What are Swarovski, Strass or Spectra crystals

Leaded, Lead Free or Glass Crystal Strands - - what's the difference?
 
Here is a quick lesson in crystals.
 
Glass is an organic substance consisting of a mixture of silicates, barates or phosphates that cools to a rigid condition without crystallization. (It can be made of quartz-sand, lime, soda, potash and lead oxide.)
 
Crystal falls into the 3 main categories.
  1. Fine Crystal is made from a glass mixture that contains 6% - 10% lead oxide.
  2. Lead Crystal is made from a glass mixture that contains 10% - 24% lead oxide
  3. Full Lead Crystal is made from a glass mixture that contains 24% lead oxide or more.
For the most part, crystal by European standards regards 24% lead bearing glass as crystal. However, by American standards, any glass that is perfectly clear as well as faceted is considered crystal regardless of the lead content. Lead oxide in crystal gives the product clarity and sparkle. Any crystal that is hand-cut usually must be 24% lead oxide or over - otherwise the crystal would be too brittle and would break when cut or engraved.
 
Are your glass crystals as good as Swarovski®?
 
Swarovski crystals are amazing and no one in the world has access to their secret formula in regards to creating their crystals. It is speculated that Swarovski crystals contain some 30+ % lead which gives them their over the top fire and sparkle.

crystal wedding tree

Swarovski manufacturers under three names...
 
  • "Swarovski®" - which is Jewelery and Crystal figurines only.
    Fully leaded (+30%  minimum), machine cut and hand polished on all surfaces. Considered the ultimate in cut, clarity and quality. Used extensively for jewellery, clothing embellishment, and home décor figurines by designers worldwide. In general, colours and quality are very consistent so if budget is not an issue, these will give you the best sparkle money can buy. From time to time a Swarovski Jewelry crystals (ie hearts, snowflakes, crosses, stars) will be offered as a chandelier crystal but please note; there are no actual "Swarovski" chandelier crystal parts available.

  • "Strass®" - which is a line of Chandelier Crystals commonly found in the market today and is a FULL LEAD crystal with a small logo etched in each crystal often found near the top hole. This is the highest quality lead crystal available in the world. Many companies will sell this type of crystal chandelier part and label it as "Swarovski" when in truth it is "Strass" crystals. You will find many crystal chandeliers sold have the Strass label. This is the brand of lead strands we carry. We do not manufacture Swarovski Strass crystals, we purchase them directly through Swarovski and have them assembled into strands or chains in our factory.

  • "Spectra®" - which is the only line of LEAD FREE chandelier crystals marketed under the Swarovski umbrella. Spectra Crystals are only sold to 4 major chandelier manufacturers in the world (according to our Swarovski Sales Rep). This line of Lead free crystals are not readily available to the public as loose chandelier pieces although random pieces may surface from time to time. Spectra Prisms have the same high quality cut and surface polishing as all Swarovski products, but are lighter in weight because they have a much lower lead content - not enough to qualify being called Lead Crystal as Strass, these would be known as Lead Free Spectra Crystals.
There is no comparing Swarovski and any other brand of crystals. As technology advances, new crystal qualities are becoming available at lower prices. With Cristalier Glass Crystals your project will still be beautiful, it will only cost you a lot less. If you have an open budget than Swarovski Strass crystals are a definate option, but if you want brilliance while keeping cost in mind, Cristalier glass crystals are an alternate choice. 
 

Are lead crystals safe?
 
Proposition 65 Warning:   Use of this product will expose you to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm or Not intended for food use.
 
With that in mind:  Please do not lick, eat, taste or chew on any brand of leaded crystals!
 
Here is the exact content regarding Proposition 65 from the State of California Website.
 
As you can see the law states:

If a warning is placed on a product label or posted or distributed at the workplace, a business, or in rental housing, the business issuing the warning is aware or believes that one or more listed chemicals is present. By law, a warning must be given for listed chemicals unless exposure is low enough to pose no significant risk of cancer or is significantly below levels observed to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.

For a chemical that causes cancer, the "no significant risk level” is defined as the level of exposure that would result in not more than one excess case of cancer in 100,000 individuals exposed to the chemical over a 70-year lifetime. In other words, a person exposed to the chemical at the “no significant risk level” for 70 years would not have more than a “one in 100,000” chance of developing cancer as a result of that exposure.
 
In regards SPECIFICALLY to SWAROVSKI® crystals it reads:

Glass

•  Lead Crystal Glasses, Decanters & Pitchers

Lead crystal is also called crystal, flint glass or lead glass and is a soft, fusible, lustrous, brilliant lead-oxide optical glass with high refraction and low dispersion. An Englishman of the early 1600's added lead oxide to molten glass, thereby increasing its luster, brilliance, and refractive potential.  The lead made the glass optically denser (more resistant to light rays passing through it).  The rays bent as they passed through the lead glass, creating spectrums of pure color and brilliant reflected light. Acidic juices & wines stored in leaded crystal will become contaminated with lead.

Swarovski® crystal beads and components are leaded crystal.
These products should not be used for children’s jewelry.
 
Helpful hint: Never store liquids in lead crystal glasses or bottles, drink from lead crystal on a daily basis, (especially if you are pregnant!), or feed an infant or child from a lead crystal baby bottle or cup. 
 

WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

It means that by California law you should know that Swarovski & Strass crystals have lead content and that lead is unhealthy. Touching Swarovski crystals periodically to clean or replace them is not the same as drinking liquids that has been stored in a leaded crystal decanter. If you feel uncomfortable handling Swarovski crystals, you can use gloves or you may purchase our glass crystal strands with are lead free. Currently, Swarovski is in negotiations with the US EPA regarding their line of leaded crystals.
 
What this also means is that some companies may try to sell you "Non-leaded or Lead Free" Swarovski crystals that may not be Swarovski at all. As Swarovski only manufacturers lead free Crystals under the Spectra Brand Name(Spectra is only distributed to 4 companies worldwide; those companies can not resale the crystal lighting componants, they must be used in the manufacturing of completed lighting fixtures for resale) than the probablity that you are receiving Lead Free Swarovski is questionable. So be sure to look for the appropriate product classification when purchasing leaded, lead-free or glass chandelier or crystal wedding tree parts.
 
Strass - Leaded - Cristalier Preferred Brand of Leaded Crystals
Spectra - Lead Free -  Not sold to common retailers for use in manufacturing or for resale
Glass - Highest Quality Optical Glass (lead free) - Cristalier manufactures
Glass - Lower grade quality glass (lead free)
Acrylic - Highest Quality Acrylic - Cristalier manufacturers
Plastic - Resin form plastic compound