Q&A – lead vs lead free and what makes crystal special and luxurious?

If a potential customer comes to our website it means that he or she is in pursuit of fine crystalware. She/He either looks for a special gift or crystal glasses for themselves. We decided to put together a new post interviewing our founder, Joanna Maya to answer questions we sometimes are asked. Namely, what is fine crystalware? Which factors distinguish one brand from another and what is the difference between lead and not lead crystal.

Rainbow Ruby Crystal Collection

Q: What is a crystal and how is it different from glass?

JM: Crystal is one of the most precious materials, just after diamonds, gold or precious stones. It is essentially a leaded glass. According to an European guidance you can call a crystal, only glass which contains at least 24% of lead. Many manufacturers or retailers call fine glass a crystal even though it has less than 24% lead. However, the truth is that any glass that contains over 10% lead but less than 24% should be called a crystal glass or fine glass. If you therefore, intend to buy crystal ware check on the packaging whether and how much lead it contains.

Q: Why is it important for a crystal to have 24% of lead or over?

If a customer is interested in buying lead crystal, and not lead-free glass, which is really a matter of personal preferences, the 24% of lead in crystal is the optimum percentage for weight, durability and clarity. There are still factories who do 30% lead crystal and this type of product is called full lead crystal. Lead content makes the crystal dense, providing a much higher index of light refraction than normal glass, and consequently much greater sparkle, exceptional colour and brilliance.

Q: What is a lead free crystal and does something like this exists?

Well, as I mentioned above the only glass that can be called crystal is if it contains 24% or over. If a crystal is called lead free it means that it simply should not be called so. It should be called crystal glass. This is governed by the EU directive which states which type of glass is and can be called crystal.
A so-called “lead free crystal” is essentially fine crystal glass without the lead content. On this occasion lead is substituted with another ingredient for instance, zinc, barium and potassium to allow the piece being heavy, transparent and possible to be hand cut or engraved.

Q: Is lead crystal more luxurious than lead free?

The lack of lead does not mean that the product is less luxurious – It is a matter of personal choice.
We need to remember that luxurious product is a make of craftsmanship. In one of my previous posts I was investigating what is a luxurious product and contemplating on the exhibition I had seen in V&A “ What is luxury”. I stated that during this exhibition one of examples of luxurious product was a set of six engraved crystal glasses. The value of each was justified by a number of dots engraved. This was a reference to the time, precision and craftsmanship devoted to engrave each one on a thin crystal glass. The maker of fine glassware commits himself to refining skills, inventing techniques, challenging conventions and creating the unbelievable. Therefore, whether the piece is machine blown or hand blown, hand cut or hand decorated, how many hours craftsmen spend on the production of one piece.

Q: Often on a label we see a crystal is blown, hand cut or pressed? What does this
terminology stand for?

There are different ways of glass blowing. Of course I don’t consider discussing machine blowing or, recently a 3d printing on glass, which is outside the scope of this discussion. On a high production scale a crystal can be machine made by pressing or blowing. This does not involve glass blowing by a craftsman.

Q: Why one crystal glass is more expensive than another?

There are many factors that can justify the price. As I mentioned above, it depends on the amount of craft put into production of each piece. How has the piece been finished, whether it’s been hand cut, hand engraves, whether the colour is in the glass, between two layers of it or hand painted. How well known is the brand. Whether the piece is a designer piece or not. However, it is important to mention that when one crystal piece is significantly cheaper than another usually it was machine made. Also, often the country of origin is the factor behind the price too.
I would recommend, to read about the brand, what are the brand’s values and check if the piece is handmade, hand cut or hand engraved before purchasing crystal.

A short lesson on wine tasting

Lately I presented you with the perfect type of wine glass and what it should possess to benefit your experience with wine. This week I would love to focus on how to taste wine.

Discovering what the wine world has to offer should be delicious fun. Often in restaurants however, we may feel confused about what to do when the waiter hands us the glass with wine to taste.
A few skills can help you take charge of the wine experience and it definitely does not have to be though using pretentious prose.

