Quartz, Glass, Crystal
How are they the Same, How are they Different
One of the things that used to confuse me was the difference between Glass, Quartz Crystals and Crystal. In my research, this is what I have found. I hope that it clears things up for you too. No pun intended.
First of all, glass that is labeled quartz might be a bit descriptive, but technically, they are more or less both the same because they both have a base of silicon dioxide. (SIO2). The main differences in quartz, crystal and glass are in the way that the atoms are arranged and the molecular structure of each.
Glass-considered an amorphous solid, which basically means it has no crystalline structure. It is made primarily of silicon, potash, lime and soda. (sounds like a drink of some sort)
Quartz Crystals-are from the earth. They are made of pure silicon dioxide.
Crystal-man-made of silicon, sodium and lead. With this combination of products, the atoms in the glass form crystals which allow it to be carved and faceted much easier than glass.
What does this mean in the beading world?
More about Glass................
Glass beads are made with long thin rods of glass, then they are drilled and polished. In the very popular Czech bead, this means that they are faceted, then put back into a furnace to be"polished". This can be a difficult time for them as there isn't much difference between "polishing" and melting. OOOPS!
Remember, these beads do not form crystals, they are amorphous, This translates to the fact that they are not as bright and shiny as crystals because they don't have the refractive properties of that crystal shape.
More on Quartz..................................
The beauty that is natural quartz stone, comes in many different colors. You know some of these as Rose and Smokey Quartz, Amethyst, Cthrine and Aquamarine. From what I understand, the colors come from what other elements attach themselves to the end ions when the Silicon Dioxide was forming. It is a little confusing, but an example would be if iron was present when Amethyst was forming and gave it it's beautiful purple. Quartz has been sought after for centuries to make jewelry pieces to adorn the human body.
And then there is the lovely Crystal.....................
Crystal has some similarities to both quartz and glass. It's similarity to quartz is that it is a crystalline structure. It also contains silicon dioxide. And what makes it different from quartz but like glass, is that it is man-made . We need a new term for something that humans make, what about human-made. The chemicals used to make crystal are silicon, sodium, and lead. Up until 1676 only small amounts of lead had been added to glass, and that was primarily to change the color of the glass. Then in 1676 George Ravenscroft tried adding lead oxide in a higher concentration. This made the glass much more clear, and made it more easily carvable so that it could be faceted for glasses and, of course, beads.
Then Came Swarovski Crystal.........................
Danial Swarovski created a machine to cut and facet these wonderful crystal beads and created an addiction that still has a hold on some people to this day.
He invented this machine in 1891 and the exquisite bead, Swarovski Crystal was born. These crystals contain up to 32% lead dioxide. Adding this much lead lowered the melting point and made it softer and easier to both facet and carve. His invention took advantage of the refractive and reflective qualities that make Swarovski Crystal what it is today.
When beaders today speak of crystal, I translate it, for better of worse, to Swarovski Crystal.
Glass, Crystal AND Quartz are made of silicon dioxide (SIO2)
Glass and Crystals are alike in that they are both human-made
Crystals and Quartz are alike in that they both form a crystalline structure.
Resources & Recommended Reading