Uncollecting: What to do with old leaded crystal

karinlDecember 27, 2009

There seems to be a surfeit of leaded crystal out there. I have some glasses and don't know what to do with them.

Can someone help me to make a decision about what to do with the box of crystal glasses sitting by my front door?

I can't bring myself to use them anymore because of the lead content (though we do still seem to have our faculties).

Giving them away seems unethical in case someone else uses them. Throwing them away seems insane. Keeping them is a bit burdensome, even for a keeper like me, since crystal isn't really our taste and I'm not swimming in space, and selling them unlikely as they are a bit cloudy, SOMEONE having put them in the dishwasher, plus the ethics thing. Is anyone doing anything with leaded crystal besides using it to collect dust? I can't even think of a way to make garden ornaments out of them!

I have some crystal bowls and vases and can be rational about them, but the glasses have me stumped. Can the leaded glass even be recycled? If so, I suppose I could just put them in the blue box.


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Everything I've read indicates you can use your lead crystal stemware as the amount of lead that could possibly leach into your beverage would not exceed the allowable amount. You just can't store liquids in lead crystal containers, such as alcoholic beverages or jams and jellies. You can still use them during parties or dinners but any leftover amounts need to be returned to their original containers when the party or meal is over.

Regardless, it's a shame not to enjoy such beautiful and sometimes heirloom items. If you still want to get rid of what you have then sell it, but you might want to give the new owner written instructions on what to do or not do with it.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 8:33AM
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How do you know they are lead crystal? Lead crystal is usually very expensive, and quite fragile....and not given to clouding in the dishwasher.
All this "talk" about the ethics of not giving away lead crystal because you are afraid someone will poison themselves is nonsense.....would you not give away a copper vessel of some sort because you are afraid they might get a harmful dose of copper, or not giving someone a raw chicken because you are afraid they won't cook it properly and get salmonella.
If you aren't using a lead crystal pitcher to store your orange juice on a daily basis, you have absolutely nothing to fear....unless you pour a glass of red wine every evening at 6 and sip on it all evening.
Get them out of that box and put them back on your shelves, or sell them on EBay. Believe me the market for Waterford or other Irish crystal and Baccarat, Orrefors and Reidel is very big.
Linda C

Here is a link that might be useful: Lead contamilation sources

    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 2:02PM
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Lead crystal glasses aren't going to poison you, honest. And the cloudiness will probably go away if you wash them with Glisten or Tang, unless they're completely etched.


    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 2:07PM
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Well thanks for the reassurances about using them. My husband wants to use the water glasses at least, and I have been concerned. There is no decanter involved, so certainly no storage of beverages. The water glasses are pretty but the wine glasses, small and large, are square-bottomed, not such a nice shape that I'm that keen to keep them, but I'll have another look. I'm pretty sure they are leaded, though not the best stuff; it was a department store purchase nearly 30 years ago (these were wedding gifts - and we're still on the same marriage).

I hadn't heard of ways to address the cloudiness either, so thanks for helping to restore my equilibrium all around!


    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 2:24PM
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Do they ring like a bell when flicked with a fingernail?
if not, they are not lead crystal..
By the way..."leaded glass" refers to glass that is cut into sections and the sections joined with lead cames....like stained glass. The glass that contains lead is called lead glass, or flint glass.
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 2:33PM
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Fori is not pleased

If you don't like some of them, donate them to a charity that does resale and don't worry. Use the ones you like, and still don't worry. It is awfully nice that you're thinking about the recipients, but you may put your conscience at ease. =)

You might not be able to fix the cloudy ones...but maybe!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 2:44PM
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Gee, I never noticed before that I can make them ring like a bell :-) Point taken about the wording, Linda. And thanks Fori, that does pretty much capture what I needed to hear.

Since it's never really complete without a picture, here are some. There is some cloudiness on this water glass, though this isn't the worst one.


    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 3:50PM
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Fori is not pleased

Those do have a retro and beefy profile! Probably not what I'd pick out either, but there's a lot to be said for something sturdy when guests get tipsy!

They do not look at all cheap. Don't trash those things!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 5:03PM
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They are cut...most certainly lead crystal...likely Irish....and perhaps Waterford!
You really have no idea what you have!!
They are lovely....and likely would cost about $45 to $60 a stem to buy today.
AND they were a wedding gift!
Don't get rid of them unless you get a very good price.
Have you looked for a mark on the bottom? Do you know what the Waterford mark looks like?...Sometimes hard to see.
If you are dumping them, send them to me...I will pay shipping and guarantee not to serve any babies orange juice in them!!
Linda c

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 9:10PM
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Well Linda, I think you've talked them back into my china cabinet... now if only I had a proper china cabinet :-) I find it difficult to believe they are Waterford, since their shape is just not as pleasing as most Waterford I can find in pictures which is notable for its grace of form. Of course, it was the 80s (1982), when design in almost all fields had hit a significant low point! I actually think I retain some memory of them being Polish, and I can't for the life of me find a mark on them.

But I do find it hard to part with them in part because I have a lot of affection for the aunt who gave them to me.

