There are many options for buying beads these days, so many shapes, colours, finishes and materials, it can be difficult to work out what to use or when to use it. With crystals, like a lot of beads, there is a lot of controversy around cut and quality, so what are the differences and when should they be used? In this post I will try to help you a little with your choices, focusing on Chinese crystals, Czech Preciosa and the gorgeous Swarovski.
These crystals are the lowest quality out of all of the three crystals, but this does not mean that they do not have their merit. The wonderful variety of these crystals in colour and finishes, along with the price, give you so much to play with. They are usually available in rondelle, round and bicone.
The best shape for these crystals are the rondelles, along with the smaller rounds. In my personal opinion I would never use Chinese crystal bicone, though the rondelles may occasionally have off-centre holes and the facets may not always be perfect, the bicones are always uneven and never seem to quite give you what you want from this bead.
What I really about the Chinese crystal is the combination of price and variety, the AB coatings are lovely, the opaque colours are simply gorgeous and I have a real weakness for the metallic finishes. These beads, with the right colour palate, tend to give a great vintage feel, and are a well priced option when many crystals are needed, where they are kept apart from each other or designs where perfect evenness is not such a big deal.
Because of pricing it means that my collection of Chinese crystal is huge, giving me lots of inspiration to play and create. YouTuber Gina’s Gem Creations, will show you what you can do with these wonderful beads, and gives you a real idea of why you should maybe put your crystal snobbery to the back burner for a while.
These are a great mid-range alternative to the higher priced Swarovski crystals and are usually my recommendation to those of my clients that want quality, without the scary price-tag. They can be a third of the price cheaper, without a drastic drop in quality from the Swarovski, and a noticeable increase from the Chinese crystals. The sparkle and the cut are just lovely.
Similar to the Chinese crystals the main area that these crystals fall down is the variety of shapes. There are only really a few options and this restricts their use with certain designs, meaning you have to search with an alternative brand. The main shapes available are bicone, (actually a pretty good cut), rounds and a few chatons.
The wonderful variety of colours and finishes you get with these crystals means you can get one colour in a variety of finishes and shades. Therefore you can get great texture and interest from a piece that is purely monochrome and crystal.
I find that Preciosa crystals are greatly under-rated, the cut is even, the quality is high and the price is right. I would honestly say to use these crystals whenever you get the chance, I have never had anyone complain the quality and people have loved them.
What can I say about these beautiful crystals? The cut and sparkle are gorgeous and they really show the quality with their bicones. But why pay the extra if Preciosa holds out just as well?
Firstly there is a difference in quality, if you hold two crystals of the same shape, from each brand, it can be seen, even if not massively, but where Swarovski holds their own is the variety. The sheer variety of shapes, colours and finishes is astounding and they are always releasing more. From snow-flakes to pendant drops, from chatons to crosses, you can be almost guaranteed to find exactly what you want.
The gorgeous mix of colours, shapes and finishes mean you can create endlessly and be inspired constantly. The tiny 2.5mm bicones are wonderful if you are a bead weaver. Larger crystals are fantastic for stringing. There is a crystal for every occasion.
I will likely dip into Swarovski when I cannot get the colour or finish I require in Preciosa, or when I need something that is an unusual shape. I personally have a particular weakness for the pear-shapes rhinestones and these larger crystals are where you really see what they can do with colour in just one crystal. One crystal can be filled with hot pinks, warm oranges and bright yellows, giving you a truly exceptional component, something you can never get from the other brands.
So yes, please continue your love for Swarovski, it will always be my first love when it comes to crystals, but remember even the Chinese crystals have their place, if used correctly. Also never forget there are quality alternatives that are just as stunning, but you may just not get the variety you need.