KLASIK Red wine small

Klasik Red Wine Crystal Glass, set of 2, 300ml

Wine’s most fundamental qualities can be identified by taking one sense at a time.

Thus, the goal is to isolate and amplify the impact of wine’s sensory experience – colours, scents and flavours – in order to distinguish one wine from another.

The waiter should pour the glass with one third of a wine glass. Hold the glass by the top of its stem – never by the bowl – unless the wine is too cold and you want to warm it with hands (this should not really take place in any good restaurant).

Look at the wine – what colour it has? How deep it is? Is it showing signs of browning with age? The depth of color, gives a clue to the density and saturation of the wine. (Saturation is related with the amount of oxygen in wine)*

* When wine is exposed to excessive amounts of air, some of the alcohol becomes oxidized. The colour of the wine becomes deeper, and the wine takes on a sherry-like characteristic. Although prized in sherry wines, these oxidized smells and flavours are considered major flaws in table wines.

Swirl the wine in the glass – making a swirl is important to smell the wine better. Swirling increases the wine’s surface area, which in turn boosts its rate of evaporation and aromatic intensity.
*Notice if the wine forms “legs” or “tears” that run down the sides of the glass. Wines that have strong legs are wines with more alcohol and glycerin content, which generally indicates that they are bigger, riper, more mouth-filling and dense than those that do not.

Sniff the wine deeply – smells is the main sense used in wine tasting so sniffing wine before tasting is an essential step. Dip your nose in to the glass and take two to three sniffs. Try to interpret the aroma, how intense the smell is? Can you smell fruits, herbs, vegetable, spices or perhaps an oak barrel?

Sip the wine – take a slightly larger sip than usual. Instead of swallowing immediately, take 3-5 seconds, letting it coat your tongue, cheeks and palate.

Swish it around – by swishing it like a mouthwash, you dramatically intensify the sensory perception of taste, smell. Well. I ma not sure if you would like to do this in the restaurant as this is clearly a step for a serious aficionados.

Savour – wine taste does not disappear after your taste it – its aftertaste for a minute or more allowing you to think about it and make your judgement.
Aside from simply identifying flavors, you are also using your taste buds to determine if the wine is balanced, harmonious, complex, evolved, and complete.

Well, some of you may ask if mere drinking wine is worth the trouble of trying to explore it. I would say that playing with wine and trying to asses and judge it is a fun exercise – it’s like with whiskey or food tasting – the more you passionate about life the more you want to explore and learn about it…

If you wish to explore wine tasting in detail, here’s what I came across during my research which I found very informative and fun to read.

In the meantime, from today until next week I would love to feed you with some interesting tips and facts about the wine on our social networks including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. I will be delighted to welcome you there.

The considered design of whisky glasses

As a woman, I find it challenging to befriend whisky. Not saying that women cannot enjoy it. I know many who do but still I know there are fewer than men. Although, my husband is passionate about this dram, I tend to leave the sniffing and tasting to the New Year’s Eve while I am in Scotland. After all, this drinking business is meant to be fun. So, I keep this moment only for very special occasions.
Icebreaker whisky tumblers


Icebreaker whiskey tumblers by Iskos & Berlin

Last Sunday, however, my husband invited me to a very special place in his heart – Milroy’s of Soho, the whiskey bar – for a tasting experience. Having pushed myself out of my comfort zone I started embracing my senses of whisky.

I learnt a few interesting facts. Namely, to be single malt means that the whisky has to come from one distillery, and must have been matured in Scotland for at least three years in an oak cask. It must also be made from the malted barley, yeast and water.

Also, when you write whisky – you mean Scotch. However, when you see the spelling with “e “ whiskey – the source refers to Irish or American dram.

When I finally got my head around the choice of whisky Milroy’s of Soho had offered, I was impressed by how differently these whiskies tasted.

