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History of Crystal Beads

History of Crystal Beads


Swarovski--anyone who knows crystal knows that name. But did you know that Swarovski is just a small part of the history of crystal beads? There is a long history of bead making in Bohemia and today's Czech Republic area, stretching as far back as 400 A.D.


While beads have been present in one form or another throughout history, glass and crystal beads did not become a manufacturable product until the 1200s, when glass factories started producing household items along with a small number of beads. Small factories were creating glass beads, but the turning point came in the 1500s when the glass industry became the leading industry in Stanovsko, Jablonec and Bedrichov, all major cities in the region of today's Czech Republic. Beads became fashionable and jewelry makers demanded product to fill the desires of the public.

When considering the history of crystal beads, mention must be made of the creation of leaded glass or crystal itself. While history doesn't show an "inventor" of the glass itself, there has been pieces discovered that suggest that the addition of the lead to the glass may have been accidental. However, the patent for mass producing lead crystal glassware shows George Ravenscroft of Venice as discovering the formula that creates the clear sparkling shine inherent in crystal. Once his patent expired, most of the major glass manufacturers converted their processes and began to produce his crystal.


Significantly, the Napoleonic war and the increase in territory helped increase the area of Austria that had become popular for creating glass beads in the early nineteenth century. At this point, Daniel Swarovski was born into a family of glass and crystal makers. Growing up and apprenticing in his father's crystal and glass factory, he was inspired by new electrical machinery to develop the first machine for cutting crystal. In 1892, he realized his dream of precision cut crystal, allowing him and several partners to start the Swarovski Crystal Company in 1895. While lead crystal items are made by many companies throughout the world, Waterford Crystal of Ireland; Steuben Glass of the U.S. and Mikasa in Japan being just a few, true leaded glass or crystal beads are only made in Austria.


In 1995, with the onset of computer technology, it became possible to program the machinery used for cutting crystals. Hundreds of perfectly calculated cuts are made into the glass, allowing the light to reflect with brilliance recognized around the world for its clarity.  Swarovski crystal beads are considered to be the finest, optically pure lead crystal available in the market today. The crystal itself is a form of glass that has had lead or lead oxide added to it for clarity. True "lead crystal" has upwards of 35 percent lead content, which thereby increases the amount of light that can be reflected in the glass itself.

Sizes, Colors and Shapes

Swarovski crystal beads are available in a wide range of sizes, colors and shapes. From square to bicone, from opaque to AB coated, each crystal bead includes the patented faceted designs that allow each to produce a prism-like effect when viewed in jewelry, clothing or accessories. In addition, crystal beads with a lower lead content have been made in China, Japan, India and Taiwan. These beads also come in many colors, sizes and shapes, however they do not carry the reflective qualities seen in the true lead crystal beads. Typically, these beads are also much lower in price as they can be mass produced at a lower cost.

The potential for the crystal bead industry is endless and only limited by the imagination. Every year, new and innovative products appear on the market, designed with that distinctive lead crystal reflective quality. From Crystalized Componets to Crystal Mesh fabric, Swarovski has continued to develop new products with the help of their many designers and continues to introduce to the world the inherent beauty and flexibility of crystal.

Designer Insight
Bracelets, Bangles, Anklets & Necklaces

Adding Swarovski element to your designs add sparkle

Many jewelry makers use Swarovski crystals to enhance their designs. Paired with other gemstones, pearls, shells and beads, the crystals will lend

that special sparkle to any necklace, bracelet, earrings, pendants without becoming overpowering.   At She Rich Seashells, we deliver many beautiful designs of only high quality 925 sterling silver jewelry.   However, with the production of lower quality crystal beads, it is possible to be fooled when looking at crystal beads in jewelry or clothing.  Most artisans specify the use of Swarovski as a way of certifying the quality of their product.

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