Personalized Engraved Gifts Blog

What is the difference between crystal and glass?

March 16th, 2014 by

Glass and Crystal are two of the primary materials used in the engraving industry.    Awards, Vases, Bowls, Nameplates, Paperweights and many more gift items all are available in either glass or crystal and can be engraved to create custom engraved personalized gifts.

Optical Crystal Award

Glass has been around for millions of years. Glass is actually a natural occurring product formed when silica rich sand is heated to high temperatures then quickly cooled.  Three of the most common natural forms of glass are:

  • Volcanic Glass – Obsidian – molten rock that has cooled quickly.
  • Tektites – Libyan Desert Glass, glass rock created by meteors hitting the millions of years ago.
  • Fulgurites – lighting striking sand forms brittle tubes of glass.

Man began using naturally formed glass back in the stone ages as cutting tools.  The first man made glass was probably created in northern Syria or Mesopotamia. Because glass was so easily formed it became useful for many practical applications such as storing food and liquids.  It also became widely used for art objects such as stained glass windows in the middle Ages.

In the mid 1600’s George Ravenscroft discovered that adding lead oxide to glass would increase the sparkle, make it easier to mold and also easier to engrave.  Today the term crystal is often used generically to describe any fine glassware, but in order to be officially called crystal only glass products containing at least 24% of lead oxide may be referred to as “lead crystal” – less that that it is labeled as crystalline or crystal glass.

Below is a listing and brief description of the types of crystal and glass available for engraving, please use this as a reference guide when choosing a gift item.

  • Non-lead crystal is glass with a high weight, clarity and sparkle without adding lead content.
  • Full lead crystal must contain 24% lead oxide or higher. The higher the lead content, the more sparkle.
  • Optical crystal contains no lead and is perfectly flawless clear glass that is extremely hard.
  • Starfire crystal is a highly polished glass with bright white.
  • Jade glass is unique in its light green pigmentation, caused by the content of iron ore. The resulting material, when beveled and polished, provides the most economical solution for recognition awards.
  • Mouth-blown glass has excellent weight and clarity expect minor bubbles and swirls.
  • Machine-blown glass has excellent sparkle, consistent weight and may have small bubbles and imperfections.

Quite amazing isn’t it?  If you are like me you probably thought that glass was a modern product of the 20th century, however we both couldn’t have been more wrong.



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