You've certainly all helped to talk me out of being afraid of them - and I went web searching on the topic and encountered the point, which rather hit home, that if one lives in an old house with lead paint, the crystal is pretty benign in comparison. So perhaps I will dare to use them to toast the new year...

On which note I'll wish you all a happy slide (as we say in German) into 2010! Thanks for all the help with this.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 11:49AM
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I think the form is lovely. You may prefer the balloon shape but that squared botton is very nice ands till offered in several patterns.
The glass without a stem is for drinks...cocktails like a CC and soda or Scotch and water. The taller stemmed goblet is the water glass and the smaller the wine of course. I'll bet they set a beautiful table.
Look on the bottom in a good light. Look for an almost invisible etched mark of some sort.
They weren't cheap when new....even if they are Polish and not Irish. Enjoy them!
Linda c

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 12:39PM
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Fori is not pleased

I have some Waterford tumblers from that era, maybe a few from the 70s (it was one of those things where my mom would buy my grandmother a glass each year for Christmas so they span a few years). Sure, you don't get a great variation in shapes on tumblers, but your glasses would look just fine with them!

My father-in-law drinks quite a bit and won't drink wine from a wine glass because he's afraid he'll break it. I bet he'd drink from your glasses if you didn't tell him they were GOOD glasses. And you know a loose elbow won't knock them over which can be nice on a busy holiday table.

What about using them for desserts (don't kill me Linda! hehe). I could see a very nice parfait or mousse kind of thing in the larger goblet. I'd be tempted to give the guests plastic spoons, but at least you'd be using them.

Mine are in a box.

Happy New Year, and enjoy your glasses. They'll work their way into your heart with their quirky boxiness and you'll be wondering why you ever used those flimsy glasses.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 12:50PM
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I like those--the sort of pinwheel or thistle cutting is nice. I used mine for mousse just this Christmas. Take a gander around Replacements, and see if you can find the maker.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 1:58PM
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Darn I was hoping I would be able to talk you into sending them to me LOL We use lead crystal all the time (we don't suck on it and don't store anything long term).

I love finding stuff like that at the goodwill that someone just "got rid of". I picked up two gorgeous bowls just last week for 4.99 total :)

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 3:40PM
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Lindac is an enabler. I'm just sayin'...... ;-)

    Bookmark   December 30, 2009 at 12:45PM
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For goodness sakes, I have five tumblers that look just like yours! I also have a matchingwater pitcher, but no wine glasses. Mine were a wedding gift to my in-laws in 1935.

No identifying marks that I can see on mine. They have been well-used over the years, and we still use them very often.

This is the second time I've had something similar to the item originally posted! Small world.


    Bookmark   December 30, 2009 at 3:49PM
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Enabling, shopping, selling, or what have you... sometimes it's best not to enquire too deeply into what motivates responders to be in forums, including me when I'm on the other side of a question :-)

Given that a lot of people do post links for stuff they sell and get away without being called on it (CPAP thread and make-up organizer thread on the organizing forum come to mind), Dean's is one of the less annoying sell jobs I've seen around the forums because he's also made an effort to provide a relatively informed opinion specific to the thread(s). And on some other forums, like landscaping and decorating, professionals in those fields regularly make great contributions to discussions and although they refrain from direct selling, they may still benefit from that - many people either know who they are or can find out through email if they need to.

In this case I do appreciate the addition of the word "bohemian" as that may have been what I was groping for in my memory when I came up with Polish, and it actually makes sense that that is what my aunt would preferentially buy when shopping for quality crystal, as she grew up in Germany. Perhaps the origin of Sherrmann's glasses would help, if s/he knows?

So much as I hate to deprive Goodwill/Value Village shoppers, I'm really quite happy to have them talked back into my house for sentimental reasons. I'm happy to feel OK about actually using them, and you've all also allowed me to see them with a new appreciation. Besides being able to see them through the eyes of aficionados and to connect to the long tradition of crystal (I'm usually more of a hand-made pottery girl), it's true that solid, stable-looking glassware has its advantages... and if I get tired of them again, I've learned that I can enjoy the sound!

Now I'll have to look into finding something to alleviate the cloudiness of the (now I know what to call them) cocktail glasses.

Thank you again all around.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 1:43PM
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If the glass is actually etched, there is nothing you can do short of having them polished.
But if it's mineral deposits something like Glass Magic ay remove the clouding.
But whatever, when filled with ice or a liquid, the clouding is unoticable.
Also know that there is lots of "wheel cut lead crystal" out there that is partially molded and only cut on parts of the design. Lots of it was made in Czechoslovakia and Bohemian regions and paper labeled with the country of origin and the 24% Pb label.
Only your fingers will tell if your glasses are fully cut or the latter.
And I take issue with the statement that hand cutting is too time consuming to be done by Waterford or any other "mass produced glassware".

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 4:54PM
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Just to add my two cents worth: I was in a consignment shop today and saw the almost-identical glasses at $10 a stem. I thought of you when I saw them!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 9:12PM
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