Chinese Crystal Beads

Dec 12, 2011
What do you think of the new Chinese crystal beads?

With the news about products coming out of China the last couple of years, I had serious doubts about the quality of the Chinese crystal beads that have been flooding the bead shops and shows. Sure, they look pretty, but what's the quality like? And what about the other issues regarding buying Chinese-made goods today?

During my recent bead buying trip to New York City, I stopped in at City Beads and purchased several strands of Chinese crystals to add to my collection. I'd already purchased a few strands from The Hole Bead Shop a few weeks earlier, and I was eager to see what the other shapes and colors were like.

The prices of the strands were considerably less than the per-piece price of the Swarovski beads and even less than the Czech crystal that I've sampled as well. The colors were deep and intense, almost to the point where they were overwhelming. You really had to lift each strand up to look at it on its own before making a buying decision.

The shapes of the Chinese crystal were the same as the Swarovski and the sizes the same as the Swarovski beads.

Maybe it was my imagination, but the Chinese beads felt lighter in my hand than the Swarovski. It could be because of the lead content - Swarovski crystal beads have a higher amount of lead in them than other types of crystal beads, which gives them that very distinct sparkle. And lead, as a chemical element, is heavy, thereby resulting in a heavier, denser bead.

I've started working up a few projects using these Chinese crystal beads, and so far, they work beautifully with the seed beads. I'm not certain about the durability of these Chinese crystal beads. I suspect that they may not wear as well as the genuine Swarovski crystal beads, or even as well as the Czech crystal beads, but only time will tell. For now, I'll stitch up a few more projects and wear them around to see how they fare.

Meanwhile, what are your thoughts about these Chinese crystal beads? Have you used them yet? What do you think about the quality of them? Do you have reservations about buying inexpensive products that were manufactured in China? Share your thoughts and ask your questions here!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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Comments

Tia Dalma wrote
on Dec 12, 2011 7:52 PM

I am always leery of buying products from China...I love to buy US made whenever possible, but of course I love the quality of Japanese, Czech Republic and Austrian beads and crystals. But Chinese made goods have such a bad reputation, and for good reason.

But I also gave in to my very restricted budget and bought some Chinese Crystal Rondelles on ebay. They are beautiful...very sparkly, nicely cut facets etc...The colors and the sparkle are very intense...but I wonder about the longvity as well!

But they were .99 cents for 30 9mm x 6mm Rondelles (with free shipping). So I bought about 7 or 8 different colors and used them in Cynthia Rutledge's Honeycomb Bangle.

Of course these bangles are less than a year old and not being worn every day so it's still too early to tell how well they will hold up!

I do wonder how they get them quite so sparkly with the lower lead content though. They must use some kind of finish on them to get the color and the sparkle, especially the metallic colors!

So I wonder if the finish on them is safe to wear against the skin...these are the things that worry me about Chinese made products...they have been known to make and sell many products that were later found to contain very dangerous materials...and not just to the rest of the world but to their own people as well!

I am hoping this is not the case...and we will have to wait and see how well the finish holds up on them as time goes on...But all the things I have made with them were given to people who understand that it's a product in the testing phase! Hopefully they do retain their beautiful sparkle though!

But they will never replace Swarovski for me...their sizes and shapes are still quite limited...you can't get 2mm and 3 mm rounds and bicones yet and I use those more than any other crystal. But I will probably still use some of the 4mm bicones and the Rondelles unless of course they don't hold up well in the long run!

jayparam wrote
on Dec 17, 2011 7:20 AM

Chinese crystals are great for trying out new designs especially if some of creations are going to join your abandoned or orphaned pile. If I love what I made, I remake with Austrian crystals.I have tested them in water and the colors don't bleed. What is annoying is that the beads in a strand are uneven in smaller sizes. The holes are off-center in rondelles and squares and the top-drilled beads hang lop-sided!

on Dec 17, 2011 8:57 AM

I have used some Chinese crystals to make a design which I had already made with Swarovski crystals. In comparison, the Swarovski crystal bracelet still looked and felt nicer, maybe it is the weight of the Swarovski crystals.

