Monday, September 2, 2013

Differences Between Types of Glass and Crystal Beads 3

Part 3 of 3-True crystal beads

Crystal begins as glass until lead is added to it. Lead makes it easier to cut, and gives the bead more sparkle but it also makes the glass far more fragile. The process is considered very worthwhile since it is what gives the crystal its diamond-like appearance. 

Circlet made with Czech pressed glass and Czech Crystal Beads

British standards require that Fine Crystal be composed of 6-10 percent lead or lead oxide and that Lead Crystal should be composed of 10-20 percent. For Full Lead Crystal, 24 percent or more lead oxide is required. These standards have been adopted by most countries other than the USA. In the USA glass only needs to contain 1% lead for it to be called crystal.
Founded in 1895, Swarovski Crystal has become the standard in crystal beads. Coming only from Austria with its headquarters in Wattens, this crystal is a special proprietary blend of components that give it its bright shine. Nearly all the Swarovski crystal contains up to 37% lead with the rest of the components remaining a well-kept secret.

A Swarovski Crystal Rhinestone accents the center of this circlet made with blue goldstone and Czech crystals

The greatest problem with Swarovski beads is that there are many imitators in the market today. One of the best ways to check to see if the beads are the real Swarovski or a cheap knock off is to compare the facets. Swarovski facets will always meet completely while knock-offs are usually unable to copy the technique Swarovski employs. Swarovski crystals are also packaged loose and never strung and will not show scratches on the finishes nor will they have bubbles within the crystal. Any of these tell-tale signs should definitely put up a red flag to anyone wishing to use real Swarovski beads and elements.

Chinese crystal contains lead, however, it has less than Swarovski. The specific manufacturer makes all the difference as to how much is or is not used in the product, with some companies using no lead, yet still employing the name crystal. For instance, the line of beads known as Celestial Crystal contains a very small amount of lead in only those beads containing red coloring including red, purple and pink.  All other colors contain no lead at all. 

This Celtic circlet is made with Czech rounds and a teardrop plus Chinese crystal bi-cones

Chinese crystal is less expensive than Swarovski crystal and even most Czech beads, yet it still has a beautiful shimmer in those beads containing sufficient amounts of lead. Many times this crystal has less faceting, and its weight is lighter than other crystals where more lead is used, yet it still can be used in multiple jewelry designs and has become extremely popular in recent years. Once again, over time some of the colors or special coatings may dull or scratch off over time a problem that is rarely, if ever, seen in the more expensive lead crystals like the Swarovski line.

I hope this series has been informative and helpful. If you have any questions or need any clarification please do not hesitate to ask by contacting me through this blog or via my Facebook page or Twitter handle!  

Others in this series:

Part 1 of 3
Part 2 of 3


  1. Thanks, I learned a lot through the three articles.

  2. Like this one, I now want to buy a crystal jewelry, Swarovski accessories liked, but I do not know that a good pick money, you help to the point.

  3. I am happy it wqs helpful Su Ho


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