I was asked to look at the most important aspects in whisky. Namely, something called “legs”. Legs appear when you swirl your glass around several times. The line of several beads will form around the rim. The thicker the legs, the more mouth-filling the whisky is.
After taking a good look I was asked to find a comfortable distance between my nose and the glass and slowly inhale the aromas from deep inside the glass. I closed my eyes, visualised what I could smell and noted down my findings. After several, slow sniffs each whisky started revealing the depth of character within it.

The perfect whisky glass

Undoubtedly, whiskey is one of the most evocative spirits in he world. It is also for some, like myself, challenging to drink. Its high strength is sometimes enough to give imbibers cause for concerns. So, when learning to serve whisky, make sure you do it properly. Milroy’s had a couple of glasses styles that I will explain below.

The glass you decide to use for nosing and tasting whisky will have a huge impact on the flavour and aroma of it, so much so the specific glassware have been developed to heighten the experience.

Tulip shape glass – is preferred by connoisseurs for tasting, sampling, sipping and scrupulous evaluation of a whiskey’s attributes. It is fashioned with a unique tulip shape to gently allow warming the liquor. The narrow opening concentrates the bouquet.

Glencairn – this glass was specifically designed for whisky. It has a narrow rim and a heavier bowl-shaped base, with a thicker stem.

Tumbler – this is a traditional style of whisky glass. It is perfect for filling with ice, soda or water. This glass features a universal shape wide enough that is perfect for all types of whiskeys and bourbon.

As with many life’s pleasures, taking time and learning the correct techniques to enjoy whisky are the fundamentals to the successful “dram-fication”.

The origin of champagne – is French champagne the best?

It is traditionally considered that sparkling wine was invented by the French Benedictine monk and cellar master, Dom Pierre Perignon in Champagne around 1697. Controversially, however, the English winemakers including Ridgeview claim that a Gloucester doctor, called Christopher Merret, recorded a recipe for a Champagne-style drink some 20 years before Dom Perignon.

Gurasu Champagne Flutes and Decanters

Is the French champagne the best?

It is important to mention that in order for you to enjoy a good sparkling wine, you don’t necessarily have to buy a bottle of champagne. There are many, high quality sparkling wines that won numerous prizes for its taste, including Californian, English or Australian.

The existence of vineyards in Champagne dates back to the beginning of our era. The Romans were the ones to introduce grape growing in the Champagne region. They had identified the originality of the soil.
The northern location makes it slightly cooler than France’s other wine-growing regions, which gives the grapes the proper acidity for sparkling wine production. Additionally, the porous, chalky soil of the area – the result of large earthquakes millions of years ago – gives the sparkling wine the beauty of taste.

In south of England, West Sussex and Hampshire, there is a production of Nyetimber, British sparkling wine. Many critics, including Andrew Neather, consider Nyetimber the most serious British sparkling wine.

Southern England is perfect for the production of sparkling wine. The chalk seam that supplies Champagne grapes with the perfect green sand and chalky soil to flourish is the very same that runs under the lee of the South Downs. This is where, sheltered from the coastal winds, our vines are planted across eight separate sites.
This region’s climate allows for the slow ripening of grapes, allowing the cellar master to achieve the optimum level of acidity for the wine, as well as the complexity and finesse he or she strives for.

A symbol of luxury and special celebrations

Closely linked to the monarchy, Champagne became the wine of coronations, then the wine of kings. Its success spread to the aristocratic elite of the world in the 19th century thanks to the energy of the Champagne Houses, which made it the symbol of French spirit.
After 1945, the Champagne frenzy reached new social circles.

How champagne is made

Sparkling wines can be made in a variety of ways, but traditional champagne comes to life by a process called the methode Champenoise.

Champagne starts its life like any normal wine.

