason is the quality and
rarity of our crystal.

Quality is at the forefront of everything we do and something our customers comment on in abundance. As we expand the business, and more people around the world discover our brand, we strive to maintain this at the forefront of everything we do.

Our current lead-time for goods that have to be specially made is longer than normal, at around 8 weeks, so some explanation of the processes we use may be helpful in helping understand why goods are not always available for immediate dispatch.

Whether you purchase crystal for yourself, or as a gift, you are more often than not ordering crystal which will be made especially for you. Demand is such that we rarely have large quantities of stock sitting on shelves, so our artisans are often only able to start production once an order has been placed.

The reason for this is that we want to ensure we are dedicating the same care and time to each and
every order, so our quality is unquestionable each time. Everything we make uses time consuming
2000-year old glass-making processes. Our only concession is to use the very best modern crystal
batch recipes, and that our two traditional 500kg clay-pot furnaces are not fuelled by wood or coal
but modern, cleaner energy.

Automation is completely avoided as our USP is the manufacture of traditional crystal where everything is completely mouth-blown and hand-cut. Adherence to this tenet means capacity cannot be easily increased, or costs reduced, as our objective is to produce the best hand-made crystal in the world, not to look to dilute our USP.

It takes around 15 years to train a master glass-blower, and a typical wine glass requires a team of
three artisans just to blow it. The post-blowing processing, marking, hand-cutting and
polishing requires the skills of at least six other skilled people. From start-to-finish a wine glass will
take on average about 12 days to craft
. Only once a product is completed can it be quality graded.
Being hand-made there are inevitably minor variations between pieces, so we go to great lengths to
curate well-matched collections. Better collections are obtained when the crystal has been made at
the same time and by the same glassmakers. Hence, if you can wait, we recommend you asking us to
make the crystal specially for you.

Minor variations are normal for this type of crystal and may be caused by many factors. If you are
versed in what to look for these indicate the genuinely authentic nature of the product. Factors
include; the age of the crucible; the temperature and humidity on the day of production; the
different members of the blowing team on a specific day; how the glass melted and whether there
are microscopic bubbles in the crystal (a sure sign of being melted in a traditional pot furnace); how
low, or high, the glass is in the crucible; or indeed how windy it was!

The factory team of 21 staff contains many long-serving members of staff, some who have been with
us for over thirty years. The ability of our artisans to effectively collaborate, rather like musicians in
an orchestra, is essential to achieving our products. You are effectively buying small works-of-art,
not just crystal.

Consequently, our aesthetic is slightly different to modern, mass-produced glass from large tank
furnaces as the melting processes and minor variations identify the crystal as authentically hand-
crafted by exceptional artisans
. Mass-produced, modern glass is completely devoid of these
Currently, demand is such that the company is looking to expand – this means recruiting more
skilled staff which will reduce the time customers need to wait. However, due to the traditional
nature of our business, the emphasis we place on recruiting the most talented individuals in the
world of glass
, along with the effects of Brexit, this will take some time.  

The art of commissioning is something that represents to us the old tradition of ordering items to be handcrafted especially for that recipient which implies a waiting period for a quality product. Here are some questions and answers for you so you are fully clear on our process and can place your order with ease and peace of mind. 

What happens when I commission my order? 
When you place your order in a regular manner which we do not have in stock we will class it as a
commission. You will receive a standard ‘confirmation’ email advising that you will receive your
item(s) within 8 weeks of your order date. We then simply ask you for your patience and we will
contact you when your order has been dispatched. If you need it more quickly then please contact
us to discuss the options.

My order is a gift – can you send anything to say crystal has been commissioned for them? 
If we cannot deliver in time, we can certainly send you, or the intended recipient of your gift, a
special letter confirming you have commissioned crystal to be made for them. Simply leave a
message in the order notes if you would like this to be done. It is useful to know the event (birthday,
etc), date, name of the recipient and their address if you would like it sent directly to them.

