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Lead Crystal vs Lead-Free Crystal

What’s the difference between lead and lead-free crystal wine glasses? And why does it matter? In this article, we clarify the differences between the two, outline why lead-free crystal stemware is made, and list the advantages of both.

What is Crystal?

Crystal contains the same components as glass (sand, soda, ash, and limestone) but must contain at least 24% lead. The lead component is very traditional, but it also adds layers of cost to the product.

Why Was Lead-Free Crystal Created?

In modern history, the potential health risks of lead have led to the development of lead-free crystal. It has a similar refractive index to lead crystal, but it is lighter and it has less dispersive power. The lead-free crystal is made by replacing the lead oxide in production of the glass with barium oxide, zinc oxide, or potassium oxide. These replacements to lead weigh far less and provide greater strength and flexibility.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between the Two?

Generally speaking, crystal that contains lead can be very fragile, and the lead adds weight to the glass.

In general, you can recognize lead crystal products by the fact that they are slightly heavier than lead-free crystal products. 

What Is Each Used For?

True lead crystal is incomparable to substitutes in terms of brilliance and heft. The production is also more demanding, which also translates into a higher price for the products. As a result, this material is primarily utilized for luxury and gift items.

Lead-free crystal is more often used for the production of thin-walled table, household, and gastro glass (glasses and decanters), but it is also used to make vases, bowls, and jewellery.

Note: wine (and other acidic beverages) may leach the lead out of the crystal in unsafe quantities, therefore you should not store liquors or wine in lead crystal decanters for extended periods of time. Use of lead crystal for small quantities of time, say at the dinner table, are acceptable.

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