Crystal Jewelry

Clear as Crystal (Jewelry, That is)

While some people might associate crystal jewelry with New Age silliness, the fact is that fine glass crystal offers an excellent and inexpensive alternative to high-priced precious stones. Fine, handmade crystal pieces in gold and silver are particularly attractive, especially in necklaces and bracelets. While crystal lends itself to use as beads, it can also be shaped into standard cabochon and faceted cuts. Sure, even the best crystal won't equal the shine of a good diamond; but looking good doesn't have to cost the Earth.

Getting the lead in

The crystal from which crystal jewelry is made is actually a type of glass, but don't confuse it with the boring old glass of windows and drinking tumblers. No, indeed -- this glass is infused with lead oxide during the manufacturing process, which imparts it several interesting features, not the least of which is a high index of refraction. In other words, it's much more brilliant than ordinary glass. Not only that, but lead crystal (as it's properly called) is strikingly clear and produces a bell-like tone when struck. It's also much easier to cut than ordinary glass, which makes it ideal not just for goblets, but for jewelry too. Some of the best-known manufacturers of lead crystal include Royal Leedham in the Nederlands, Steuben in the United States, and Waterford in Ireland.

Although crystal jewelry is made from materials provided by all these manufacturers, the world's premier manufacturer of modern crystal jewelry is Swarovski of Austria. Swarovski has put a great deal of research and funding into developing new procedures for cutting and modifying jewelry-grade crystal, including inventing special chemical coatings that impart a greater brilliance, color, or iridescence to their crystal jewelry. Not only that, they (and of course their competitors) have developed additives that, when mixed with the molten glass, can produce crystals that mimic colored gemstones like garnet, amethyst, and emerald.

Your options, madam

Crystal jewelry is as varied as any other jewelry available, and just as varied as your imagination. Indeed, if you can't find anything you like, Swarovski (for one) will let you create your own style with their "Do It Yourself" site. There, you can take advantage of their online design tool to create unique artwork. Otherwise, you'll find you can purchase rings, bangles, bracelets, pendants, brooches, charms, earrings (clip-on and pierced), pins, necklaces, and even tiaras decorated with fine crystal. If you've ever wanted to look like a princess and didn't want to go into hock up to your ears, crystal jewelry is definitely the way to go!

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