Commemorating a recently marked milestone or anniversary, or recognizing a special achievement with a crystal award is becoming increasingly popular. From plaques to bowls and obelisks, the clarity and sparkling brilliance of crystal makes for a wide variety of breathtakingly beautiful awards.
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.
Black optic crystal, used largely to form base pieces for other sculptures and figurines, is made by introducing special additives during the manufacturing process.
Starfire is another lead-free crystal that is manufactured through a similar process. It is know for its slight blue tint. Due to its less than perfect clarity, there is some debate about whether or not Starfire deserves to be called a crystal, or if it should be simply be called a type of glass.
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.
Full lead crystal is the type of crystal used in the making of glassware. The addition of lead oxide during its manufacture removes bubbles and other defects, and gives the crystal is weight and distinctive clear ring when gently tapped with a fork or spoon. It is still blown by teams of skilled glass-blowers, in much the same way that it has been always been. As a result, it has a wider design flexibility than optic crystal does. Awards in the form of bowls, cups, vases and figurines are made from 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.