If you are looking for some different beads for your next jewelry making project, then you may be struggling to choose between beads which are labeled as glass, and beads which are labeled as crystal. In order to make a properly informed choice between glass beads and crystal ones, it is important that you understand the difference between the two substances. Although most people would not know the difference when you are buying the finished jewelry items from you, it is important that you know as the designer, so that you can make a meaningful choice.
Crystal is the name given to a special type of glass which contains a small amount of lead, or another similar additive. This has been included in the glass-making process in order to give the “crystal” certain unique properties. In America, “crystal” contains at least 1 percent lead monoxide, whereas in Europe, the lead content is normally higher (between 10 – 30%). If you are choosing crystal, it can pay off to check where the crystal was made, so that you will know a little bit more about the substance that you are getting. In general, the higher the lead content of a crystal item, the more it is likely to sparkle. As standard, polished glass is more opaque, and will therefore sparkle less. It is possible to buy faceted glass beads if you want an item with more sparkle. The facets help to reflect light in a special way to help to give the item a sparkling quality.
Adding lead during the glass making process lowers the temperature at which the glass can be easily manipulated. Therefore, crystal beads can often be sculpted into more interesting shapes than standard glass beads are. However, this also means that crystal is more fragile and prone to scratches than glass beads are. This means that crystal is not suitable for a lot of the things that glass is suitable for in terms of jewelry making. Crystal is much better for pendants and delicate “evening-only” pieces.
Although crystal is well known for its clarity, if you are using colored glass beads, the clarity of the glass is rarely an issue. Colored crystal is much less common, because part of the draw is the brilliant clarity which can only be found with transparent, uncolored crystal. Even small imperfections in a crystal item will dramatically lower its value. If you are paying more for crystal jewelry items, you should expect the clarity to be high.
Because crystal contains lead which is a heavy element, crystal beads often feel much heavier than glass beads which are the same size. If you are aiming to create a piece of jewelry which is lightweight and comfortable to wear, glass beads may be a much better choice for you. Although it may not be noticeable when you only pick up one individual bead, you are much more likely to notice it when you pick up a whole bracelet or necklace made of these items.