Glass Vs. Crystal Chandeliers (Detailed Comparisons)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

It gets tricky to tell the real McCoy from the fake ones with today’s science and technology. Of course, things need to be cheaper, bigger, faster, and more convenient. However, there are still those little pleasures that we don’t want to change, and history has preserved them in their untouched beauty.

What differentiates glass from crystal chandeliers is the lead oxide found in crystals. The higher the lead oxide content in the glass, the higher the quality and value of the crystal. Crystals are much more transparent and shinier, allowing light to pass through, refracting them in rainbow-colored hues.

Chandeliers make an impressive centerpiece and a great topic to chat about when you need to break the ice. So understanding a few key differences can make you look like a connoisseur of fine deco art. Knowing the difference between a good chandelier and a great one is imperative if you are thinking of buying one.

How To Differentiate Between Glass And Crystal Chandeliers?


To the untrained eye, chandelier prisms may all look similar to some degree. However, some are shinier than others. 

Although crystal is a subcategory of glass, there is a difference between glass and crystal. Glass is made from melted silica-sand, whereas crystals are made from adding lead oxide to the melted glass.

By U.S. standards, any glass with a 1% or more lead oxide content is considered a crystal, while in Europe, glass becomes a crystal when the lead contents exceed 10%.

The casting of glass and crystal prisms were invented towards the end of the 17th century. Glass was relatively cheap to produce and was much easier to manipulate and work on than rock crystals that had to be mined and processed.

The more lead oxide found in the crystal, the heavier it will be, and the better it will reflect light. In other words, the more lead oxide you have in your crystal, the better the quality of the crystal.

There are three broad types of crystals with different variations of lead oxide contents, starting with your highest quality.

  • Full lead crystals contain over 30% of lead oxide.
  • Half lead crystals contain between 24% and 30% lead oxide.
  • Crystalline, by European standards, is glass containing 6% to 10% lead oxide. In the U.S., however, it is classed as a crystal.

If you want to tell the difference between glass and crystal, you can do a few tests to see which is which.

AppearanceIt has a dull, slightly foggy appearanceHas incredible clarity
WeightLighter in weightHeavier in weight due to the lead oxide content
LightLight passes through it with no refractionsRefracts light and disperses it in rainbow hues
SoundProduces a dull chime that is very shortIt creates a high pitched ring, and the longer it lasts, the higher the lead oxide the crystal contains

Is Crystal More Durable Than Glass?

glass crystal durability

It’s not to say that one is better than the other, but the crystal is stronger than glass due to the lead oxide that is in the crystals. 

Although it is technically more robust than glass, it tends to be more fragile. The lead oxide allows the crystals to be more malleable when polished and cut into various shapes and sizes, trimming them with thinner edgings.

How To Clean Glass vs. Crystal Chandeliers?

Although glass and crystals have differences in shine and clarity, cleaning them doesn’t require different techniques or expensive cleaning products.

What you need to get to give your chandelier an excellent clean is:

  • Dish soap
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Some microfiber cloths or lint-free cloths
  • A spray bottle
  • Distilled water to ensure there is no rough particle in the water that could scratch your prisms
  • Soft pair of cleaning gloves

There are two schools of thinking when it comes to cleaning a chandelier, crystals on or crystals off.

Taking the crystals off allows you to clean the crystals thoroughly and permits you to get into the more difficult-to-reach areas for a more systematic clean.

You must, however, be very careful not to drop or accidentally break any crystals, as this will affect the value and beauty of your chandelier.

The crystals-on method is a much faster way of cleaning the chandelier but may require a bit more finesse to get to the chandelier branches for a good clean. 

Chandeliers should get cleaned once a year unless the glass becomes dull and dusty. Then you may need to spring clean more than once.

Your crystal prisms should always have a bright and shiny luster to show their elegance.

My favorite way to clean chandeliers is to carefully wipe them down with a lint-free cloth sprayed with a solution made of 1:4 ratios of rubbing alcohol and distilled water. Don’t forget to wear gloves; it will save you time from having to wipe your fingerprints off the prisms repeatedly.

Are Crystal Chandeliers Better Than Glass Chandeliers?

crystal chandelier

Although there is nothing wrong with a glass chandelier and some glass prisms, they can give off beautiful hues of color depending on the metal in them.

But there is something extraordinary about a crystal chandelier; maybe it’s the fact that it reminds us of something from the past that brought elegance and class to the manors and châteaux. 

To me, it’s the way the crystals disperse the light giving the room a soft romantic glow. The iridescent light filters through the whole room, needing very little assistance from any other light source to shed light on the matter.

And that soft tinkling ring of crystals touching gives you the sense of being in a fairytale.

But then again, if it’s contemporary and rustic decor that your style is after and what your ceiling calls for, then the glass is just as perfect.


Summing it up, there are a few differences between glass and crystal, but it all depends on the type of style you’re looking for. What kind of lighting effect do you want to achieve, and what your preference is. Otherwise, it’s only a little lead oxide that separates the two.

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.