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Lead Crystal


Jaden77
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Hi guys, I'd like to purchase some new stemware and a new decanter, but everything I like seems to be made with lead crystal, which has a scary warning that "Use of this product will expose you to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm". Should I be worried? I can't imagine that so many manufacturers would use lead crystal if it really was a hazard. Thanks.

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Check out the International Crystal Federation for an answer. It says that full lead crystal does contain lead in the glass ... when put in contact with acidic beverages, such as alcohol, very small amounts of lead can leach into the beverage. However, the amount of lead is in parts per billion, therefore it should not raise concern. But you should know that consumers should not use lead crystal to store beverages for long periods of time. Why? The longer lead crystal is left in contact with the liquid, the more lead will leach into the product.

By the way: ICF suggests treating lead crystal with vinegar and water to remove lead from the crystal surface. :wink:

A very recent and very relevant article from the San Jose Mercury can be found here: Lead in crystal decanter will leach into wine, port

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Great article Melissa! I'll normally only drink a couple of glasses of wine during a sitting, so I end up saving about half a bottle for the next night. I was planning on storing the wine in a decanter for the next evening evening. But, according to the article, that could add up to 1.5 mg of lead to the wine, about 100 times the EPA's action level. Not a good thing. I'm going to definitely look for lead-free stemware and decanters. Thanks for your help. :)

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I'm going to definitely look for lead-free stemware and decanters.

Take a look at this lead-free stemware and see how it compares to others .. looks good to me! :wink:

And then there is the Ravenscroft Crystal Duck Decanter which is not only interestingly beautiful but is also lead-free...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I have a lot of Waterford full-lead crystal which I've had for years. We drink wine from the glasses at our formal dinner parties. I do rinse them out with vinegar just before using, though. And of course, we don't drink wine in those glasses every night, and my guests certainly don't. I no longer use the decanters, though. Sad, because they're just as gorgeous as you might imagine.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I think you will find that most brands, including Reidel, offer both lead crystal and non-lead crystal (glass). Here's a link to the Riedel pages on the Wine Enthusiast site. If you look through, you'll see that the Vinum and Sommelier series are leaded, and that the stemless "O" glasses and the Wine series are non-leaded glass. I believe the Riedel Overture series is also non-leaded, but it isn't displayed in those pages.

According to the article above, there is no reason not to use lead crystal wine glasses.

If you want to use a fine crystal decanter to decant, you can...just don't store the wine in it. You can always double decant back into the wine bottle. But most wine does not need to be decanted, and can be degraded by doing so. If it is important to you for whatever reason to store the leftover wine in a decanter, then non-lead glass appears to be the way to go.

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Thanks again for your input guys.

Melissa, I really like the Ravenscroft Decanter. Thanks for the suggestion. :smile:

Richard, you're right that most wine does not need to be decanted, but every once and a while I run accross some petite syrah or cabernent that could use an hour or so of decanting. I really don't need a decanter, but I just love how beautiful some of them are. I'm just in love with the Riedel Amadeo Lyra Decanter.

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Lead is used in glass production to improve the refractive properties of the material. Meaning in non-flat shapes, it improves clarity and light transmission hence colours look brighter and 'sparkier'.

Commercial glass for windows contain very very little lead, and is green tinged.

'Crystal' glassware refers to the shape of the drinking vessel itself which is often faceted like a cut 'jewel' hence the name 'Crystal'. Because of this faceting, non-leaded glass would not transmit light as clearly as leaded glass, hence the expensive stuff always contain some degree of lead for clarity.

So how clear do you need your wineglass to be? I mean, 99% of modern designs are not faceted therefore the requirement for 'clear' glass is not as stringent. Besides, modern glass technology means that low-iron glass is used most oftentimes, such as in Riedel 'O' series and others, and it's difficult to discern the difference in most cases anyways.

Hope this helps.

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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Great article Melissa! I'll normally only drink a couple of glasses of wine during a sitting, so I end up saving about half a bottle for the next night. I was planning on storing the wine in a decanter for the next evening evening. But, according to the article, that could add up to 1.5 mg of lead to the wine, about 100 times the EPA's action level. Not a good thing. I'm going to definitely look for lead-free stemware and decanters. Thanks for your help. :)

First, leaving a wine in any type of decanter overnight will probably render it undrinkable due to oxidation. You're much better off putting the cork back in the bottle and putting the bottle in the refrigerator. (FWIW, if I wind up with maderized wine, I keep it for sauces which call for Madiera...)