How far ahead of time do you recommend I place my order for a special occasion? 
We highly recommend ordering 12 weeks ahead of the date you require your order if it is for
something special, so we have the opportunity to discuss and carry out and engraving, or gifting add-
ons and options. 

Are there bespoke commission options available to me?
Personalised engraving and unique collections are possible. Please contact us at to discuss.

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Spring 2021 delivery update

We are incredibly proud that every piece of crystal we produce is 100% hand-crafted in our small factory in the English Lake District. Our obsession with producing the highest quality crystal – using 2000 year-old glassmaking processes -means every piece takes a minimum of 10 days to create and many hours of our artisans’ time.

COVID19 and the safe working measures we have adopted to protect our staff, are currently impacting the speed at which we are able to manufacture. Glassblowers traditionally work in teams, each with a specialist skill, and currently cannot do so as normal. Consequently, we are working at about 50% capacity, and are experiencing high demand. Some goods may therefore take up-to 8 weeks to complete.

We understand that in a world of Amazon Prime and next day delivery, this can seem a long time. However, our luxury crystal is some of the best in the world, must be completely hand-made and being a small business makes it even harder to scale during the pandemic. We are dedicated to creating crystal for you to use, admire and treasure for a lifetime and beyond. We very much appreciate your order, alongside your patience and understanding in this matter and assure you that any wait will be worthwhile.

Is your order a gift?

If your order is intended as a gift and we do not have it in stock, or if we are unable to produce it by the date you require, we can send to you (or the recipient) an official Commission Letter to advise that you have commissioned something beautiful and special to be made especially for them.

What this means is that once your order is placed (and you have stated in the order notes that you would like this option), we will create a presentation package advising your recipient what is being created for them, with an explanation about delivery.  This will be personalised, on foiled letterhead paper and include information about Cumbria Crystal, our heritage and the crystal.

Please note that this applies to both Premium Quality and Factory Outlet stock.

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The perfect flower for the perfect vase; an exploration 

At Cumbria Crystal, we understand we are best known for our stand out pieces which have featured many times on the silver screen (Downton Abbey, James Bond, The Crown). However, this Mother’s Day we wanted to focus on one of our best kept secrets; our luxury, crystal vases.

A staple within the company for many decades we have over 50 vases – spanning over many of our collections – which are available in such a variety of shapes and sizes that no flower will be left out in the cold.

Here are our perfect pairings for this Mother’s Day

Single, dried hydrangea

Native to Asia, this morning-sun loving flower is ideal for a statement piece when dried; ideal for the mother who prefers something she can keep longer than your fresh bouquet. 

Perfectly displayed in…

Our dainty 12.5cm Grasmere vase.

Purchase now

The Rose

When we reached out to you via social media, the rose became a favourite when describing your favourite flower. Favouring the climates of the UK and US, this edible and highly fragranced flower has different meaning depending on the colour of the petal.

Perfectly displayed in…

Our elegant waisted 20cm crystal vase.

Purchase now

A bunch of tulips

The sign of Tulips is a sign of Spring and they are a true rainbow of colours and shades, originally from Iran. Their soft stem requires a vase that can support their voluptuous heads as they drink and bloom.

Perfectly displayed in…

Our tall and slender 28cm Grasmere vase.

Purchase now

At the time of publishing, all vases featured are in stock and can be ordered in time for Mother’s Day if the order is placed on or before 10th March 2021.

Would you like to commission a vase, or possibly a selection of glasses from our collections? If you place an order and we do not have your item in stock we can send you a beautifully presented commission letter to pass on to your mother. This letter will explain that you are having crystal especially handcrafted for her, so it will be truly bespoke. We aim to deliver commissioned pieces within 8 weeks of the order date. Please state COMMISSION in the order notes if you would like this option.

Browse Vases | Browse Gin Glasses

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Our top 3 alcohol-free beverages

As one of the makers of the finest luxury, handcrafted crystal in the world we know that our pieces are often purchased to enjoy an alcoholic beverage in.

