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The history of crystal glass is closely tied to the development of the room chandelier. Chandeliers were originally candle holders and were hung from the ceiling to illuminate a room - and reduce the risk of fire.
In the late 17th century a process of casting glass prisms was invented. This glass was easy to produce, relatively cheap, and much easier to work with than real rock crystal that had to be mined and processed. Brand new models of chandeliers were soon being produced that used this glass, which was hand-cut and polished into different shapes and angles to increase candle power light.
Modern chandeliers and ceiling fixtures use crystal glass in much the same way. A crystal chandelier helps create a visual focal point that draws the eye and suggests a romantic, magical intimacy that other types of lighting simply cannot reproduce.
Today, Schonbek chandeliers, James R. Moder chandeliers, Vienna Full Spectrum chandeliers, and others create dazzling new designs in crystal. And crystal is for more than just chandeliers. A new trend in the use of crystal is in table and floor lamps, and in the application of decorative crystal directly to the frame or body of lamps and other fixtures. No matter where it is used, crystal offers a one-of-a-kind look that can be treasured and enjoyed for generations to come.
Not all crystal is alike, however. There are many different types of crystal glass available today in a wide range of styles, cuts and price points.
Here's a quick run-down of the six major types:
The finest crystal in the world, Swarovski Elements is manufactured by Swarovski AG in the Austrian Alps using a generations old secret process. Available in a wide range of colors, sizes and shapes, this collection of crystal glass offers a fabulous palette for lighting designers, as well as for designers in the worlds of fashion, jewelry and home accessories.
It is generally machine cut and then machine polished to achieve perfect optic clarity, razor sharp faceting and unique purity and brilliance. An invisible optical coating is then applied to Swarovski Elements glass, making it easier to clean and maintain. And to protect buyers against imitations, the company logo is laser etched in miniature inside each crystal element.
Swarovski crystal glass is manufactured by Swarovski AG. Generally less expensive than other Swarovski crystal, Spectra crystal is offered only in limited sizes and shapes compared with Strass crystal.
Gemcut crystal is first quality, machine cut crystal glass of a clarity and flawlessness far beyond industry standards. Though not as good as Strass or Swarovski crystal, gemcut is characterized by a prismatic brilliance, visual purity, sharp faceting and precise polishing all its own.
The methods of producing this type of crystal date back centuries. In a labor intensive process, crystal is first cut by hand in two stages on iron and then sandstone grinding wheels. Then each crystal is polished on a wood wheel with marble dust. You may notice faint traces of the wood wheel in finished pieces, a mark of authenticity.
This crystal comes from the historic glass-making region around Venice and has a look and feel all its own. Venetian crystal is molded and fire-polished rather than hand or machine cut, resulting in a beautifully subtle luminosity. It is modestly priced, compared with cut crystal.
Mass produced, this crystal type offers a wonderful look at a modest price. It is cut and polished like more expensive grades, and has a high optic quality with precision facets. A good bet for consumers looking for high value and more for less.
Contact us or visit a Lamps Plus store location near you for help with crystal glass. Our American Lighting Association trained experts will be happy to help you!
And don't miss our YouTube video (see below) with helpful hints on how to clean and care for your crystal lighting.
Read more about chandeliers and crystal lighting in the Lamps Plus Articles and Tips pages. Here are some links to get you started:
1. How to Clean a Chandelier
2. Design Your Own Schonbek Crystal Chandeliers
3.Designing With Light - The Dining Room
4. Tips for Buying Chandeliers