So, for quality, I prefer Swarovski crystals. I just have to budget for them.

on Dec 17, 2011 11:55 AM

In general, I prefer to not buy from China where ever possible.

bwaldrep wrote
on Dec 17, 2011 12:04 PM

I have purchased Chinese crystals as well as Swarovski and Czech.  Perhaps I'm being a bead "snob" but the feel of the Chinese, while economical, is light and just doesn't feel like the quality of the others.  Even the shine is not the same to me.

Silverlox wrote
on Dec 17, 2011 2:35 PM

For me, a hobbyist, price matters a lot. I also distinguish between "real jewellery" and costume jewellery. For costume jewellery, made with plated craft wire, I'd never use Swarovski crystals, they're simply too expensive. It also seems somewhat sacrilegious to use such super crystals with wire that has a non-lasting surface.

The "chinovskis", like Czech glass, are a perfect match for plated wire, both price-wise and regarding longevity. In costume jewellery, which is supposed to be pretty, but not everlasting, I don't want to use precious stones or fine crystals if I'm using plated metal spacers and findings.

When using Swarovskis, cubic zirconias and expensive stones, I want to make real jewellery, pairing them with sterling or gold filled. So all parts of the piece last equally long.

Since my hobbyist budget allows for a lot more costume jewellery than fine jewellery, my stash of chinovskis is quite large, just like I have more plated than sterling or fine silver wire. Both types give good value for little money.

Also, considering the price, you really cannot expect the same longevity as with more expensive materials.

It goes without saying that nobody wants to be poisoned or otherwise harmed by their jewellery. For that I have a very simply rule, - If in doubt, never wear it against the skin for long periods. Instead, use it for long necklaces worn with turtleneck sweaters, on shirts, etc, always having a layer of clothing under the questionable items.

This applies not only for chinovskis, but also for plated metals and Czech beads with fancy coatings.

Not only does it protect your skin, it also makes the platings/coatings last a lot longer when they aren't exposed to skin chemistry.

on Dec 17, 2011 11:08 PM

I am another person who does not like to buy any products made in China.  There is just too much question about their practices and policies.  This applies to clothing, food, and even food for my pets. When I was at my vet's office a few weeks ago, he warned me about some dog treats from China were causing illness in dogs and this was not the first time this year the same thing had happened. I know this is a beading blog, but you really have to be careful about the food you consume - it may say "made for and distributed by" (American company) but many times in an unobtrusive spot on the package there is the statement "Made in China".

lesbro wrote
on Dec 18, 2011 4:32 AM

I am in England and have bought some of these beads direct from China. They have been described as being Swarovski, but I have my doubts. They take 3-4 weeks to arrive but as they don't charge for postage and are so cheap I really think you get what you pay for. Unless you are really wanting the name why not use them.

TimothyT wrote
on Dec 18, 2011 9:52 AM

I work and teach in a bead shop in North Carolina and the shop carries a lot of the chinese crystal strands. The colors and finishes are fantastic as well as the shapes and sizes. I have made many jewelry  samples  for the store and have sold several. I have found the finishes to be very durable and long lasting. The colors are very rich and vibrant and many have a beautiful two tone jewel finishes.

Cost is also a factor . Is the chinese crystal cost loss, but that does not mean the quality is cheap also. Ever go to a bead show and get a great low cast deal on Czech or Austrian cyrstal, guess what folks you more than likely bought Chinese

crystal. For the beaders on a budget, why not use the chinese crystal. I recently taught a bracelet class and I needed 164 4 mm crystals at cost its was $25. Why not spend the same $25 and get 5 to 7 strands of the chinese crystal to add to or start your stash. There are many "bead snobs" that came into the shop and buy a lot of the chinese crystal because the colors and finishes are fantastic and the price is right also.

Anna_Gray wrote
on Dec 18, 2011 5:45 PM

I love to experiment. So, I experimented with Chinese crystal beads as well. BTW, by Chinese crystal you don't mean Celestial Crystal beads, do you? Because these are different.

