Fear not, my fellow beaders. We are indeed able to get our Swarovski crystal and pearl fix even if we cannot use the name unless we sign an agreement with the company. There are strict rules for use of the Swarovski name.

This is the follow-up to my post Swarovski and Alternative Crystals Comparisons | Buying Swarovski Crystals in the Future | Brand Control Agreement.  Back then, I used just my iPhone to take pictures of the Swarovski and non-Swarovski crystals I had.  Not terribly great. But Karin Vail's (bkvail) microscopic pictures using a high powered microscope looking at just a few crystals was tantalizingly good.  

Crystal means cut glass. The quality of crystals is dependent on the quality of glass used and how many and how well faceted they are. Not everyone needs the Swarovski name. A good alternative supplier could also serve those who want crystals at a lower price point.  

Some of you thought that Fire Mountain Gems' Crystal Passions were Swarovskis in all but name. She graciously offered to take more pictures for a proper survey to find out.

So a couple of you as well as I, volunteered some crystals from a range of suppliers. Only clear crystals were used to make the comparison uniform and not hampered by coatings or colors.

I assembled and sent the package to her earlier this year.  Karin had to find time in her very busy schedule and only during her breaks to be able to use a high powered microscope at work. Fortunately, she was able to complete the survey on Swarovski, Crystal Passions, Preciosa, Celestial Crystals (also from Fire Mountain Gems) and 2 Chinese suppliers. Thank you, Karin and volunteers!

Her first impressions were that Crystal Passions were indeed Swarovskis. Both had 6 facets in the end views - count the scallops around the hole of the crystal end photos (click images to see larger ones). The cut holes were perfectly round the glass quality was generally clear.

When she took a look at the other crystals (pictures below), some of them showed an inferior quality. What was noteworthy was the number of facets used by non-Swarovski manufacturers - 8 rather than 6.  Increasing the number of facets (just as in diamond cutting) increases the light refractions. This is the strategy to make their crystals sparklier. 

Indeed, that strategy works well for the Chinese Brand 1 which I have (from a Toronto supplier) as they appear very sparkly indeed to the naked eye. But my friend, Sonya of Rocpoet, who supplied Brand 2, laments the lack of lustre from her crystals. That is evident from the poor faceting and really uneven holes.  

The glass quality was also lower for the non-Swarovski makes. In the side pictures, you can see little bubbles and imperfections - more than for Swaroskis and Crystal Passions. Chinese brand 2 was not quite a clear glass either. 

Karin also took some measurements in thousands of an inch. We had a small sample size of 5.  I averaged out the measurements and got the standard deviations - how much each crystal varied from the mean. 

As far as I can see, there wasn't much difference between the 4 mm Swarovskis and Crystal Passions which strongly suggests they are from the same manufacturer (in addition to the faceting etc). I also thought that 4 mm were harder to cut but I was wrong.  The 6 mm Crystal Passions standard deviations were smaller than the 4 mm. 

So go ahead and use Crystal Passions instead of the Swarvoski brand!

Fire Mountain Gems isn't the only alternative source. There are other Swarovski crystal suppliers using different names.  Some which did not make it to this survey include the following :

Crystals from DreamTime Creations. Another is Adabele.  Adabele actually sells crystals as Austrian crystals on Etsy (including larger quantities) as well as Swarvoski compatible crystal supplier on Amazon.  

Update : Sneaky Burrito just commented -
The Prestige crystals from Artbeads are definitely Swarovski too. When they released the new seasonal collection (for) all of these places (Fire Mountain, Dreamtime Creations, etc.) all had exactly the same new colors, sizes, and shapes.
One way of determining if you are buying Austrian (or other) crystals is to check the package. Many countries like the US and Canada require the country of origin to be on the packaging. 

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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM