What Is Full Lead Crystal?

By Terri Deno
Lead crystal.

Full lead crystal is a material used to make fine crystal and glassware. Full lead crystal is used to add overall weight and strength to the piece. Lead crystal can be applied with decorative elements such as etching. Glasses and plates made from full lead crystal can last many years with daily use.

History

Glassware has been produced for thousands of years. The process has been developing over time in places around the world, including Europe. Some of the finest examples of crystal come from Venice, the Netherlands and England. Lead crystal was first produced by Londoner George Ravenscroft in 1673. Ravenscroft experimented with the levels of lead added to glass to create a composition that eliminated most of the noticeable bubbles and imperfections.

Composition

Full lead crystal is made from the same raw materials as glass. Crystal contains silica sand, soda, manganese and lime. Lead is added to make crystal glass. Different colors are made by adding additional materials such as saltpeter, arsenic and borax. These materials are mixed and melted together to form a glass mixture. The mixture is then hand-blown into a specific shape or shaped with a machine.

Cost

The cost of crystal is determined by the quality of the finished product and the amount of lead present in the crystal. Crystal objects with at least 24 percent lead is considered full lead crystal. Other factors that determine the cost of full lead crystal are the presence of seeds or bubbles in the glass. Some crystal products may also be trimmed with gold. A single flawless piece of full lead crystal can cost well over $100.

Significance

Crystal glassware shares many of the same elements as other types of glassware. The biggest difference is the addition of lead to the crystal. Lead provides more weight for the object to balance on a table. The lead also strengthens the crystal glass and provides a sparkling shine.

Full lead crystal is also more likely to be handmade rather than manufactured into a specific shape.

Misconceptions

Lead by itself can be a harmful substance, but full lead crystal is safe to use for eating and drinking. The lead in the crystal will not leach onto any food or drink, even if the crystal has been used for many years. The only substance that should not stay in full lead crystal containers is alcohol. Most crystal manufacturers recommend that alcohol should not be stored in full lead crystal decanters for more than three months, otherwise this can pose a small risk of lead leaching into the alcohol.

About the Author

Terri Deno is a freelance writer living near Indianapolis. She holds a B.A. in English from Ball State University. She has a passion for research; this passion is the driving force for writing about antiques, literature, genealogy, shopping and travel.