Crystal vs. Glass–What’s the difference?

At Dearborn Jewelers we sell both crystal and glass, in the form of vases, pitchers, glasses, and bowls.  We get our crystal from Orrefors and our glass from Simon Pearce.  They both make stunning pieces, so what’s really the difference between crystal and glass?

CRYSTAL is the name traditionally used to describe glass that contains lead. Lead oxide makes the glass more clear and more refractive than non-leaded glass.  It also makes the finished product smoother, so that it can be more precisely cut.  Lead helps lower the working temperature of glass, extending the time that glassmasters can work with the molten crystal and making it possible to create more intricate designs.  At the same time, lead-crystal is more fragile and prone to scratching than glass, and, of course, there are health concerns associated with lead.

These days many manufacturers, including Orrefors, make lead-free crystal using zinc oxide, potassium oxide, or barium oxide instead of lead.  There were too many concerns over drinking or eating out of lead crystal containers.  Since 2000, it has been illegal in Europe to make wine glasses or containers with lead crystal.  The non-leaded crystal is a little different, being harder and also lighter in weight.  But it is a healthy substitute for lead crystal.

GLASS has a few different recipes, but the most common and least expensive glass is made from limestone, soda ash, and silica.  Glass has always been safe for food storage or serving.  People have been manufacturing and using it since 3000 BC.  Nature also makes glass.  When lightening strikes sand, the heat can fuse the sand, making fulgarites.  When the heat from a volcanic eruption fuses sand and rock, obsidian is the product.

So crystal and glass are really quite different.  To get a side-by-side view of our crystal and glass pieces, come into our store.  We would be happy to show you the difference.

Crystal Orrefor Bowl

Crystal Orrefor Bowl

Glass Simon Pearce Pitcher

Glass Simon Pearce Pitcher