Tips for stone care

How to distinguish expensive crystal from cheap?

Exquisite sparkling crystal has remained popular for decades due to its exceptional quality and stunning appearance. How to distinguish crystal from ordinary glass and not make a mistake in choosing when making a purchase? Let’s try to understand this difficult issue.

Glass vs crystal: what chemists say

Ordinary glass, used by mankind since ancient times, is made from three components: quartz sand, soda (or potash) and lime. Glass production does not require large expenses, since all components are found in nature, and glass can also be recycled and reused. Over time, glass manufacturing technologies have improved. Heat-resistant borosilicate glass, quartz glass and other special types of glass that are used in science and industry were obtained. Crystal in its modern form was invented in the 17th century. at one of the glass factories in England as a result of experiments with the addition of lead oxide to glass. The resulting substance had much in common with ordinary glass, but at the same time acquired new properties. The glass mass became more plastic and transparent, the dishes made from it had a pleasant shine and emitted a melodious ringing. Thus, from a chemical point of view, the main difference between crystal and glass is presence of lead oxide in the composition. For this reason, crystal is sometimes called “lead glass” in European countries.

How much lead is in crystal?

In accordance with European and Russian standards, crystal is a material that contains from 18% to 30% or more lead oxide (most often – 24%). Materials containing less than 18% lead are called crystal glass. Additives in crystal glass make it possible to achieve greater strength or simplify the processing of the material. It is worth mentioning separately lead free crystal. This is a fairly new class of materials in which lead oxide is replaced by other components: zinc, barium or potassium oxide. It can be difficult even for a specialist to distinguish lead-free crystal from classic crystal. Lead-free crystal has its advantages: it is more durable, withstands heavy use and repeated washing better, so lead-free crystal glasses are ideal for everyday and professional use.

10 tips on how to distinguish crystal from glass

  1. Hold the glass up to the light source. You can be sure that the glass is made of crystal if you see how the light is refracted, creating a rainbow effect. If rainbow reflections do not appear, most likely you are holding a glass made of ordinary glass.
  2. Lightly tap the side of the glass. If you hear a melodious ringing that echoes a little, then this is definitely crystal. Moreover, the longer the glass “sings,” the higher the quality of the crystal. The glass makes a short dull sound when tapped.
  3. If you compare the weight of two glasses of approximately the same size, then the crystal glass will be more massive due to the content of at least 24% lead in classic crystal.
  4. Lightly moisten your finger with water and lightly move it around the rim of the glass. If you hear a melodious sound, you can be sure that the glass is made of crystal.
  5. Shine light on the glass from a pocket ultraviolet flashlight (it is often used to check the authenticity of banknotes). If you see a blue-violet glow, then the glass is made of crystal. If the glow is dull green, then it is ordinary glass.
  6. You have certainly heard the expression “crystal transparency”; it can only refer to crystal. Regular glass will look slightly cloudy when held up to light. If you look at objects through glass, their outlines become distorted and blurred. Crystal exhibits virtually no distortion due to its high transparency. The higher the lead content in the crystal, the cleaner and more transparent the glass will be. It is because of its impeccable transparency that crystal is used to make the best wine glasses, Swarovski crystal jewelry and pendants for luxurious chandeliers.
  7. Crystal dishes can be distinguished by the nature of their edges. Glass does not lend itself well to engraving, so cut glass products are usually cast into a mold. Because of this, their edges are smoothed. Carved crystal has sharper, more carefully polished edges. They have a strict, precise geometry, which allows them to enhance the refraction of light and achieve that very crystal shine.
  8. The walls of glass glasses are thicker, which makes the dishes more durable. Crystal is a more plastic material, so it can be used to make elegant glasses with thin walls.
  9. Another feature of classic crystal is low thermal conductivity. It will always feel cooler to the touch than glass. This is why wine in a crystal glass stays at the ideal temperature longer and tastes better.
  10. One of the main differences is the price of the glass. Crystal dishes cannot be cheap. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that producing lead oxide is a labor-intensive, energy-intensive production. On the other hand, the final cost of crystal glassware is influenced by the production method (manual or machine), the complexity of the product’s shape and the features of its decoration.

Which is better: crystal or glass?

It is impossible to answer this question unequivocally. It all depends on your preferences and capabilities.

If you plan to use your glasses frequently and are not willing to give up the convenience of a dishwasher, then it is better to choose glassware or lead-free crystal.

If you are not discouraged by the prospect of manually washing and polishing crystal glassware, and you are willing to spend a significant amount of money on glasses of exceptional quality, then feel free to choose luxurious shining crystal!

