"Swarovski Crystal." "Asfour Crystal." "Full-cut lead crystal." These and other terms are integral to your chandelier purchase. They lend your new designer lighting the respect due a Swarovski brand name that is more than a century old, for example -- but at a higher price. Or you may lean toward economical Chinese "crystals" without knowing or caring that you have also chosen a significantly lower level of quality. Perhaps, at a distance, a little less sparkle and luster will not matter after all.


The choice is up to you.


What Is a Crystal?


Crystal is more than glass. In the past, companies have created formulas that combine glass with a percentage of lead to create a crystal with high refractive power. They than hand-cut or machine-cut the hardened crystals to refine their surfaces into miniature rainbow reflections. Generally, the higher the percentage of lead, the better the crystal. The European Union has even created a definition of Full Lead Crystal containing Lead Oxide content greater than or equal to 30%, Lead Crystal containing Lead Oxide content greater than or equal to 24%, and "Crystal Glass" containing Lead Oxide/Barium Oxide/Zinc Oxide/Potassium Oxide equal to or greater than 10%. NOTE: the Crystal Glass level may use other minerals than lead to reach its standard.


The United States, China, and many other countries do not necessarily adapt the same standard as the EU for the term "crystal." So you may find products that are deemed "crystal" simply because of how the glass has been shaped, even though they don't refract light in the same manner as true crystals.


Also, recent years have seen concern over the safety of lead in crystals, even though manufacturers have altered its chemical composition in ways that should reduce or eliminate potential toxic effects. Health- and environmentally-sensitive manufacturers have therefore added to some of the confusion surrounding crystals by releasing new versions that (they insist) are just as high-quality as the original crystals, but that no longer fit the EU definition that is dependent on historical production methods that involved lead.


What Crystals Do We Offer?


For most of the chandeliers on ChandelierLightMall, the image you see is a combination of the design and attached crystals. You can therefore choose what sort of crystals to have in your particular chandelier. For most of them, you will see a choice between Swarovski, Asfour, and Chinese crystals. Asfour crystal is the baseline price you see; Chinese costs somewhat less; and Swarovski costs quite a bit more. Some collections, such as the Murano Glass, do not have these options. In the latter case, this is because Murano Glass chandeliers are entirely made from Murano blown glass fashioned in Italy and thus do not have hanging crystals at all.


Swarovski Crystal Glass


Swarovski has a wide-reaching influence throughout the fashion world, with many designs featured in Paris Fashion Week and on other celebrities. The main company produces high-class jewelry, figurines, and much more, and they sell regular gemstones as well. Around since 1890, this company has set the standard for glorious crystals of all variety.


Crystals for chandeliers fall under two brands: Strass and Spectra. Strass is the first-line brand, premium machine-cut crystal of the highest quality and with the corresponding cost. Spectra is the second line, with a more efficient cost, but lead-free.


Now, the interesting development with Swarovski Crystal came in 2012, when they announced the advent of their new target="_blank">"Advanced Crystal," a new lead-free recipe created in response to concerns over the possible dangers of lead. They state that Advanced Crystal "provides the same visual and optical characteristics as full lead crystal," and it has replaced the old full-lead crystals across the full range of products. This includes the Strass Swarovski brand of chandelier crystals, meaning that both Strass and Spectra Swarovski crystals contain less than 0.09% of lead. They have different compositions, however, and Strass Swarovski continues as the first-line brand, with a price tag similar to before. The mineral content of Advanced Crystal causes it to fall under the EU definition of "Crystal Glass."


The main caveat is that, in 2012, Swarovski still had an undisclosed high quantity of old crystal products still in stock. So as of today, a particular style of Strass Swarovski crystal may or may not be available in the old full-cut lead or the new Advanced Crystal. Both are of the highest quality and are the same price.


Asfour Crystal


Asfour, based in Egypt, produces full-cut lead crystal of high quality at a price lower than Swarovski, due to 70 years less of brand name recognition. The company specializes more narrowly into crystals specifically for lighting and chandeliers, probably another reason for the lower cost of their product. They guarantee the luster and beauty of their crystals for their lifetime -- in another words, unless they are broken. With Swarovski continuing to usher out its old stock of full-cut lead crystal, this makes Asfour your main choice for traditional crystals of this sort.


Chinese Crystal


Lowest cost, but with some compromise in quality, Chinese "crystal" is most often "K9" crystal, produced with 9% lead -- or sometimes even "K5" crystal, 5% lead. The average person may not be able to tell, but over time this variety may evidence some downgrade in quality and maybe even some yellowing.


Be Aware of Knock-Offs


The biggest danger when buying a chandelier is not knowing how to tell the genuine from the fake. Your corner store may seem to offer the exact same design for a fraction of the price, but know that any deal that seems too good to be true probably is! Always ask the seller about the brand of crystals, and be aware that genuine crystal should always refract a rainbow of colors. If a "crystal" looks clear as glass, maybe that is all it is.