And second, the industry limit was based on the amount of lead leached from a brand new one-liter decanter after 24 hours of containing undiluted vinegar (which is 100 times more acidic than most wine). It was meant to be a worst-case scenario.

Virtually all the lead in leaded glass is chemically bonded to the silica in a crystal lattice (which BTW is why it's called crystal, since regular silica glass has no crystal structure). Most of the tiny amount not bonded is locked in the crystal where it can never be leached. I should add here that certain compounds can break the crystal lattice and dissolve the lead salts, but such compounds (eg, hydrofluoric acid) are so toxic that they will never be used in a decanter, even in extremely dilute form.

So there is a limit to how much lead can be leached from a crystal decanter, and the 1.5mg amount is very close to that limit for a one-liter decanter. And virtually all of the 1.5mg can be removed if you "season" your decanter before using it. By "season", I mean filling it with a dilute homemade acid (two ounces distilled vinegar, one teaspoon table salt, one quart water), letting it sit for a couple days, and then thoroughly rinsing the decanter with moderately hot (120-130F) water. You'll be left with a decanter that, if poorly made, might be able to leach a few micrograms into 750ml of wine the first time it's used. And if you repeat the above cleaning process, you'll get more lead in your system eating Idaho potatoes than from drinking wine out of the decanter...

(In case you're wondering, for many years I was an engineer at Corning Glass, a company that makes many different kinds of leaded glass, from CRT panels to Steuben Crystal.)

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...you'll get more lead in your system eating Idaho potatoes than from drinking wine out of the decanter...

Whew. I hated to think I might have to chuck all that Waterford. :cool:

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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For many years I worked with lead crystal, and "German water white" glass panels, free-hand engraving them with all types of animals, birds, etc. In fact, for a while a couple of years ago my avatar was one of my engravings.

I always wore a respirator when engraving lead crystal either with handpiece or on a copper-wheel engraving lathe.

This is because the superfine glass dust can penetrate far into the lungs and one can be injured not only by the glass dust but by the lead, that is "liberated" by friction and the grinding, and which in that form can be picked up by the blood circulating in the lung tissues.

Leaded glass artists are also supposed to be careful not to inhale the fumes from soldering the lead that holds the pieces of glass together.

This type of exposure is nearly a thousand times more concentrated than anything one can get from drinking a normally acidic liquid from lead crystal and even so, it takes years of exposure to show up in the hair and tissues.

One can get far more lead from eating certain types of fish in a single meal than from drinking wine from lead crystal for several years.

Glass is very different from pottery glazes, which are not as cohesive as glass and from which large amounts of lead can leach into acids.

The warnings about lead leaching from glazed pottery was the first notice about the danger in certain food containers. This was then carried over to lead crystal without much in the way of testing. When definitive tests were first done and only extremely minute amounts of lead were noted, some "consumer advocates" were not satisfied and demanded tests that were more extreme. Of course these tests then showed higher levels of lead being leached into the liquid, however it was not mentioned that the liquid itself was not consumable and was, in fact, poisonous without the lead.

If tests were conducted to determine the amount of cyanide that is found in certain types of granite, one could argue that it shouldn't be used where food comes into contact with it. However, in the stable matrix it is practically impossible to measure the cyanide unless the granite is crushed and treated with leaching chemicals.

If you think this is ridiculous, consider that a few years ago a group of "consumer advocates" brought suit against the producer of Crystal Geyser water simply because the water source in the high Sierras percolates through the local granite which - guess what - contains cyanide. However with testing of hundreds of samples of water, the amount of cyanide found was barely measurable, as I recall, less than 2 parts per billion units. The case was dismissed. Crystal Geyser is still in business.

I wouldn't hesitate to use lead crystal. I have some Baccarat that is 32% and lead makes it tough.

I never liked engraving on plain glass because of the stresses in the glass that can be seen only with a polarizing light. One touch with an engraving tool will cause the glass to explode. Leaded glass has fewer stress points and is safer for engraving.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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