My observations so far: they're less stable than higher quality beads. Some have tiny air bubbles in them. When used in wire-work, bead can get cut in half by harder wires (like steel) if wrapped too tightly. This has never happened with Swarovski of Czech beads. Next, bead holes are less consistent is size. Third, any metal/AB finish is very easy to scratch (even beading wire can scratch it) and wears off very quickly.

So, my conclusion - good for mass-produced cheapos, the type you would put on consignment in a store like Walmart. Never to be used in statement pieces.

crystalgirl wrote
on Dec 18, 2011 8:12 PM

I've bought quite a few strands of the new Chinese crystal beads and so far I haven't found anything to discredit them.  I wondered about their ability to stand up to strong sunlight for long periods of time, so I hung some in a window that gets strong light all day long.  It's a trial, having to have those beautiful beads glinting and shining in that window, but I'll do anything to help my fellow beaders!  I don't see any changes, but maybe I'll let them hang there for a while longer......

I've used them in quite a few projects and I have to say that some of the colors are more intense and the crystal "shine" is better than, or equal to, my Swarovski beads.  I've been a true-blue Swarovski fan, but my budget is taking a beating so I have to either cut down on the beads I buy, or buy less expensive beads.

I have had a problem with purchasing Chinese products for the past 40 years due to their human rights policies.  I believe that their government is making some improvements in this area, and if, by trading goods we can incourage this change then it can be a good practice to include them in world commerce - after all, everyone deserves a chance to feed themselves and their loved ones.

Kathleenmary wrote
on Jan 13, 2012 5:35 AM

I've bought some but don't like them. I Live in Washington state and have two giant names of beading nearby ... Shipwreck and Firemountain. I bought mine from firemountain. They just don't have the fire of even the Czech. I buy crystal because I want light - I want light to reflect, refract and dance.

And there is something about the weight. I felt it too. My favorite since I was nearly a child was always Swarovski and will continue to be so.

And there is the issue about China. China mistreats its citizens. It makes second quality just about everything. It floods the market with hand made junk and makes selling crafts locally difficult. I buy from China reluctantly whether its a new mop or a string of beads. (awfully hard not to by Chinese made!)

on Feb 4, 2012 2:54 PM

I'm not fond of the Chinese crystal beads, or any of the beads I've received from China so far.  They are often rather fragile, shattering with little provocation, and that's not something I want in a beaded project I share with friends or family. For what amounts to a small difference in cost per bead or per project, I'll go with the Czech crystals any day.  When I want maximum sparkle and I don't mind paying for it, then I go with Swarovskis.

on Jan 22, 2013 2:16 PM

Where Can I find Chinese Crystal Beads? I love to find new places to shop. Can anyone help me out on this one please?

krisclark3 wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 9:20 PM

No, the Chinese crystal are not the quality of higher priced ones, but there is also a range of Chinese crystal.  I have seen some that is just cheap and tacky looking, other that is very nice looking.  The holes are not as centered, etc. as mentioned by others, but for many uses they are great.  

frog71 wrote
on Apr 13, 2013 12:17 PM

I've found the Lima Beads Chinese crystals to be quite nice.  According to their website they work closely with the factory to ensure quality.

sarah451 wrote
on Jun 9, 2013 8:56 PM

I won't say that I have no Chinese-made beads in my stash, but I do my best to avoid buying them. After all the publicity regarding dangerous heavy metals in children's toys and pet products, I just don't trust the Chinese manufacturers. They have a different point of view from Western culture.

I worked for an engineering firm that had some Chinese customers who came to our offices to help work on a long-term project. They were around for several months. Not terribly long after they arrived, we were instructed to never leave any documents or floppy disks on our desks. Why? Because the Chinese customers were picking up things randomly — things that had nothing to do with their project, mind you, and including things like the installation disks from Microsoft Office — and just making copies of them. In our eyes it would be plain theft. From their point of view, apparently, they have no respect for the concept of intellectual property.

I can't say if the finishes will come off, if there are dangerous heavy metals other than lead in the crystals, or if the working conditions are making the Chinese workers ill. I just know that I don't trust Chinese-made goods any more.