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The Beauty of Fine Hand Cut Lead Crystal

Lead crystal when properly cut has the magnificent ability to disperse light into the color components of the visible spectrum with almost diamond like brilliance.   Place a lovely deep cut lead crystal vase in a sunlit window and watch the magic!   The brilliant colors of refracted sunlight passing through a fine piece of deep cut lead crystal are simply captivating!

A Brief History of Lead Crystal

Although cut glass has been around for over 2000 years true lead crystal has only been in existence since the second half of the 17th century.  English glassmaker George Ravenscroft (1618-81) while searching for a way to improve the luster and clarity of his glassware found that by adding lead oxide to his molten mixture he could not only improve the clarity (crystal clear) of the glass but dramatically increase the weight, the index of refraction and the ability to cut the material without fracturing. The importance of this discovery lead to a booming cut lead crystal market in Britain that eventually spread throughout Europe and later to America.
In the United States by the late 19th century there were over 200 cutting houses producing cut lead crystal.  American demand for lead crystal was at its peak. In those days a considerable amount of wealth was required to own true cut lead crystal.  The cost of a craftsman’s labor to produce an intricate piece was prohibitive to the person of average income.
 By the dawn of the 20th century production of cut lead crystal was slowly declining as lower cost imitation molded and pressed glassware became routinely produced for the masses.  Molded glass cannot compare to real cut leaded crystal.  The lack of, detail, brilliant luster, sharpness and clarity along with the presence of rough surfaces and mold parting lines in the work are all too easily detected.

No Mass Production for Our Lead Crystal!

Today the electric powered cutting wheel is much faster and able to perform much more intricate cuts in the hands of a master cutter than was its steam driven predecessor of a century ago.  The time and labor requirements to produce a fine piece of intricate cut crystal are still quite considerable.  It may take hours to cut a small piece and several days for larger work.  It is for this reason that there is no mass production of these highly detailed products in the United States or anywhere else for that matter.   Master cutters employed by large cutting houses usually do not produce numerous elaborate pieces for reasons of economy.

Manufacturing Lead Crystal by the Traditional Method

The traditional method of forming the crystal blank is done by a highly skilled blower who gathers the molten mixture at the end of an iron blowpipe and then forms the blank shape purely by means of his skill or by blowing the “gather” into a rough mold.   After cooling, the blank is then ready to be sketched, cut, polished and decorated in whatever manner the artisan has chosen.  
Full lead crystal, which is mouth blown in the traditional method, may from time to time have a few minor bubbles contained within the piece.  This is generally accepted as a by-product of the traditional process and does not detract from the piece.  On occasion, small, barely perceivable lines may be detected within a piece of crystal.  These represent slight variations in the density of the molten crystal, which remain after the crystal has cooled.  These lines are called cords and are also considered a by-product of the traditional process.
 It should be noted that each piece of true hand cut lead crystal is a unique product of the individual artisan or artisans who have produced it.  For example within a set of stemware of the same pattern there may be very slight variations in pattern size and spacing of the elements.  This only serves to embellish the charm and appreciation of such artisanship and is by no means considered a detriment.  Absolute product consistency is only achieved by fully mechanized production, not by a craftsperson.
Slight variation within a matched set of cut crystal is the accepted benchmark for handcrafted artisanship.  It is comforting to note that in this age of accelerating technology someone is still practicing traditional, limited production, hand crafted work.                                        

Our Lead Crystal Product Quality

Rest assured, these are not the factory seconds that you find in outlet stores but premium quality hand cut crystal from some of the finest artisans in the world.
For generations Slovakia (formerly the eastern region of Czechoslovakia) has produced much of the finest cut crystal in the world.   All of our Slovakian crystal comes packaged in beautiful padded and lined presentation boxes, which makes these heirloom quality creations even more cherished.   We are extremely proud of this entire line of premium quality, fully leaded, hand cut crystal.  Note:  Product numbers with an “S” prefix are from Slovakia.
Our Polish and Russian (Belorus) selections represents classic Victorian style and very high quality, fully leaded hand cut crystal.  If comparable items existed from a name brand crystal house they would easily fetch over twice the price. We invite you to see for yourself what magnificent beauty and true artistic mastery are all about!   Note:  Product numbers with a "P" are from Poland and products with a "B" prefix are from Belorus.                

Proper Care of Lead Crystal

Full lead crystal is much clearer than common glass and is somewhat “softer” which makes it easier for the artisan to cut.   This “softness” also makes it easier to unintentionally impart fine scratches onto the surface of crystal.  Crystal should be stored so as to reduce the possibility of contact with other pieces, which could cause scratching, chipping or other blemishes to occur.
Care should be taken when cleaning your crystal to avoid use of harsh detergents, excessive heat (both of which may be found in your automatic dishwasher) excessive cold, rapid temperature changes and abrasives.  It is very strongly recommended to wash your crystal by hand in warm water with a small amount of detergent, rinse then dry with a soft cloth.  Use of a mechanical dishwasher, with it’s associated heat and harsh detergents will result in either producing a “cloudy” etched surface to the crystal or crack the crystal outright.
About Lead
Full lead crystal should not be used for long-term storage of consumable liquids (fill your decanter with only as much brandy as you will use over the holidays).  The FDA advises consumers not to store alcoholic beverages in lead crystal decanters.      The FDA also advises pregnant women not to routinely drink from lead crystal glasses.