Glassware plays a huge role in wine in terms of presentation and taste. Just as the list for drinks is very broad, so is the list for glassware. Even just in the wine section, there are still a lot of different types of glasses.
Wine connoisseurs and wine enthusiasts also pay attention to the type of glass used in serving wine because it helps in enhancing the wine’s taste and looks. So, how can you know what material your wine glass is made of? Let’s find out.
How to Tell if a Wine Glass is Crystal?
At first sight, it can be difficult to distinguish crystal glass from regular glass especially if you don’t know what to look for. As mentioned, common glassware such as tumblers and other drinking glasses are made from soda-lime glass. Seeing that wine glass is more of a fancy glassware, how exactly do you know if it is made from crystal or not? You can follow the factors below accompanied with some great tips.
- Design: An easy way to detect if an item is made from crystal glass is if they have intricate designs, facets and characteristics carved on their surface. Though some drinking glasses made from regular glass also have designs, it is not so evident when it comes to wine glasses.
- Thickness: Some crystal wine glasses don't have designs on them so how do you tell if it is indeed crystal? Take a wine glass and examine its thickness. If you feel that it is quite thick, then it is just regular glass. It is made so for durability. A crystal wine glass tends to be thinner because the presence of lead in the mixture makes it possible to heat it at a lower temperature to get a finer result. Also, regular wine glasses have a thicker rim that’s also called the lip, whereas crystal wine glasses mostly don’t have a lip because of their thinness.
- Sound: One of the most satisfying sounds you will ever hear is the clinking of wine glasses. If you listen closely when you clink the glasses or even tap it when your fingernail and it leaves an echo or a prolonged, nice high-pitched sound, then it is crystal. Regular wine glasses will just have a short and rather dull clink. Another way to test the sound is by lightly rubbing your wet index finger along the rim of the glass. Both types can produce a sound but if it only takes less pressure to make a good sound, then it is crystal.
- Weight: Let anyone have you hold two wine glasses that have the same size, one would be regular glass and the other is crystal glass. Whichever is heavier is the crystal. The more lead it contains, the heavier it will be.
- Appearance: Normal wine glasses may be transparent at first glance, but when you put it beside a crystal wine glass, you can notice that it has more of an opaque appearance. Because of the lead content of the crystal wine glasses, it is able to refract light, making it shine more like real crystal does. Crystal with over 35% lead content tends to sparkle more. And for more interesting hidden features, try holding up a wine glass in the light, if you see a prism with colors of the rainbow, it is crystal, if not, it's just plain glass.
- Clarity: One of the advantages that crystal wine glasses have over regular wine glasses is their clarity. Crystal glasses are a lot clearer than normal glasses and so they provide a better display of the wine’s true colors. Normal glasses tend to be cloudy even when you hold it to the light. Crystal has a more reflective quality that is why it is mostly used in chandeliers and jewelry.
- Colors. If you have already tried holding up the wine glasses in the light and still not satisfied with it, use a pocket UV light to see if the wine glasses give colors. If you blue to purple hue, then it is crystal. But, if you see a green hue, most likely it is soda- lime glass.
- Texture: Feel the surface of the wine glass. Try to compare a crystal glass with a regular glass. Crystal glasses have a smoother feel because they are more polished and rounded, whereas regular glasses have a sharp cut and rough texture.
- Price: If you go shopping for wine glasses and if they are more expensive than most wine glasses, chances are they are crystal glasses.
Difference Between Wine Glass and Crystal Glass
Pretty much the process of making wine glasses, whether it is soda-lime or crystal is the same, they just differ in the composition, leading to further distinction in the final outcome. Nowadays, typical glasses are made from silica sand and soda and lime ash. If at least 24% lead oxide is added to the mixture, then this would create lead glass or what we call “crystal”.
The soda-lime glass is usually what’s used to create bottles, other drinking glasses and windows. It is strong, less refined and has a non-reactive surface that makes it safe for food and drinks. On the other hand, crystal glass has the capacity to be both strong and beautiful. Usually, those wine glasses that are fancy and have fine details are made from crystal glass.
To better understand the difference between regular glass and crystal glass, here are some of their pros and cons.
Regular Wine Glass
Soda lime glass is a very common material for everyday things and in terms of wine glasses, they are more suitable for casual occasions at bars and restaurants.
- They are less expensive, making it affordable to a great number of people.
- Their durability makes them less likely to break so one doesn’t need to be conscious of using it, instead, they can be comfortable.
- It is non-porous as well as inert, so it doesn’t absorb chemical aromas and will not corrode for many years.
- It saves time from washing manually because it can be safely washed in the dishwasher.
- Glass stemware usually has a lip or the thick part of the rim of the glass, contributing to the flavor and aroma enhancement of the wine.
- It does not have lead which makes it safer for drinking wine from it.
- They can be pretty plain because of the lack of designs, so their aesthetics factor relies solely on their shape.
- Because they are not as delicate as crystal glasses, they may not receive the proper care and maintenance as they should.
Crystal Wine Glass
Known for their beautiful engravings and etchings, crystal glasses are mostly used for special occasions like parties as they contribute in making everything look fancier.
- Because of the lead content in its composition, crystal glass tends to be softer, making the elegant designs possible which are amazing for sophisticated gatherings.
- Also owing to the lead oxide, crystal glasses can be spun very thinly which makes way for a very thin rim, which is good for enhancing the wine overall because then the wine can flow smoothly to one’s mouth.
- They are heavier so they have an edge in not breaking when they are tipped over.
- They refract more light, making it look more sparkly and shiny, contributing to its beautiful look.
- They are generally more expensive so some people may not choose it.
- Known to be quite fragile so people have to be extra cautious in using them.
- Unlike the regular wine glass, crystal wine glasses are porous so they need to be washed by hand.
- They take a longer time to make because there is a need for carving designs.
- Because of the lead content, you may have to reserve it for just special occasions.
- You need to check out the lead content whenever you’re buying some crystal wine glasses so you don’t put your health in danger.
We may not see it immediately but the differences are evident behind the scenes. For the casual drinker, this may not be a big deal because his or her concern is more on enjoying the wine. However, for wine enthusiasts and glass collectors, being able to differentiate crystal from glass is important. Of course, they like to enjoy wine but they also want to understand how certain glasses affect the quality of the wine. To know more about the importance of wine glasses, find out here. And learn why wine glasses are thin right here.
In summation, crystal glasses are clearer, have a great amount of sparkle, produce a nice clinking sound and tend to have awesome designs. Really, crystal is just a category of glass that offers something more. It may be expensive but it sure does make an excellent gift to loved ones, is a great addition to your collection and helps wine in reaching its full potential for the enjoyment of the drinker.
However, be sure to keep using crystal glasses to a minimum. Research shows that lead leaches into the wine after some time. You may want to read more leached lead. However, you don’t have to ditch crystal glasses altogether. Just take precautionary measures to minimize unnecessary exposure to lead.