  1. Selecting the base wine.
  2. Assemblage – he French art of blending still white wines to create the base wine for Champagne – The grapes are harvested, pressed, and allowed to undergo a primary fermentation.
  3. Tirage (the second fermentation) – The key process in producing Champagne is a second fermentation that occurs in a sealed bottle with a bit of yeast and sugar – it creates the carbonation. (It’s this secondary fermentation that gives champagne its bubbles.)
  4. Aging – This new yeast starts doing its work on the sugar, and then dies and becomes what’s known as lees. The bottles are then stored horizontally so the wine can “age on lees” for 15 months or more.
  5. Riddling – After the aging, winemakers turn the bottles upside down so the lees can settle to the bottom.
  6. Disgorging – In this process, the cork is carefully pried off, allowing the internal pressure in the bottle to shoot the sediment out; this is sometimes done after the neck of the bottle.
  7. Adding the Dosage – Once the dead yeast has settled, producers open the bottles to remove the yeast, add a bit of sugar known as dosage to determine the sweetness of the champagne, and slip a cork onto the bottle.
  8. Corking – The bottle is then corked and the cork wired down to secure the high internal pressure of the carbon dioxide.

The sweetness levels of Champagne range from very dry (ultra brut) to very sweet (doux), with brut being the most common.

The perfect champagne glasses

The most suitable glasses for champagne are the one, which have a tulip shape. The elegant Champagne tulip is a style that is not as distinguished as the coupe or flute, but does have a lot to offer Champagne and sparkling wine lovers.

A wider top rim means better aeration so the aroma and flavour can develop. Additionally, it will develop and maintain lots of bubbles, but having a wider aperture means that the bubbles will end up hitting the right regions on your tongue rather than ending up in your nose. It may not have the glamour of the coupe or the high-octane image of the flute but if you are investing in fine sparkling wine, these glasses will present all its qualities to a greater extent than the flute.

Read more about champagne or our blog:

Know your wine glasses – Insights from our founder Joanna Maya

Just as darkened cinemas flatter movies by focusing our attention on the bright screen and sound effect, stemmed glasses with large bowls flatter wines by focusing our attention on their aromas.

Pure Luxe Crystal Wine Goblet, Smoke

Wine glass anatomy

Most glasses like tumblers are designed for efficiency and convenience and are filled to capacity. Wine glasses are not; they are designed to please your nose. There are all sorts of glasses, made for specific sort of wine. But a single multi purposes wine glass is all you need to enjoy everything from Prosecco to Port.


Stemware consists of three parts: the bowl, stem and base.
The height of the stem and the width of the base are part of the glass design (known as the architecture).
The specific stemware features finally – tuned glass bowls consisting of three variables: shape, size and rim diameter.

There are 4 sensations in wine

Bouquet: The layers of smells and aromas perceived in a wine.

Texture: a wine composition, that is determined by all wines’ component including water, alcohol, tannin, acid sugars, etc. It’s these components that give wine structure and texture, and it’s the way they make our mouths feel that we attempt to describe.

Flavour (or Body): The sense of alcohol in the wine and the sense of feeling in the mouth.

Finish: The sense and perception of the wine after swallowing.

Architecture of Stemware

Is determined by three parts: Bowl, Stem, Base. The design (architecture or construction) of a stemmed glass has to relate harmoniously in size, height and width. The size of the bowl has to correspond and synchronise with the height of the stem and the width with the base. The relationship of these measurements determines the seamless proportion of these three parts.

Wine glasses are designed to hold 120-160 ml (4-6oz) of wine. As a rule they should not be filled more than halfway, or above the widest portion of the bowl, to maximize the impact of the wine’s aroma. As a result, 220-280 ml (8-10 oz) glasses are ideal.

Bowl: Wine glasses should feature large bowls that narrow at the top to concentrate the wine’s aromas.

Stem: The stem of the wine glass serves as a handle, designed to keep your fingers off the bowl. Body heat is easily transferred, and wine’s flavour change greatly with even small shifts in temperature.

Base: you need to put your glass down comfortably.

Wine glasses are unusual in that their component parts are designed more for smelling rather than for drinking.

