Many times on Ebay, we see beads described as ‘crystal’ that we would call simply ‘glass’.
The category that most often gets mis-described this way is Czech Fire
Polish beads. They are glass, not crystal, as we'll explain in this
Regular glass is mainly made of Silicon Dioxide (SiO2), with the
addition of other ingredients, such as sodium carbonate (Na2CO3),
calcium oxide (CaO), magnesium oxide (MgO) and Aluminim Oxide. The
resulting glass contains about 70 to 72 percent silica by weight and is
called a soda-lime glass. Soda-lime glasses account for about 90
percent of manufactured glass.
In general, man made ‘crystal’ is a glass that has had one or more of
certain minerals added to a standard glass formulation to make the
product more brilliant. Lead is the mineral of choice here, as lead
oxide added to the molten glass gives lead crystal a much higher index
of refraction than normal glass, and consequently much greater
“sparkle”. The presence of lead also makes the glass softer and easier
As far as we know Swarovski crystal beads
highest lead content of any bead that can be called crystal. The design
of the cuts is also important, just as in cutting gemstones. At
Swarovski, the angles of the facets are set up to maximize refraction
and reflection of light, thus making their products as brilliant as
possible. One thing you may have noticed is that the more facets on a
cut bead (of any kind, crystal or gemstone), the higher the price.
However, the more facets, the more brilliant and pretty the bead, so
you get what you pay for.
The Czechoslovakian companies, such as Preciosa, make quite nice
crystal beads, but they do have a lower lead content, and less modern
cuts. Thus, they are not quite as brilliant as Swarovski products.
Also, the Czech companies are not as aggressive in constantly creating
new cuts, colors and finishes, as Swarovski has been for the last few
Czech glass beads
, as opposed to Czech crystal beads, are just glass,
with no special mineral additives. They are lighter, and are often
molded or ‘pressed’ into creative shapes.
Czech Fire Polish beads
glass beads (NOT crystal) that are cut into faceted shapes. However,
the cuts are imprecise, and there is no mechanical polishing done.
Instead the roughly cut glass beads are heated in special ovens. The
surfaces and cut edges melt a little in the heat and smooth out nicely.
The beads are then removed before they melt down entirely (we have seen
some half-melted ones, just little bubbled lumps, it was amusing).
Special coatings are applied after this stage.
A word about Chinese “crystal” beads. Humph. We have our doubts. They
are super light weight, which alone indicates an absence of significant
mineral additives. Their faceting is minimal, so this adds to their
lack of brilliance. Yes, they are inexpensive and colorful. They are
excellent for projects for young people. Are they really ‘crystal’
glass, or just regular glass? Who knows? Accept them for what they
really are, and you won’t be disappointed.
Come visit our Ebay store. Find out why we have the highest
feedback rating of any bead store on Ebay. Best prices,
friendliest people and always honest: Beadaholique