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What The Difference Between A Swarovski Crystal Bead And A Glass Bead

Author : Jamie Simpson

Those who are fans of crystal know the name Swarovski. However, many individuals are unaware of the fact that Swarovski is only one contributor to the long and interesting history of crystal beads. Bead making began as far back as 400 A.D. in Bohemia and what is known in modern times as the Czech Republic. Glass beads were manufactured first, and with the creation of leaded glass came Swarovski crystal beads. Glass beads and crystal beads may have a similar look; however, each element has unique characteristics of its own.

A Brief History

Although beads have been present throughout history in one form or another, glass beads were not crafted until the 13th century, when glass workers began producing a wide variety of objects for both practical and decorative uses. In the early 16th century, glass became the leading industry in what is now known as the Czech Republic. Beads made from glass were considered stylish and fashionable, and jewelry designers worked tirelessly to keep up with the rather sudden, high demand for such jewelry.

The creation of crystal--sometimes referred to as leaded glass--dates back to the early 1400s, and while no particular individual was credited with its invention, evidence suggests that the combination of lead and glass may have been accidental. The type of leaded crystal that is now mass produced is credited to Italy's renowned inventor, George Ravenscroft of Venice. He developed a method of crystal production that resulted in the clear, brilliant shine that is still seen in modern crystal jewelry. When the formula's patent expired, glass manufacturers from around the world began using his method to produce their crystal pieces.

The Lead Factor

Jewelry has always played a significant role in the fashion world and has been used throughout the ages to symbolize significant religious, cultural and social customs. Glass or Swarovski crystal is a popular alternative to expensive gemstone jewelry such as diamonds and semi precious stones including sapphires and rubies. However, crystal costume jewelry, especially Swarovski crystal beads, can cost a considerable amount of money; therefore, it is wise to have a basic understanding of the difference between crystal and glass before making a purchase. Essentially, glass is crystal in its rawest form, and glass to which lead has been added becomes crystal. In the United States jewelry industry, glass with a lead content of at least one percent is regarded as crystal, and the quality of crystal is entirely determined by its lead content; the higher the lead content of the crystal, the better its quality. Swarovski crystal features a lead content of 30 percent or higher, making it the best quality crystal in the world.

Other Notable Differences Between Swarovski Crystal Beads and Glass Beads

Crystal owes its brilliant sparkle to the lead it contains. Since standard glass beads do not contain any lead, they do not sparkle and shine as much as crystal beads. Lead is also the element responsible for the way Swarovski crystal beads reflect light. The higher the lead content, the more light and color will reflect from the surface of the crystal. Although plain glass has a certain light-reflecting ability, it pales when compared to the light reflecting properties of Swarovski crystal.

Another interesting observation regarding glass beads and Swarovski crystal beads is uniformity. Swarovski beads are cut with sophisticated machinery that ensures each bead will feature the same size and shape, which is not usually the case with glass beads. The machines utilize a cutting method that is similar to the process used in diamond cutting. This process ensures no scratch marks or bubbles are left inside the bead.

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Submitted : 2011-02-21    Word Count : 1    Times Viewed: 1597