Whether is it to commemorate a special occasion, recognize the contribution of a valued colleague, or to thank a retiring employee for years of faithful service, a crystal award can be a thoughtful way of expressing appreciation. Regardless of the reason for giving it, crystal’s sparkling beauty is always a suitable way to sat ‘thank you’.
There are several different types of crystal that are used in creating awards. The most common is called optic, or optical, crystal. This type of crystal is known for its hardness and clarity, as well as for the fact that it is completely lead-free. Optic crystal uses pressure, and not lead oxide, during its manufacturing process to eliminate bubbles and other imperfections. Due to the process of pressurization involved in its manufacture, it is only available in sheets, and is not suitable to the production of glassware. It is generally used only to create solid form awards such as obelisks and engraved plaques.
By introducing special additives to the manufacturing process, optic crystal can be colored black. In this form, it is often used as the base for a sculpture or figurine.
Starfire is another type of lead-free crystal manufactured in a similar process. This crystal is known for its slight blue tint. There is some dispute amongst connoisseurs, however, as to whether or not Starfire should be considered a real crystal due to its lack of perfect clarity.
Jade crystal falls into the same family, and has a somewhat greenish tint. This crystal type is quite often used in the design of corporate awards.
When people think of crystal, they most often envision gorgeous glasses that emit a clear ringing note when delicately tapped with the tines of a fork. The type of crystal that they actually have in mind is called ‘full lead crystal’, and is named for the lead oxide used in its manufacture. Lead oxide has been used to eliminate bubbles and other defects since crystal was first created. Full lead crystal is still blown by teams of glass makers, giving it a greater flexibility in form and design than optic crystal. Awards shaped as bowls, vases and figurines are made using it.
Any lead crystal that contains less than a minimum of twenty-four percent lead oxide, is not considered to be full lead crystal.
Two and three-dimensional images, etched inside of a solid piece of crystal, are another type of award that is becoming increasingly popular. This sort of etching is made by using a laser to create hundreds of thousands of microscopic cracks deep inside the heart of the crystal, forming a remarkably lifelike image. Because there is no way of using a laser to draw continuous lines, each image must be made one tiny crack at a time. Fortunately, with today’s laser technology, this can be done fairly quickly. However, the crystal used must be completely free of even the tiniest defects, and its surface must be perfectly flat in order for the laser to accurately hit its target. This makes carving images inside of spheres and other oddly shaped crystal very difficult, though not impossible.
A crystal award is a beautiful way to say “thank you” to someone, and will be appreciated by the person receiving it for many years to come.