While the process of manufacturing both is similar, crystal and glass are not made using the same materials. The brilliance of crystal glass doesn’t normally mislead us, but nevertheless, there are a few key differences between crystal and conventional glass that everyone can notice.
How Glass is Made
Glass is produced mainly using liquified sand, soda ash, and limestone (calcium carbonate).
Some glass manufacturers have particular recipes by adding other chemicals or materials to the composition to make it more resistant, or to change it in terms of colors, but these are the three main ingredients.
The mixture is then moved to giant ovens that heat to over 1300°C, a temperature where the ingredients will melt and mix to give molten, burning glass. As the mixture cools, it will form a transparent, brittle mass: glass.
How Crystal Glass is Made
Crystal glass is known for being a more refined version of conventional glass, and as having a superior shine and more sophisticated designs.
Crystal glass is also made with sand and soda ash but its mixture includes lead oxide instead of limestone.
To sum it up, here are the main ingredients in comparison (glass vs crystal).
So what is crystal glass and how is it different from traditional glass?
A Difference in the Mixture
On that account, the main difference between traditional glass and crystal glass is that the latter contains lead instead of calcium, which leads to a suppler material that is easier to work with.
This allows crystal glassware to have more decorative patterns and designs than traditional glass.
The additional lead content in the crystal also increases the refraction index of the glass, which means that light travels faster through it, leading to a clearer, more sparkling, and shiny effect.
According to the European Union, these are the main criteria for glass to be considered crystal:
- a lead content higher than 24%.
- a density higher than 2.90.
- a reflective index of 1.545.
A Difference in the Way of Work
Crystal glass is cut more easily, seeing as the melted material is suppler and more flexible.
For glass craftsmen, molten crystal is easier to work with, allowing for a higher level of creativity and freedom in their designs.
A Difference in Price
Crystal is often much more expensive than glass. But why? the answer does not essentially lie in the composition of the material, but in a technique, a know-how.
The price of crystal is often the result of craftsmanship requiring hundreds of hours for certain pieces, and a single piece could need the artistry of many glass masters, each of them having their own talents and specialties (such as sizing or engravings).
In the process, all the final parts are carefully checked and if one piece has the slightest defect, it is ruthlessly disposed of and scrapped.
Glass, on the other hand, is often the result of a fully industrial process, with a cost that is then much lower.
It is however important to note that many glass manufacturers still work with glass in an artisanal way, while others still offer industrial productions at lower costs.
Baccarat – A Crystal Glass Icon
The infamous crystal manufacturing company ‘Baccarat’ that has been at the top of the game for more than 200 years, has developed its own way to make an even clearer and more brilliant crystal, and that is by adding ‘nickel oxide’ to their mixture.
To give you an idea, an example of a Baccarat crystal piece at its best would be this star-shaped crystal cut centerpiece.
You can read more about the practices of the brand here.
Lalique – a Symbol of Innovation
Another celebrated crystal brand that has a special way of manufacturing glass is Lalique.
Lalique has historically been quite innovative in the field and it is well-known for revolutionizing the way perfume bottles are designed.
The brand has gotten 16 patents for different technologies used for producing glass.
One of Lalique’s iconic glass pieces is a large vase entitled ‘Versailles’ and was originally designed by René Lalique.
The vase features a stunning floral motif that was inspired by the gardens of Versailles in France.
It also represents a classic design that highlights more modern interiors.
5 Ways to Identify Crystal Glass
1- Listen to the sound of the glass.
When tapped, crystal glass is supposed to make a resonated ringing sound with some echo; the more lead crystal glass contains, the longer the ringing tone is.
2- Hold up your glass to a source of light.
If you notice the ray of light creating a prism or rainbow effect with slight blue/purple hues through the glass, then it is crystal.
Crystal is clearer (thus the term ‘crystal clear’!) whereas regular glass is cloudy when held up to the light.
3- Compare the weights of crystal and glass items of the same size.
As a result of its lead content, crystal glassware is considerably heavier than traditional glassware.
4- Delicately swipe your wet finger in circular motions around the edge of the glass and listen -
crystal glass normally emits a subtle musical tone.
5- Inspect the cut of the glass.
Crystal glasses typically have a thinner rim and a smoother cut than conventional glass.
Identifying the Maker
After you have concluded that the glassware is in fact crystal, the following step would be to identify its maker.
One way is to check the bottom of the piece for a maker’s mark or a label. Renowned crystal manufacturers normally mark their pieces with a logo, name, or signature on the bottom.
As you can see, Moser often marks their pieces with their brand name.
Lalique typically have a signature at the bottom. This is the mark on a beautiful Lalique crystal vase entitled ‘Bucolique’:
Some are etched somewhere on the piece, be sure to look thoroughly as etchings are often small and not so easy to find.
Another way of narrowing down the crystal maker of a crystal piece would be to analyze the pattern of the glass. Try to look for patterns that are easily recognizable such as floral designs or even ones with a more abstract shape.
To give you an idea, an instantly recognizable pattern in the world of crystal stemware is the renowned Lady Hamilton collection by Moser.
Once you recognize the pattern, you should then be able to identify the maker with a little bit of research, pairing this information with the design of your glassware.
This blog post has made it simpler for you to differentiate between crystal and glass. A good piece of advice would be to only purchase crystal glass pieces made by well-known and recognized brands, and don’t forget to always ask for a certification of authenticity!