Crystal is transparent glass of a high degree of brilliance and optical purity, appreciated for its decorative beauty.
The fire and brilliance of crystal comes from the refraction of light passing through a prism. The same phenomenon causes rainbows.
A piece of crystal is like a diamond in that its value depends on the quality of its material and how it is cut.
The earliest-known crystal chandeliers appeared in the sixteenth century and were dressed with rock crystal (a transparent crystalline form of quartz) of irregular shapes. The idea was to increase and enhance the modest power of candlelight
By the seventeenth century, Baroque-period artisans had become expert at cutting rock crystal for chandeliers. The antique shapes designed at that time are still in use today.
The first chandelier trimmings made of glass rather than rock crystal were manufactured in France late in the seventeenth century. The term "crystal" persisted, even after transparent glass became the preferred material.
Complete crystal chandeliers formed entirely of glass were manufactured originally in Murano, an island just north of Venice. The Venetians guarded their secrets of glassmaking with deadly seriousness, sending assassins after any artisan who escaped from Murano.
Eventually the manufacture of crystal spread to Bohemia, Spain, England and Ireland.
By the nineteenth century, Bohemia had become the world's leading producer of fine crystal.
Lead content is not at all a guarantee of fine quality crystal. Let us give you the real story on lead crystal.
Crystal must be painstakingly polished to look its most brilliant. When you mix lead with glass, the lead acts as a softening agent so it's easier and faster to cut and polish the crystal.
Manufacturers in third world countries will often use lead for self-serving reasons, to produce crystal with less effort, even though this may not be safe for the artisans involved.
The factors to consider when you're determining the quality of crystal are optical clarity, sharpness of faceting and prismatic brilliance. These characteristics can be verified visually by any careful observer.
If you're determined to have lead crystal, we'd recommend Full Lead Crystal.
We know people who clean their crystal chandeliers every few months, because they love handling the crystal and admiring it close up. Others do a cleaning every six or nine months.
To stretch the time between cleanings, dust lightly every two or three months with a feather duster, lambs wool duster or make-up brush.
Frequency of cleaning crystal depends on the location of your crystal chandelier, type of crystal and shape of the jewels. Handcut crystal pendeloques tend to show dust, but they are easy to clean because of their size and flatness.
Crystal needs cleaning when it appears dusty or dull. Just look at your crystal chandelier frequently (always enjoyable), and you'll know when to reach for the white gloves.
For your safety, follow the directions below explicitly. Extreme care must be taken around any electrical fixture.
This method does not require removing crystal.
Prepare a cleaning solution of one part isopropyl alcohol to three parts distilled water. Put it in a spray bottle.
Wear white cotton gloves. Spray one glove with the above solution and keep one dry. Caress the crystal with the damp glove and wipe it immediately with the dry glove. This can be fun if you love crystal!
Do not use packaged cleaning fluids under any circumstances, even if they claim to be for crystal. They may contain ammonia or other chemicals that will eventually degrade the frame finish.