Thin and ringing crystal has always been valued in Russia and the world. Constantly improving technology, craftsmen make wine glasses, exquisite tableware, interior decor items and luxurious chandeliers from it. Different types of products require a material with its own composition. Let’s figure out what crystal can be and how to distinguish it from crystal and ordinary glass.

  • What is crystal
  • How to distinguish crystal from fake
  • Video on how to distinguish crystal from glass
  • What else is crystal used for?
  • Rock crystal and its uses

What is crystal

Traditionally, crystal is made from a mixture of sand and potassium carbonate (the main ingredients of any glass mass) with the obligatory addition of lead oxide, the concentration of which generally reaches 24%. Lead oxide makes the material softer, more pliable for polishing and, in addition, is responsible for that very melodious clinking of dishes. The greater the proportion of lead oxide, the easier it is to cut edges on the walls of the product. For example, wine glasses with carved patterns on the thick walls of the bowls, which housewives proudly placed in Soviet sideboards, contained a significant portion of this compound.

Photo: © SWN Archive

Typically, glasses are made from glass, crystal and crystal glass. First of all, these materials differ in composition. The classic glass composition used to make glasses is sand, potassium carbonate and lime. Such material turns out to be non-plastic, products made from it are thick, with a dull, unmelodious ringing. Glass glasses are easy to distinguish primarily by price – they are the most affordable. Visually, they are distinguished by the thick rounded edge of the bowl, weight and thick stem. They are always slightly cloudy when held up to light. Such products are produced only by machine. Crystal glass glasses are more aesthetically pleasing and correct from the point of view of wine culture.

The modern world has taken a course towards environmental friendliness and towards reducing the percentage of harmful substances in the composition, which is how the material crystalline, or crystal glass, appeared – the main material for wine glasses, the proportion of lead oxide in which does not exceed 15%. Some manufacturers replace lead oxide with more neutral oxides of zinc or magnesium, or mixtures of metals. For example, this is what the legendary German factory Spiegelau does. Despite the changes in the formula, the glasses of this brand ring impressively, and in addition have phenomenal transparency and lightness. Moreover, fragile Spiegelau glasses are mainly produced by machine. The advantages are obvious: in appearance they are practically no different from their hand-made counterparts (try comparing products from the Spiegelau Definition collection with Zalto glasses), but they are many times stronger, more affordable and are dishwasher safe.

How to distinguish crystal from fake

This is easy to do at home; you don’t have to bring anything to the examination. First, take a glass in your hand: crystal will be noticeably cooler than glass, it will take longer to warm up. You can also bring the glass to a light source: if the product is made of crystal, then you will see a “rainbow” caused by the refraction of light, and if it is made of ordinary glass, then there will be no glare. Crystal glass glasses have maximum transparency and shine, but here you won’t see a sparkling “rainbow”. It makes sense to carefully examine the bowl itself: the structure of the crystal is more uniform, there should be no air bubbles or foreign inclusions. Well, the weight – a crystal glass will be more massive compared to crystal glass.

There is also an old-fashioned method familiar to everyone: run a wet finger along the edge of the bowl – the crystal will “sing” (the higher the concentration of lead oxide, the higher the sound), and the crystal glass will remain indifferent to the touch, since lead oxide in it is usually no more than 4%. You can also lightly hit the glass with cutlery: if the sound is long and thin, then you undoubtedly have crystal in your hands. Just don’t overdo it.

Video on how to distinguish crystal from glass

Here is a short and visual video that will help you recognize a crystal glass product in five simple steps.

What else is crystal used for?

Crystal is used not only in the production of glasses. Multi-tiered crystal chandeliers have been decorating the state rooms of palaces and Venetian palazzos for centuries, and look great in modern living rooms. When the light refracts through the numerous pendants, it casts festive colorful reflections on the walls and softly diffuses throughout the room, creating an incredible atmosphere.

Historically, chandeliers are made from Bohemian (Czech) crystal – it is made by adding not lead oxide to glass, but calcium-potassium compounds, copper, manganese and even gold. In order to ensure authenticity, you should first inspect the edges of the pendants: they must be perfectly smooth, without cracks or chips. Then turn on the light: glass will never give you the spectrum of shades that crystal will immediately give you. Finally, you can knock on the chandelier pendants: as in the case of glasses, the crystal will ring melodiously. It is recommended to wash a precious chandelier several times a year, but with the utmost care. Turn off the lights, unscrew the bulbs, put on cotton gloves and wipe each decorative element with a napkin. It is acceptable to use mild detergents, but not soap, as it may leave streaks.

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