Being mindful of Dry January and promoting balance in our lives we wanted to highlight our top three alcohol-free drinks. Whether you are abstaining from alcohol just throughout January, for much longer or you simply want an alternative to reach to on occasion; here are our recommendations.

Number one It isn’t quite tropical weather in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment but who says we can’t bring paradise into our homes along with obligatory Margeritas!

Mokingbird Spirit is an alcohol free, tequila inspired, agave based spirit founded in the UK by Fern McCoy and also contains ashwaganda which is an adaptogen that helps with stress and anxiety.

Here is their delicious Passion Fruit Margarita recipe which is perfectly served in our Boogie Woogie Coupe Glass.

Taste notes

Whilst delicious consumed as the bottle suggests (spirit, lime, soda) our personal favourite way to drink was two ice cubes, 50ml spirit and a squeeze of lime, right after dinner.

Purchase at

Number two We drink alcohol for many different reasons, and when we take a break from drinking we sometimes miss the “feeling” alcohol gives us. Let us introduce you to Three Spirits; alcohol alternatives that are booze free but with the buzz.

They say “Our drinks combine plants used for centuries in ceremonies and potions to stimulate the palate, mind and body.” Explore the three types that they offer and the abundance of mocktails you can create with them

Taste notes

We have completely fallen for their Fierce Spritz recipe (Livener, pink grapefruit, kombucha) which holds itself beautifully in our Palm Large Wine Glass.

Purchase at

Number three This superior unfiltered lager is simply one of the best on the market. With its distinctive branding, it was created after founder Luke Boase spent one year of studying alcohol-free beer in Germany

It is the one that if you were served accidently in place of a regular indie lager – you wouldn’t know it was only 0.5%. Poured perfectly into our Loop Large Highball.

Taste notes

While it has a look of creaminess akin to an pale ale, do not be fooled. This is a true lager which we genuinely believe could replace your regular 4.5% pint once it is safe to socialise once again.

Purchase at

Officially, within the UK alcohol-free beverages are those with alcohol content of 0.0%. Drinks that are 0.5% are within the low alcohol category but deemed by most as alcohol free.

All the above companies kindly gifted samples so we were able to authentically recommend to our readers.

If you would like more information regarding Dry January, visit the Alcohol Change UK website.

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Christmas 2020

As of 26 November 2020, we can no longer guarantee delivery in time for Christmas. This page will explain why that is and what your options are in terms of gifting Cumbria Crystal during the festive period and supporting a small, heritage business like ours.

Why are you unable to guarantee Christmas deliveries?

Unfortunately, this is out of our hands. We have been extremely grateful for all the orders we have had in this difficult year however there are a number of factors which have led to us being unable to keep up with demand.

  • On March 24th we had to shut down both our furnaces for the first time in 44 years, and furlough most staff. 
  • We spent the Spring and Early Summer preparing crystal that already had been blown but that needed to go through the rest of our process including cutting and polishing as these are activities that are carried out by an artisan operating alone.
  • We were able to relight one of our furnaces in late Summer (this is a four week process to ensure they are at the correct temperature to blow the high quality glass we are known for).
  • However just a few weeks later one of our furnaces had to be shut down due to a cracked crucible (these are made of clay in France and take months to create, dry and deliver).
  • At the end of October we were able to install a new crucible and over the course of several weeks heated it up so it could be used to blow glass once again.
  • During this same period we had difficulties with our acid machine which meant 100s of beautiful pieces of handblown glass were unable to be sold due to the damage done when introduced to the machine.
  • We began the Christmas ordering period still trying to fulfil earlier orders, which has put us in a difficult position of not being able to guarantee any orders in time for Christmas

Can you do anything to increase output and fulfil orders?

We are a small team of 23 artisans in a modest factory in the Lake District. Our glass blowers work in pairs and so UK government regulations and social distancing rules has heavily impacted this area of the factory. All our glass blowers have a minimum of 15 years experience. A piece of crystal takes a minimum of 10 days to make where around 40% will be deemed high enough quality to be Premium Quality, and the rest Factory Outlet.

