Galway Crystal has always been one of the favourite gifts for special occasions. Occasions such as wedding gifts, birthday gifts, anniversary gifts and retirement gifts. There are some very well known brands that come from Europe, but one of the world’s renowned brands is Galway Crystal. Situated on the West Coast of Ireland, Galway is steeped in history and heritage and it is indeed these elements that have been inspirational in the creation of this traditionally crafted crystal.
Technically, no glass is really a crystal. Glass is what’s called an amorphous solid: a solid whose molecules lie in random configurations, with no crystalline structure. The term crystal glass has its origin with Murano glassmakers; rock crystal – clear quartz – was a highly-prized material at that time and Murano artisans sought to emulate it in their glass. The name stuck and is still in use today as a general term for glass with very high clarity, especially glass that contains a high percentage of lead oxide. Glass is generally made by melting silica sand mixed with various additives. These can include lime, soda, potash and, in the case of lead crystal glass, lead oxide. The sand and the additives are heated until they melt and combine, forming glass.
The Brilliance of Galway Crystal
Standard soda glass is acceptable for general applications such as windows and everyday glassware; however, it does not have the striking purity and sparkle of lead crystal glass. Lead oxide changes the properties of glass, improving the clarity. The brilliance of the glass varies in proportion to the amount of lead oxide in the mix. Glass having a particularly high lead content is very desirable for use in jewelry, as rhinestones and beads. It is also used for ornamentation: cut glass figurines are often made from lead crystal, for instance, as are some chandelier crystals. The manufacture of glass with a high lead content is more difficult and expensive than ordinary glass, which is why lead crystal items are more expensive than other glass items. The higher the lead content, the higher the cost. Some of the military rings use crystal stones on top of the rings.
Although lead itself is notoriously toxic, lead crystal glass is harmless under normal conditions. The lead oxide is trapped in the structure of the glass itself, posing no risk to health. That being said, some manufacturers recommend that lead crystal decanters should not be used to store alcoholic drinks for longer than three months. There is a theoretical possibility that the alcohol could potentially free minute quantities of lead oxide from the glass, which could then be consumed with the liquid.
Glass with a lead oxide content between six and ten per cent may be termed Fine Crystal. Glass that is ten to 24 per cent lead oxide can be classified as Lead Crystal. To be termed Full Lead Crystal, the lead content must be more than 24 per cent. To be sold as crystal glass according to European standards, glass must have a lead content exceeding 24 per cent. There is no minimum lead content in America, however; regardless of whether lead oxide is present, any glass with perfect optical clarity can be sold as crystal.