Choose the right size

White wines are often served in smaller glasses than reds because they smell milder. Their pleasing scent can seem weak when there is too much headspace (the part of wine glass that remains empty when filled with wine). Conversely, red wines can smell too strong in too small glasses, since they contain more aroma compounds. Therefore, when using one all purpose glass, compensate by filling it higher for whites and lover for reds.

Why decant wines?

How will decanting enhance wine experience?
Many premium wines that are designed to improve with age will benefit from being removed from their bottles before being served.

Gurasu Crystal Decanters Collection

There are two reasons for which we decant wines:

  1. Decant older wines to separate it from its sediment
  2. Decant younger wines to increase oxygenation, reveal more complexity, and open up aromas and flavours

To fully enjoy young wines (up to 10 years for white and red) consider opening them 8- 10 hours prior consumption for oxidization or decant the wines or decant the wines as this shortness the aeration process.

The main preserving element in wine is carbon dioxide, which becomes part of wine during the first fermentation
Decanting diminishes the amount of carbon dioxide and matures the wine , allowing the bouquet to develop faster.

On the palate, decanted wine expresses higher levels of fruit in red wines and tends to integrate and smooth out tannins.

When decanting young wines, turn the bottle upside down and let it splash into the decanter to allow effective oxygenation
When decanting off the sediment out of old wines, pour the wine slowly into the decanter to avoid any sediment entering the decanter

You can allow your guest do its own experiment. Pour the decanted wine into one glass and the un-decanted wine it to the same second glass. Allow your guest to draw her conclusion.

Read more of our insights on wine and wine glasses in: Confessions of a wine glass lover.

The three glasses for champagne

I firmly believe that glassware plays a big role in the experience of a drink. Many times I’ve been to a new restaurant – an exciting culinary concept or much talked about summer pop up – and ordered a drink that made my taste buds tingle in anticipation, only to find it served in a tumbler. Or a jam jar. As if it were marmalade.

When it comes to champagne, the glass is even more crucial, not just in terms of aesthetics but the effect on the wine too. It’s important to understand the different options, whether you’re a French champagne nut or exploring the exciting new breed of British sparkling wines like those from the Nyetimber estate in Sussex.

Of course, now that Wimbledon has arrived, there is even more cause to seek out the perfect glass from which to enjoy a crisp mouthful in the sunshine and, hopefully, toast another British victory. So, what are the options?

Birds of Paradise Crystal Champagne Flutes

Birds of Paradise Crystal Champagne Flutes, set of 6


Champagne flute

Tall and slim with a stem that can be medium length or long, the champagne flute has become an iconic piece of glassware for those who love their bubbles. If you prefer fizz served with full kick then this is the best glass from which to sip it.

The way the glass is designed means that the bubbles gather at the bottom and then swiftly rise up, producing a thoroughly pleasing up flow that hits the surface more quickly than champagne served in a wider glass.

More bubbles, and a faster flow, result in a quicker hit of aroma and taste. The lack of air entry at the rim means that the flavour doesn’t develop but this is only a problem if you’re drinking an older wine.

Champagne coupe

This is the ‘vintage’ style of champagne glass that has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. Although some believe the glass design was based on the shape of Marie Antoinette’s breast, the coupe was in fact in use well before that famously narcissistic queen appeared on the aristo scene.

The coupe was one of the first glasses – perhaps the first glass – to be created specifically for the consumption of champagne and we tend to associate the shape with dripping diamonds, Gatsby, Burlesque and the like. It’s worth bearing in mind that this type of glass will dissipate bubbles (and aromas) fast, as a result of the wide surface area of the liquid.

This allows the wine to develop but means it can seem flat rather quickly. It’s a good choice for those who don’t like to nurse a glass of bubbles but a bad choice for hosts with carpets, as spillage rates can be high.

Champagne tulip

Perhaps a compromise between the flute and the coupe, the tulip has an elegant shape with a longer stem than a coupe and a wider bowl than a flute. The result is that the bubbles are not lost, as they might be with a coupe, but their rising speed is slower than a flute.