There is an incredible beauty and magic in our traditional manufacturing process, and one that we are extremely proud of, however it means that we cannot simply increase output with demand like a modern business would be able to do.

I very much want to buy from you and support you – what are my options?

We are so grateful for such a loyal customer base who really do fall in love with the Crystal we pride ourselves on. We welcome all your orders, we just do not want to make any guarantees and then disappoint so here are what we are doing

  • Made especially for you this Christmas (Premium Quality) if you are in the UK and order a Premium Quality item(s) we will send yourself/ your recipient a Made especially for you this Christmas gift box. This will include a glass tealight holder made by our talented team along with a personalised letter, printed on headed paper, explaining that Crystal is being handcrafted just for them and will be delivered in the new year. ORDER NOW
  • Made especially for you this Christmas (Factory Outlet) if you are in the UK and order a Factory Outlet item(s) we will send yourself/ your recipient a Made especially for you this Christmas letter. This will be a personalised letter, printed on headed paper, explaining that Crystal is being handcrafted just for them and will be delivered in the new year. ORDER NOW
  • Gift certificate if you would rather your recipient receive a gift voucher and choose Crystal for themselves then we send a personalised letter, on headed paper and in a crisp purple envelope to yourself or the recipient advising them of the amount gifted and how to use this with Cumbria Crystal. This can be used for Crystal and Glass Blowing experiences (which we plan to resume in Spring 2021 if COVID19 guidelines allow to do so safely). ORDER NOW
  • Our International customers can order e-vouchers which are delivered immediately.

I really want to gift actual Crystal this Christmas, I don’t really mind what it is, how do I find out what you have in stock ready to post?

We do strongly recommend the options above however you are welcome to call us on 01229 584400 during office hours to place an order for items which we have in stock, ready to send. We can discuss your needs over the phone and select appropriate items for you.

Thank you

It is thanks to our small but mighty team of staff and our loyal customers that we have survived 2020. We understand that you may want to physically gift something this Christmas and we respect that. But if you want to gift a bespoke, handcrafted timeless piece created to last a lifetime and more then we ask you still order from us and we will ensure your recipient receives a promise from us regarding your generous gift.

Thank you for your understanding.

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Return, Repair, Recycle and Replace

At Cumbria Crystal, we pride ourselves on making some of the best crystal in the word & delivering the best possible support to our customers. We also care about the environment and being as sustainable as possible. However, being a traditional manufacturer, using ancient techniques, can make this a challenge.

In an effort to address this, and improve support to our customers, we are introducing a new initiative called Return, Repair, Recycle and Replace.

Customers tell us that the fear of breakage is one of the primary reasons they do not use their crystal more frequently.  Since accidents do occasionally happen, and crystal can be chipped or damaged beyond repair, we hope our new initiative will help alleviate this concern.

Generally, most people do not wish to put broken crystal into regular recycling as they are attached to their crystal, the memories surrounding it and wish for it to be used for something special, rather than being recycled through normal bottle recycling facilities. Whilst glass is one of the materials which can be infinitely recycled, lead crystal cannot be mixed with the cheap soda glass used in the glass recycled in bottle banks, so will end up in landfill.

What is the service?

Return & Recycle. Return your crystal to us and we will melt it down and recycle it in our Glass Blowing Experiences furnace. It will then be used to make a beautiful glass bauble or handmade vase, allowing your crystal to live on in the form of a new product, and a powerful memory of this amazing creative experience.

Repair. If your crystal becomes chipped on the rim we will assess whether or not it is possible to repair it and assist you in avoiding the need to replace the product. Initially we will request you send a photo of the damaged product to  We will then advise whether we believe it is possible to repair. This service starts at £20. T&C’s apply.

Replace. If your crystal is beyond repair, you will be offered a 10% discount on a like-for-like replacement Premium Quality product.

