If you’re shopping for lead crystal in Europe, you might get something different than if you shop for the same thing in America. In the U.S., any glass that contains at least 1 percent lead monoxide is classified as lead crystal.
In European nations, glass must contain between 10 and 30 percent lead monoxide to be classified as lead crystal. At Bohemia, we use 24 percent lead crystal as well as optical crystal, which is lead free.
Breaking Down Material Differences
When it comes to telling glass and crystal apart, it’s all in the handling. Pay attention to these key qualities, and you’ll know what you’ve got in your hands.
Crystal has incredible clarity, which is why it’s favored for decorative items and chandeliers. In contrast, soda-lime glass will always be a little foggy when you hold it up to light.
The lead content of crystal means that it has some substance. A piece of stemware made from glass may seem light as a feather while crystal will feel heavier.
Tap crystal, and you’ll hear a ping sound. Tap soda-lime glass, and you’ll hear a dull thud.
Crystal is easier to sculpt and decorate because of its relatively low working temperature, but that means it also tends to be on the thin side. Soda-lime glass has a high working temperature and tends to be thicker than lead crystal.
Faceted crystal can be buffed and polished, making it incredibly smooth to the cut. Glass with faceted designs is often molded and tends to feature edges that are sharper and more brittle.
Crystal refracts light in a way that soda-lime glass simply can’t. Pieces with a high lead content tend to be particularly dazzling. Lead-free optical crystal also offers incredible refraction and can create sparkling rainbows when hit by light.