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Crystal stemware includes fancy glasses such as wine glasses, water goblets and champagne flutes. This type of stemware is often used for special occasions such as holidays and family gatherings. When buying crystal stemware, you should consider appearance, style and function.
Function is important. Consider the types of drinks you want to serve. Water goblets are of course for drinking water, but will you also serve red wine, white wine, or both? Red wine glasses are larger than white wine glasses and often have a large, open bowl. White wine glasses are usually narrower than red wine glasses. If you will be serving champagne, crystal flutes are a must. Champagne flutes are very tall and narrow with long, graceful stems.
When buying crystal stemware, you should also consider how the glasses fit in the hand — both in a man's and a woman's hand. You may like very thin, elegant crystal stemware, but be sure it is not too delicate for use. A great idea when buying crystal stemware is to look at the types of glasses you need, concentrate on the ones that function well in your price range, and then choose your style.
Consider your china pattern when you choose the look of your crystal stemware. Elaborate, cut crystal glasses may be better with more understated, elegant china than with a busy pattern. Together, there may be too much design going on at once with both detailed dishes and detailed crystal stemware. Some people prefer both the crystal stemware and fine china to be quite understated, especially if they want to change the patterns and colors of their table linens often.
When buying crystal stemware, you should hold it up to the light to check its brightness. Crystal is much stronger, clearer and brighter than glass. Red lead oxide is added to crystal to make it not only clearer and stronger than glass, but also more durable. Since crystal is also softer than glass, it is also more conducive to detailed cutting work designs.
Some crystal stemware manufacturers have a policy to never discontinue a pattern. This is a good idea if ever a piece gets broken. Also, if you hand your crystal stemware down to the next generation, these family members will also be able to replace any broken pieces as long as the company is still in business.
About three years after I married, the Oneida Company discontinued my crystal pattern. It was King Edward -- one of the oldest patterns in their catalog, and one that had been around since the thirties. I was upset.
I'd say one thing to consider is to think about whether the pattern is apt to be discontinued, and if it happens, whether a current pattern would mix and match nicely with your original pattern.
Sometimes, your best bet is just to go with plain, open stock crystal that can be replaced easily and inexpensively, and that won't be discontinued at some point.