Crystal is glass that has Lead (in the form of lead oxide [PbO]) in its chemical composition. The purpose of Lead Oxide is to increase the density of glass, which in turn, increases the refractive properties, luster, and clarity of the crystal. When it is cut and polished, it creates more colors and sparkle in light than regular glass. The higher percentage of Lead Oxide in the crystal composition, the more vibrant the colors are reflected and refracted from it. Cutting and polishing techniques are also very important. In the old days, they were cut and polished by hand, which left scratch marks and imperfections on the surface of the crystals. Today, with the use of computer controlled, high-precision machinery, crystals are cut and polished to perfection, just like diamonds, to achieve the maximum amount of sparkle and luster.
What is Full-Leaded Crystal?
Crystal falls in 3 main categories:
1. Fine Crystal or Crystalline - A glass mixture containing 5% - 10% Pb Oxide.
2. Leaded Crystal - A glass mixture that contains 10% - 24% lead oxide.
3. Full-Leaded Crystal - A glass mixture that contains 24% lead oxide or more.
• Austrian crystal is the 2nd best crystal. It contains 30% lead oxide.
• Although it is from Austria, Swarovski crystal IS the world’s finest crystal available. Their full-leaded crystal “recipe”, which is patented, is 32% lead oxide. (In case you were wondering, anything more than 32% would cause the crystal to lose its luster, increase the fragility of the piece, and lose its refractive properties.)
• Crystal by European standards recognizes 24% lead content as crystal.
• In contrast, American standards recognize any glass that is perfectly clear as crystal regardless of the lead content.
The different crystal qualities:
1. Strass Crystal:
• Manufactured by Swarovski A.G. located in Wattens, Austria, this crystal is known as the most exquisite and highest quality crystal in the world.
• It has 32% Lead Oxide content and it is precision cut and polished by Swarovski’s own patented machinery.
• Each crystal piece has a Strass Logo engraved on it to protect its authenticity. According to very reliable sources, Swarovski has DISCONTINUED the laser etching as of Aug 2006. We will keep you posted of any new developments.
• One important note: Not all of Swarovski crystal prisms are marked with this Strass logo because they just started this procedure a few years back and there are still thousands of authentic ones out there on the market without the trademark.
• For more on this trademark logo, please see our Swarovski Trademark page.
2. Full-Leaded Crystal:
• Superior quality. It has 30% Lead Oxide content and is also computerized precision cut and polished (which gives it razor sharp facets, optically-pure clarity and lots of colors).
• Due to the technological advancements in the world today, this high-quality crystal can be found throughout Austria, Europe, and the Middle East.
3. Swarovski Spectra:
• Manufactured by Swarovski A.G., this new line of crystal has NO Lead Oxide content (yes, it’s just glass, but the most optically-pure glass made). This crystal is high-tech precision cut and polished, which still gives off a vibrant color spectrum, sparkle, and brilliance.
4. Hand-Cut Crystal:
• This crystal is manufactured the old fashion way - by cutting and polishing by hand. Daniel Swarovski’s father was one of the best crystal cutters in the mid 1800’s in Austria. The process is laborious and requires lots of patience.
• The Lead Oxide content varies greatly, but it usually falls within a 5% - 10% range. Due to the lack of Lead Oxide and not being cut and polished in a precise fashion, the crystal lacks the brilliance and the colors of the above-mentioned crystals.
• Sometimes this crystal is identified as: Heritage, Bohemian, Regal, Crystalique, or Turkish crystal.
• Any crystal that is hand-cut should be 24% lead oxide or over; otherwise the crystal would be too fragile and would break when cut or engraved.
A Handcrafter is a person who uses high-tech machinery to cut and polish bulk crystal and other components to create beautiful crystal figurines and other pieces.
5. Italian Crystal:
• This Crystal has NO Lead Oxide content, cut or polished. It is simply glass melted in molds shaped as crystals and fire polished. Therefore, it has minimum clarity and simply lacks the sparkle and luster.
• It is the most economic crystal in the market today and is most commonly known as Venetian Crystal.