A wider top rim means better aeration so the aroma and flavour can develop – plus, the tulip shape captures and keeps the aroma so that you get a delicious inhale with every sip. It may not have the glamour of the coupe or the high-octane image of the flute but the tulip is a well-designed piece of glassware for bubbles of any origin.

Read more about champagne or our blog:

Special and unique crystal glass is a gift to treasure for your dad.

A unique, handmade and luxurious crystal glass is a lifelong gift. It tells your dad that every time he pours himself a drink, whether it’s a fine whiskey or brandy, fills the carafe or serves his favourite chocolate brownies on his serving dish, that his kids thought enough of him to give him something beautiful and right up his taste.

Your Dad might be box-sized and shaped, he might fulfill the stereotype in everyone else’s eyes, but you know better. You know that he is as far from fitting into the box as you are. I would recommend buying him something which shows his individuality and we will pop it into a box for you! I selected for you our bestselling and favourite glasses of our clients as well as my favourite which are far from being ordinary crystal.

The studio Iskos & Berlin combined aesthetics of a traditional cut tumbler with a modernized twist resulting with the winning contemporary finish.

The bestselling design is from Bomma called Icebreaker.

Icebreaker whisky tumblers


Icebreaker whiskey tumblers by Iskos & Berlin

The second bestselling whiskey glass is called Twist. Representing a very modern look, these tumblers were designed to sit well in man’s hand.

Twist Whiskey Tumblers, set of 2

Twist Whiskey Tumblers, set of 2

Bubble brandy glasses can both serve brandy as well as red wine! For those who like simplistic and factional design they were made without a stem on purpose.

Aurora Crystal Brandy Set


Aurora Crystal Brandy Set

Further, the very unique whiskey glasses are from the pineapple collection in the striking black or smoke colour – always the winning glass for dads who are in favour of dramatic and striking looks.

Pineapple Black Double Old Fashioned, set of 2

Pineapple Black Double Old Fashioned, set of 2

Finally, the well balanced combination of modern and traditional look is presented by our luxurious diamante cut. Diamante whiskey glasses are perfect for a single old fashioned on ice or diluted with water.


Diamante Whiskey Tumblers, set of 2

Nevertheless, I will encourage you to go for a journey around our website and explore so many more designs our there. It’s worth to give your dad a gift of quality and timeless beauty.

A cocktail glass perfect for enjoying The Ascot Meeting 2015 in glamour

With racing season underway The Royal Meeting is the event under my investigation this week

Royal Ascot has it all! Having been the world’s most famous race meeting, it was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne. Although the traditional name is Royal Ascot you should really call it “The Royal Meeting”.

Ascot cocktail glass

A cocktail glass perfect for enjoying The Ascot Meeting 2015 in glamour 

One of the highlights of this truly unmissable royal race meeting is the Royal Procession with HM The Queen in an open carriage making its way from the Golden Gates along the racecourse and into the Parade Ring at 2.00pm each day.

It is a spectacular five-day celebration of horseracing, fashion, and all that is quintessentially British. I came across the article in Harper’s Bazaar which beautifully shows the ascot back in the 20th century.

While access to the Royal Enclosure is through a sponsorship from an existing badge holder, the Grandstand and Silver Ring will welcome you with open arms and multiple air kisses. You will watch the Royal Procession and the racing from your seat or the lawns; you’ll drink Pimms during a day and enjoy a glass of champagne or martini from a crystal cocktail glass later at a dinner.

Despite The Royal Meeting being the world’s top class racing, it is truly fashionable, stylish and fun event to attend.
So, how to dress in order to impress?

Even though your day-to-day style may be rebellious, the knee-length or longer apparel and a hat is the way to dress.
Trying too hard with your outfit is the ultimate sartorial sin. Avoid matching your hat, shoes and bag. Refrain from wearing a colour so bright that you’re unlikely to pass unnoticed. Polished and pretty is the look you’re after.
It’s a whole day event thus, the season’s hot block heel instead of high heels will help you enjoy a day in style.