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QUALITY DENOMINATORS OF GLASSWARE:
IDENTIFY THE RAW MATERIALS:
Know if the glass is soda-lime, borosilicate or lead crystal (the most expensive).
If it is lead crystal, check for the lead percentage — which should be on the label or available from the retailer. If answers are unsatisfactory and/or questionable, don’t hesitate to contact the brand manufacturer.
Mouth or machine? Mouth-blown or free-blown soda-lime or lead crystal glassware does not have mold marks. Mold marks are a sign of pressed or molded machine-made glass. If not too visible, mold marks are not objectionable — but the price of the glassware should be relatively low because of little or no hand-labor for polishing.
No visible mold marks on machine-made glassware means the manufacturer has ground them away and then polished the surface by hand or machine — which adds to the price.
Examine each of the following elements of finished glassware and judge for yourself if standards of production quality have been well executed.
Rims must be smooth, polished and of uniform thickness with the walls of the glass. Glass walls may range from very thin to rather heavy depending upon the style. Lead crystal glasses will always feel heavier and be relatively thick. Choice of weight and wall thickness is personal. Wine connoisseurs prefer a polished, thin rim to better direct the flow of wine and enhance the complexity of a fine wine.
An exception to uniform thickness of walls and rims are glasses made with a safedge–-made by passing the open cut edge of a glass under a flame until the edge quivers and melts into a rounded, thicker rim.
Glasses with safedges should be inexpensive because they don’t require polishing. Safedge glasses are more durable for children and everyday use; they’re not preferred for fine glassware. All glasses should be stored upright to protect their rims.
Glasses must sit firmly and feel balanced. Check the bottoms of all glass products to make sure the ‘sitting’ edge of each will not scratch your table. Grinding and polishing glass ‘bottoms’ by hand or machine is labor intensive —but expected if purchasing better mouth-blown glasses. Unpolished glass bottoms are acceptable if smooth to your touch–but should cost less.
Minute bubbles signify glassware is free-blown—and they’re acceptable. But glassware must not have flecks (seeds), obvious bubbles, impurities or stria (variations in glass caused by unequal density of ingredients or variations in furnace temperature). Better quality manufacturers destroy production having any of these defects.
Moderately priced, heavy, mouth-blown glassware made in Mexico — from recycled glass —is currently popular. It’s full of tiny bubbles that give it a hand-crafted charm.
Whether free-blown or machine-made, colored glass must have uniform pigmentation whether transparent, translucent or opaque. Lack of uniform pigmentation indicates that the silica and other ingredients had not been brought to proper fusion temperature in the glass furnace.
Don’t confuse weight with strength. If a glass product looks heavy, it should be heavy. If a glass product looks light, it should be light. Weight must be balanced and not top or bottom heavy, especially stemware.
If you are buying good stemware, be sure all joinings of bowl to stem to base —are invisible.
1. Glassware should be *room-temperature when washed in warm, soapy water.
2. Take special care rims do not touch each other.
3. Wash cut lead crystal stemware by hand because swishing hot water and dishwasher detergents eventually build-up a milky residue.
4. Dry with lint-free cloths.
5. Store glasses right-side-up to protect rims from rough surfaces.
I can’t forget the customer who brought a box of crystal
shards to the Gift Gallery and asked for me. She had
purchased an expensive silver champagne stand with a
heavily-cut lead-crystal ice bucket trimmed with silver.
After her party, she emptied the ice and plunged the *cold,
crystal ice bucket into hot soapy water:—IT EXPLODED!
There are considerations in caring for all products but the
manufacturer had not provided care instructions for the
crystal ice bucket: it was NOT the customer’s fault!
Relieved no one had been hurt, I credited her account but
never carried the item again.
Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY
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