Thursday, November 3, 2016

‘Crystal,' Lucite, Acrylic Souvenir Buildings

Building Collector reader, Ian G., wondered about buildings he sees these days that sellers claim are made of ‘crystal.’  To call clear synthetic plastic “Crystal” is not correct because it is not a type of fine glass. There is a difference between glass and crystal and most clear massed produced building replicas are neither. Glass crystal has a lead content of at least 24 percent whereas glass has no lead.  "When most people talk about bringing out the "crystal," they are often referring to a type of glass that is made from silica, lead oxide, soda or potash, and other additives. Lead crystal is prized for its durability and decorative properties, even if it does not necessarily possess a crystalline structure. It is referred to as crystal because, years ago, the Italian term "cristallo" was used to refer to Murano glass imitations. Lead crystal is the type that is most commonly used for wine glasses and other decorative ornaments around the home.”  Lucite, acrylic, and Plexiglas are transparent thermoplastic developed in 1928 and brought to market in 1933 as a substitute for glass. My guess is manufactures of these products are trying to add some cachet to them with the crystal name. They may be crystal clear, but that’s as far as the title goes in my opinion. Most seem to be made as awards or commemorative items. Sometimes manufactures add sheet metal (usually gold colored) to the clear plastic sides of a building to add detail. Other building replicas may be plates of beveled and etched glass glued together. If your looking for real glass, Swarovski Crystal makes an expensive replica of the Burj Al Arab.  Included here are some photos of so-called “crystal’ buildings being produced today. Have you seen others? What do you think of these building models and do you collect them?  I wrote previously about miniature buildings encased in lucite or acrylic in 2008 and again in 2014.

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