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What is the Difference Between Glass and Crystal?

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between glass and crystal? Crystal is always popular has for a long time been a choice for a gift to prize for its quality.  For generations it is often the choice for those occasions where you require an extra-special gift is . But what is the difference between glass and crystal? Why is the latter the choice when people want to really impress the recipient?

We all associate special occasions with crystal – whether that is the clink of champagne flutes at a wedding ceremony, wine glasses around the Christmas table, a celebration of success in the workplace with crystal awards, or the recognition of sporting success with engraved crystal trophies. Decanters are often the gift of choice to create a stunning addition to a family crystal collection.

Look after them properly, these sorts of crystal gifts are available to hand down from one generation to the next.  You can make this even more special if you engrave it with a significant message. (See our blog post on inspirational engraving).

On first glance or from a distance, it can be tricky to distinguish glass from crystal. Closer inspection reveals significant differences. For a start, when people refer to crystal, what they are often referring to is ‘lead-glass’.

When we talk about the sort of glass in use for standard drinking glasses for example. We know this amongst experts as ‘soda-lime glass’. This is a practice currently in use for objects such as light bulbs and windows as well as table-ware. It is inexpensive, making it very popular with consumers.

Types of Glass

Two other types of glass are ‘Borosilicate Glass’ which is what people commonly call ‘Pyrex’ and is used for items such as kitchen bowls and jugs. There is also ‘Fused Quartz’ which is where the glass is used for items such as cameras, lab equipment and halogen lamps. So how does crystal differ from these?

What is Crystal?

The term ‘Crystal’ originally derived from the Italian term ‘Cristallo’, which is used to describe imitations of Murano Glass (Murano is an island close to Venice, famed for its highly-prized, hand-blown glassware). Nowadays, when people refer to crystal, what they mean is a type of glass made with lead-oxide, silica, potash or soda. The actual chemical composition of the crystal is not apparent at first glance. There are a few ways to tell the difference by observation alone.

A key indicator is the thickness of the glass. The presence of lead in the composition allows the material to be worked at lower temperatures to achieve a finer result and the resulting effect is that the glass appears a lot thinner. Crystal wine glasses, champagne flutes, tumblers, vases and bowls make a very satisfying and clear bell-like sound when flicked. This is in contrast with the dull thud-like sound of glass.

Differences in Appearance

Glass tends to have an opaque appearance, whereas the higher-quality crystal has a beautifully clear appearance.  This makes it the ideal choice for decorative items such chandeliers, bowls, vases and jewellery. The lead-content of crystal means that it refracts the light, creating a lovely sparkling effect. Some crystal even creates a beautiful rainbow-prism effect. Because lead is heavy, this means that crystal glasses have a heavier feel than glass.


Overall, the quality of crystal is clear: sparkling to look at, resonant to hear, and satisfying to hold. In conclusion, a crystal gift speaks volumes. It truly is a gift that you can cherish for years and will form a satisfying addition to any collection. We have an extensive collection and a fantastic choice available to personalise on our website. Choose from whisky tumblers, hi ball glasses, wine glasses, champagne flutes and decanters.

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