As long as the product you return was made by Cumbria Crystal we can endeavour to repair it and you will be eligible for a 10% discount. It does not matter how old the item is, whether it was/is Factory Outlet or a Premium Quality product, or whether or not you have the receipt; as long as it is a piece of Cumbria Crystal we will accept it.

If you have any questions regarding our new service, feel free to email us on and we look forward to helping both our customers and the environment further in the future.

Glass and sustainability

  • Glass is 100% recyclable and made entirely from natural materials, it’s non-toxic, naturally protective — and does not harm the ocean.
  • It’s 100% endlessly recyclable, which means that recycled glass is always part of the recipe for glass as long as it is not contaminated.
  • Every tonne of recycled glass saves 670 Kgs of CO2.
  • Glass can be recycled indefinitely and not lose its quality.
  • Recycled glass, also called cullet, requires 40% less energy to melt than from the raw materials.

Sources: and

*Please note, we may advise that your item is repairable and then on closer inspection it may not be. You will then have the option to purchase a replacement Premium Quality item with a 10% discount or cover return postage for us to return it to you. Liability for postage costs and/or transit breakage remains with the customer.

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A brief history of the last 40 years of UK glass manufacturing

Founded in 1976, Cumbria Crystal has made its mark by surviving as the last luxury, handcrafted crystal maker in the UK and by aspiring to similar quality standards to some of the most famous & expensive global brands such as Baccarat, St Louis, Lalique and Moser.

We are often asked what happened to the English crystal industry – and the glass industry in general – and why it has changed so dramatically in less than 50 years. Today we will try to briefly discuss, not just the crystal industry, but some of the other glass industries in the UK. A detailed lecture on this subject was recently delivered by David Dalton, Chief Executive of British Glass, who we would like to thank for providing data for this article.


In 1980 there were around 50 sites producing glass for the Glass Container industry. This would have included items such as milk bottles and wine bottles, employing around 8000 workers in the manufacturing process alone and generating a turnover of at least £440M per year.

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

The Flat Glass industry was dominated by Pilkington, based in St. Helens, Liverpool. Sir Alastair Pilkington invented the Float-Glass process between 1953-57 and the company enjoyed a monopoly on this process for many years both in the UK and globally. Float glass will be familiar to you as the type of glass used in large modern windows. It was called Float Glass as it is made by literally ‘floating’ the glass over a lake of molten tin as it is slowly drawn from the furnace. The glass floated on the tin as it spread and flattened. The heat from the tin simultaneously polished the underside of the glass as the flames above polished the top surface. Prior to this glass had to be ground and polished on one of the surfaces, initially by hand & later by machine, meaning large flat sheets of glass were incredibly difficult to make and extraordinarily expensive.  Our modern cities and skyscrapers would not look the way they do today without float glass.

Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

The Crystal Glass industry – the category in which Cumbria Crystal sits – was centred in Stourbridge (West Midlands) which was the global epi-centre of lead crystal production (domestic glass and tableware). Lead crystal, sometimes called flint glass, was invented by Englishman George Ravenscroft in 1673 and England lead the way in the world for crystal production. Prior to 1980 there had been in the region of 500 crystal manufacturing companies! In 1980, many of the most famous companies such as Waterford, Whitefriars, Thomas Webb, Stuart Crystal, Edinburgh Crystal, Royal Doulton and Royal Brierly still existed. The vast majority of these closed in the subsequent years.

In 1980, Cumbria Crystal was only 4 years old. Founded by the Cavendish family to bring glass blowing to the Lake District, it recruited glass blowers from Stourbridge and specialised in the production of clear, hand blown, hand-cut full-lead (30%) crystal tableware in a factory in Ulverston.


By 2000 Governments were becoming more aware of the environmental damage industry in general was doing to the planet and began to take serious action to fight climate change. The glass industry was taxed for emissions and the use of Carbon Migration schemes became a reality. Many manufacturers decamped production abroad to save paying high taxes in the EU. This, compounded by two recessions, a huge growth in the use of plastics for packaging and wrapping for supermarkets, a depression in the automotive sector and a general lack of investment meant many UK businesses closed.

