The word crystal is often used as an all-encompassing term for any drinkware or glassware that has a form more elegant than simple, every-day drinking glasses. But referring to “plain glass” drinking glasses as crystal is not an accurate use of the term. Most people don’t know the true differences between glass and crystal, other than knowing one is heavier than the other and one is more expensive than the other.
So what defines true crystal? Crystal is considered more refined and elegant than glass. Crystal and glass items are created from different materials. Crystal offers greater sparkle and shine and often features more intricate designs than traditional glass items.
Glass is crafted from liquefied sand and contains calcium, while crystal is created with lead-infused flint glass. When lead is added to glass, is creates a higher level of refraction, which creates the signature brilliance of crystal. In addition to the signature sparkle of crystal, the weight and heft of crystal pieces also comes from the lead oxide which has been added to the glass.
Full lead crystal can sometimes be somewhat cloudy and contains 24 percent lead oxide. Half crystal contains 18 percent lead oxide and appears much clearer to the eye than full lead crystal. The ratio of lead to glass in crystal determines categorization, quality and price of these items. While the lead adds sparkle, shine, weight and value to ordinary glass, the added lead also creates a softness to the glass, which makes the intricate cutting and designs often seen on crystal pieces possible. But the lead also adds a delicacy to the structure of each piece, which makes proper care extremely important.
Listen: The next time you give you glass a few light taps to secure guests’ attention for a toast, listen for a lingering chime. When tapped, glass creates a less-gracious clunking tone, which crystal emits a reverberating ringing. Also, if you lightly run a wet finger in a circular motion around the rim of a crystal piece, you should be able to hear a subtle emanating tone.
Look: Carefully inspect your piece and the cuts in the glass. The smoother and more precise the cuts, the more likely your piece is true crystal. Crystal also features narrower rim edges that standard glassware. When you observe crystal in outdoor sunshine or under a bright lamp, you will notice the item’s refraction divides light, creating rainbow spectrums, much like when you observe light through a prism. Lower quality glass will often have a green tint around the edges, while crystal edges feature a pale blue or silver tint or are sometimes transparent.
Touch: Crystal will always feel heavier than similarly sized glass counterparts because of the lead infused into the piece. Rims of crystal pieces also feature more striking contrasts in cuts and feel thinner than glass items.
Another option in high quality table ware and decorative pieces is lead-free crystal, which is a high-quality glass crafted using a unique blend of sand and minerals. Lead- free crystal is not cut or etched like traditional crystal, because it is more brittle then lead crystal and tends to chip when cutting is attempted. Some may be surprised to learn that lead-free crystal can be even more expensive than lead crystal, because glass defects in items cannot be camouflaged by cutting and designs. Therefore, lead-free crystal must be crafted utilizing impeccable blowing techniques to ensure a perfect final product. Hence the higher price. Lead-free crystal is often the preferred material for wine and whiskey decanters or serving pieces that will be in contact with food products or staining beverages for an extended period of time. While lead crystal can become marred and stained easily by these food and drink products, lead-free crystal offers an elegant, beautiful, high quality yet stain resistant option.
There is a place in any elegant and well-appointed home for a useful mix of lead crystal, lead-free crystal, and other high quality glassware items. Select pieces that are beautiful to you and suit your lifestyle and entertaining needs. High quality crystal and cut glass pieces can add an unforgettable flair to your dining table or home décor. With careful attention, you can discern between different types of beautiful crystal and glass pieces available today. Discover beautiful decorative and functional crystal and carefully-curated assortment of beautiful and lavish luxury home decor at The Emperor’s Lane, your road to luxury.