A few things to note about Swarovski® Crystal Beads.Swarovski® Crystals are precision - cut lead crystals that are created through an innovative patented technology by Swarovski® A.G. While normal crystal glass contain only 12-28 % lead oxide to increase light refraction, Swarovski® crystal contains approximately 32% lead oxide. This increased lead content refracts light more efficiently, hence adding more lustre and sparkle to each crystal bead. The lead content also increases the weight of the crystal as compared to normal glass.
Swarovski® implements the strictest quality control in its manufacturing process and has a benchmark of 98% accuracy and consistency in the quality of its end product.
With the above in mind, it is also important to know how Swarovski® crystals are distributed through their authorised agents worldwide. Swarovski® packs are sold in “Gross” counts. This means that the bead count is approximate to what is indicated on the pack. One (1/00/00) Gross has 144 pieces of beads approximately. For example, the Swarovski® 4mm bicones (5301) are sold in “10/00/00 Gross” meaning there are approximately 1440 (144 pieces x 10) pieces. A 2% variation is accepted as normal business practice. Usually the contents are never short but additional beads may be added.
Always remember that Swarovski beads are never strung when they are sold. Most authorised distributors sell them in smaller quantities in loose form (usually in sachets of 144 pieces or 1/00/00 gross). If a seller offers Swarovski beads which are already strung, be sure to take a closer look and apply the verifying techniques outlined below.
Sample of Genuine Swarovski Packets and Boxes.
(Left : Swarovski Round (#5000) 8mm Beads Box Right : Swarovski Bicone (#5301) 4 & 6mm Beads)
Characteristics of a Genuine Swarovski® Bead.
1. A genuine Swarovski® bead has precise cuts and facets, regardless of size of the design.
2. The colour is consistent for all designs, shape and sizes. Its effects are consistent and could be distinguished from just a naked eye inspection.
3. The crystal contains 32% lead therefore has higher light refraction, that is to say, it has more luster and sparkle than normal glass.
4. It has high degree of clarity when viewed under a magnifying glass, similar to high grade cubic zircons.
5. It's weight is higher than normal glass or other brands of lead crystal, due to the high lead content.
Simple methods of inspecting your Swarovski® beads
Shape & Appearance
Genuine : The beads have a sparking appearance caused by light reflections on the prism/facet surface as well as the light refractions from within the bead. On closer look all the beads are if a uniformed shape and consistently precise cuts on the facets. Equal number of facets in the same design regardless of size.
Sample Genuine Swarovski Crystal Bicones (#5301) 4mm Beads that are magnified.
If you planning to buy Swarovski® Crystal (5301) Bicones which are the most popular kind of beads today, you should purchase some of the larger sized beads so that you could see and at a closer view the exact facet cuts and then compare them with the smaller ones, like the popular 4mms. The use of callipers to measure the bead is also another sure way of determining the authenticity of the bead. Swarovski® beads are measured by width of diameter from the beginning of the bead hole to the other end.
Fake : The beads appear dull, and does not capture light very well. The shape of the beads would have a few millimeter run-offs from the width of the bead (some may appear to be slightly narrower or wider than the others). The facets are also not uniformed and may have some pointed (sharp) edges while others are just blunt. The use of a pair of calipers will show that some beads might be smaller or larger than others. Mis-aligned facets is another common flaw in fakes and is the most apparent. Misaligned facets makes the bead surface uneven and are therefore imperfect even under the naked eye. Sometimes, in bicones its also easy to spot a fake if the size of the two cones joined in the center are not of equal size.
Colour consistencyGenuine : One of the most obvious characteristic of a Swarovski® bead is the colour consistency for all of its manufactured beads. There is almost a 99.8% accuracy and consistency on all its product range. Swarovski® colours are always the same regardless of the design of the bead and it is a consistency that customers that count on. It is recommended, that a few beads be kept as sample specimens so that it could be used to familiarise yourself with the colours and also for comparison with other beads which you may buy in the future.
Swarovski® is also famed for its special colours and effects. The Aurora Boreale (AB) is one of the most popular effects which is a result of a special coat applied on 50% of the surface of the bead. The AB coating has a special metallic tint over the bead surface that refracts light in a rainbow spectrum, very much like a prism. The only difference is that the light is refracted from the surface and not so much from within the bead (unlike plain clear crystals). The AB 2X effects refers to crystal beads which has the AB coat applied twice.
Sample Genuine Swarovski Bicones (#5301) 4mm Beads with special coating.
(From left : Crystal with AB coat, Fire Opal with AB coat, Crystal Golden Shadow Coat and Crystal Tabac Coat)
One of the newest effects in the Swarovski® bead range is the Crystal Copper, Crystal Golden Shadow and Crystal Silver Shade. These beads have a gradient transition effect in the bead and an apparent special coat over the surface of the bead (very much like the AB coat). This should not be considered as a defect or fault as they are a new range added into the Swarovski® line of products. What ever the colour transition within the bead, it should be apparent not only on some but on all the beads and you can then be sure that they are authentic.
There are also other coatings in the Swarovski® bead range which include Crystal Transmission, Volcano, Aurum, Tabac and Dorado.
Fakes : The colours of the beads are usually uneven. Some appear darker or slightly lighter and if you purchased over a period of time, you would note that the will be slight variations in the colour. This is usually the result of poor quality control at different stages of the manufacturing process. The counterfeits also would not be able to sufficiently re-create the Aurora Boreale effect and slight blotches may be observed on the surface and some surfaces may not be covered with the AB coat.
Weight testGenuine : Crystals are significantly heavier due to their lead content than glass beads and when weighed against the other, the Crystal bead would be heavier. Unfortunately, the higher the cubic density and weight of the crystal, the more fragile it is, Crystals are known to be brittle but not as bad as glass. Extra care is needed especially when handling some of the Swarovski® special shape or design such as the Heart Shape (6202) beads or the Baroque Shaped pendants (6090) and could break if not handled with care. Smaller beads like the Swarovski® bicones (5301) or the Swarovski® Round (5000) are more durable and do not chip or break easily.
Fakes : A glass bead is significantly lighter and much more brittle than lead crystal. Due to lower lead oxide content, its very easy to distinguish the glass bead from crystal. A Crystal bead will sink much faster than a glass bead if dropped into a glass of water. A jewelers scale can also determine the accurate weight difference between an actual crystal bead and a fake glass bead.
After you have applied these tests on your set of beads and are satisfied that they are genuine, it is always recommended, that you continue to purchase from the same source. This reduces the risk of running into shonky operators that sell fakes amongst other things and save you the unpleasant experience.
For beginners & New eBayers, we would also recommend our Swarovski Beads Buying Guide – A Beginners Checklist. (coming soon!)