Leaded or Unleaded, Should I Care?
This question can only be answered by your own individual taste and preference. The Czech Republic is famous for the optical purity and refractive qualities of its lead free crystal. The Moser Glassworks, located in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, has manufactured some of the most sought after pieces of glass and crystal in the world, many of which are lead free. Commissioned by Kings for over a century, Moser glass is the elite name in stemware. Royalty, movie stars, and dignitaries have all traveled to the Czech Republic for the sole purpose of a Moser factory tour and a chance to shop in the Moser factory store. Unlike Waterford, you cannot walk into any department store within the US and purchase a piece of Moser glass. Dealers are very exclusive, and pieces are sure to appreciate in value as time passes.
When it comes to crystal trim, there is only a slight difference between lead free hand polished crystal trim and full lead Strass crystal. The EU certifies that glass must contain at least 10% oxides to carry the label "Crystal". Bohemian Crystal uses a mixture of other oxides to achieve high optical clarity and refraction of light that closely rivals full lead crystal. In fact, one would need a piece of both Lead Free Crystal and Full Lead Strass Crystal to notice the difference between them. What you would see is approximately 10% more color/fire in the Strass Crystal and no noticeable trace of polishing within the facets. The difference in price is what makes Lead Free Bohemian Crystal such a fantastic value in comparison to full lead crystal.
Bohemian Imports sells only the top three qualities of crystal as part of our regular product line (the exceptions being 3 designs in the trendy Shabby Chic and Country French style which uses lower quality fire polished crystal as a defining characteristic of the style). The quality levels available through Bohemian Imports are as follows:
Strass Crystal by Swarovski and Preciosa - The term "Strass" means "perfect surface of glass" machine cut and machine polished containing lead quantities of 30% or more. Machine polishing leaves no trace of polishing on the surface of the crystal. Swarovski Strass, manufactured in Austria, is considered the premium brand of Strass due to a patented anti-dust coating and name recognition. Strass crystal is considered the highest quality of crystal trim traditionally used for the production of crystal chandeliers throughout the world. The Bohemian Imports "Designers Collection" features designs containing both Preciosa and Swarovski Strass Crystal. If you prefer, any item in our product line can be dressed in Strass trimmings. Please call 888-404-9913 for more details. Please note that we group 24% Lead Crystal trim into this category because, in our opinion, there is no noticeable difference between 30% and 24% machine polished lead crystal.
Alternative Lead Free Crystal - Machine Cut, Machine Polished - Machine polished lead free crystal is the closest quality level to Strass crystal. High quality machine polishing leaves no trace of the polishing on the facets of the crystal. Swarovski Spectra is the most recognized brand and is used extensively throughout our Residential Line of chandeliers. This crystal is often used throughout the industry in conjunction with Strass and hand polished lead free Bohemian Crystal trim.
Hand Cut, Hand Polished Lead Free Bohemian Crystal - While this is considered to be of a slightly lower quality than Strass Crystal, there are many who would argue that its hand crafted nature elevates it above machine made crystal. When looking closely into the facets of hand polished crystal one can see slight grooves in the crystal left by the polishing wheel as each facet of the crystal was pressed by hand and individually polished. These slight grooves, apparent only from very close scrutiny, lay testament that it is a hand crafted piece of crystal made of exceptional skill and craftsmanship. Many people within the industry have mistaken this crystal for Strass in error. In fact, we have found several companies currently misrepresenting this crystal as being full lead, either out of ignorance or deceit. A perfect example would be anyone selling a "full lead" or "30% PbO" crystal chandelier for under $500.00 retail. Let common sense be your guide. It is against Bohemian Imports' standards to misrepresent any product within our offering. We refer to this as Hand Polished Bohemian Crystal in our product descriptions.
Fire Polished Crystal - This quality level is perfectly fine for small beads and jewels used in strands and as connecting pieces for larger crystals due to the difficulty in polishing small facets on 14mm to 20mm jewels. This level of quality is commonly used worldwide with all levels of accompanying trims, including Strass, by many factories, including our own. However, it is our opinion that it is of too poor a quality to utilize fire polished crystal for the larger pieces of trim on a quality chandelier. While many firms (especially Italian companies) see no problem selling their less expensive chandeliers with fire polished trim, Bohemian Imports refuses to lower our standards by selling a crystal of inferior quality. The only exception to this in our product lines are the Shabby Chic and Country French designs whose very style is defined by the use of low quality fire polished crystal. Fire polished crystal is characterized by concaved facets (instead of flat facets), the appearance of a slight texture within the crystal lessening optical clarity, and a noticeable characteristic of reflecting color in the environment instead of refracting light into a prism of color within the crystal. This level of quality has consumed a large portion of the American retail market, and, is often being sold at prices much higher than is warranted by the quality.
Please note that there is no great mystery in discerning the quality levels of crystal. In fact the level of quality is as the phrase implies "crystal clear". Glass trim reflects light while crystal trim refracts it. Within a solid white environment glass will have no color. Crystal, on the other hand, will still display fire and brilliance regardless of the presence of color. All that is needed is light.
As for the bodies and other components of a chandelier, it is quite rare for a chandelier to be fully constructed of lead crystal. Bohemian Imports, however, does have several models containing 24-30%.