At this point there were only a handful of Crystal Glass manufacturers remaining in the UK. The above, compounded by improving Health & Safety standards, increasingly high energy & raw material costs, a change in the gift giving culture, a lack of new designs and failure to train apprentices put the final nail in the coffin for most UK crystal manufacturers.

Cumbria Crystal’s focus on high quality, balanced with a pricing structure that avoided competing with price orientated international manufacturers in Eastern Europe, meant it avoided some of the financial race to the bottom.


Around 6000 people are still directly employed in industrial glass production in the UK and the sector turns over £3B annually. This is a significant sized industry despite there being only 6 glass container manufacturers left. In the Flat Glass industry Pilkington now has only two sites, with a single furnace each, and has three contenders.

Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

A few brand names still survive in the crystal tableware market. For example Waterford Crystal – which was a huge marketing phenomenon in the 70’s and 80’s – albeit in a different format. Post 9/11, travel by US citizens to Ireland almost ceased & sales went through the floor. The company was sold and most production is now being made in Slovakia and Czech Republic. They still have an impressive visitor centre. Royal Brierly and Caithness are now owned by Dartington. Caithness no longer produces tableware but specialises in beautiful decorative paperweights.

All is not doom and gloom for the future of glass production in the UK though. TV programmes and documentaries, such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet, have raised public awareness of the downside of plastic (sea pollution, difficult to recycle, single use) and are beginning to change attitudes and behaviours. Investment and research into new technologies for melting glass, especially using electricity and/or hydrogen, are being supported actively by the government through the establishment of organisations such as Glass Futures. This initiative connects the glass industry and academia to create an industry cluster to ensure increased productivity and sustainability in the sector.

Glass plays an important role as one of the few materials which can be infinitely recycled; as long as it is not contaminated. Recycling is becoming more efficient and today a typical green wine bottle is 90% recycled.
The government plan is that glass making will become carbon neutral by 2035, meaning that plastic is out and glass will be back.

Cumbria Crystal’s survival today is primarily due to its refusal to squeeze standards and focus on the ‘art form’. A crystal decanter or goblet is not just a piece of glass, it is the product of at least 9 skilled artisans working together using heritage skills honed over decades. Typically a piece of crystal takes 10 days to convert from sand to finished product. Every piece is a work of Art. Today Cumbria Crystal is smaller than in was in the 80’s, with only 23 staff, but it weathered the storms, holds an envious global reputation for quality and is planning for growth.

What does this mean for Cumbria Crystal?

Cumbria Crystal, as the only luxury, handcrafted crystal maker left in the UK is in a strong position to capitalise on its reputation. Investment is being sought to improve e-commerce routes to market and extend its customer base internationally. In time, more efficient furnaces will be required and capacity will be increased. Our collaborations – such as those with Bentley Motors – continue and we will continue to focus on offering the very best luxury crystal, but with more contemporary collections added to the classic so there is something for everyone.

Recent collaboration with Bentley Motors

We are extremely proud with what we have achieved in an industry that has been hit so hard by economical, environmental and cultural changes:

  •  We are 100% British owned.
  •  Each step of the process takes place by hand, from blowing to marking to cutting.
  •  Everything is crafted in our small factory in the Lake District. Nothing is outsourced.
  •  We work with the Royal College of Art to provide educational opportunities and collaborations.
  •  We are one of the best value crystal businesses within the luxury market.
  •  We offer free access to the factory to view glass blowing and diamond wheel cutting.
  •  We provide a wide variety of collections.
  • Our products are regularly chosen for use on the big screen (Downton Abbey, James Bond).
  • Our more contemporary collections are gifted for all special occasions.
  • We are chosen by British Embassies for formal dining globally.
  • We supply to the most discerning clients & those who demand the ‘best of the best’.
  • We achieve all of this as a team of less than 30, from the CEO to the glass marker, and the accountant to retail assistant.

We look forward to serving you soon