Can crystal & glass be repaired? find out from a scientist!

Polishing a wine glass on a diamond lap

Glass is a magical substance formed out of sand and fire that has been molded to serve mankind in innumerable ways. Unique in its transparency, color, and sparkle, its brittleness nevertheless makes it very vulnerable to breakage.

Crystal can be damaged in numerous ways: it can be chipped, cracked, broken, scratched, and stained. Glued Swarovski crystal can come unglued and decanter stoppers can get stuck. Find out if crystal and glass can be repaired.

Waterford & other types of crystal can be repaired by grinding down chips, cleaning stains, polishing scratches, freeing stuck stoppers, & gluing broken stems.

This post summarizes the types of damage commonly befalling glass and links to posts explaining how to fix them.

Artistry in Glass is an Amazon Associate – we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Table of contents

What types of damage affect glass & crystal?

A valuable and delicate glass can remain pristine and in perfect shape for hundreds of years until mishandled by a careless custodian. The main categories of damage are those caused by physical impacts, thermal stress (heat), chemical attack (etching) scratching, and staining – summarized in the list below:

Take care of your valuable crystal & glassware

Before discussing the various types of damage it’s very important to learn the preventative measures necessary to avoid breakage. Follow this link for full care instructions or jump to this section for a summary:

Dings in paperweights and glass sculptures

Dings are an interesting category of damage where solid, heavy glass like a paperweight or sculpture is impacted by a hard object. Unlike a chip that happens in thin rims, a ding does not detach a chip of glass – rather it forms a crater-like area of damaged/crushed material.

Baccarat millefiori paperweight
“Ding” is caused by a paperweight hitting a hard object

Dings seriously diminish the value of antique paperweights. The damage is generally much deeper than it appears to be and polishing dings down will ruin the proportions of the paperweight. Moderate natural scratches on the base are regarded as normal wear and do not affect the value unduly.

Chips are the commonest form of damage in wine glasses

Can crystal & glass be repaired?

Few articles combine such intrinsic fragility with such a high rate of use and frequency of cleaning than stemmed wine glasses. Great care must be taken in washing (never use a dishwasher) and storage – pay special attention to the delicate rims to avoid chipping.

Chips are small fragments of glass that become detached, generally from the rims of glasses, bowls, or vases when these are impacted by hard objects. The sharper or finer the edge, the more easily it is chipped.

Inside chip on wine glass

The sharper edges of these glasses are on the inside

Outside chip on flared wine glasses

The sharper edges are on the outside

Chips in the rim of a cut crystal bowl

American cut crystal features jagged, “crenulated” edges. These are very vulnerable to chipping by careless handling over the years. They cannot be satisfactorily repaired – only smoothed to remove dangerous sharp edges.

Repairing chips – the bottom line

Chips in wine glasses cannot be removed by melting and they cannot be filled. So the only solution is to grind, smooth, and polish the glass. There are generally two options: one, for the do-it-yourselfer, is to smooth the sharpness of the chip to make the glass safe to use. The second, professional, way is to grind and polish the whole glass down until the chip disappears. Learn all about fixing chips in this comprehensive blog post.

Amateur method – smoothing a chip with a diamond file.

In the do-it-yourself method, note that the chip is not removed – it is just smoothed down to make the glass safe to use.

Note that an irony of the glass repair business is that cheap, thick, soda-lime glass is much harder and therefore harder to polish, than lead crystal.

Polishing a wine glass on a diamond lap
Professional method, grinding down a rim chip using a rotating diamond lap.

To entirely remove a chip, the whole rim must be ground down until the chip disappears. The repaired glass becomes slightly shorter. In order to grind away the entire rim grinding by hand is too time-consuming so a diamond disk on a rotating lap is necessary. Tucson customers: bring your crystal into Artistry in Glass for expert repair.

Carbide metal file with embedded diamonds

This handy fs both a flat and round side, so you can use it on whatever kind of area you need to smooth. Note that the file will smooth out a chip but leaves a frosted, not polished surface.

Some chips are too large to fix

If the chip is too large – as in the example below – the glass, unfortunately, becomes a write-off.

Chipped Baccarat crystal glass
Baccarat crystal whiskey glass with large chip

Even with the best UV adhesive, the lines will show when this chip is glued back, Notice that small chips are missing at the impact site and a second large chip (top right) is ready to detach.

The only possible way to rescue this glass is to grind it right down to below the damage – but the resulting glass will be too short to be much use for the serious drinker!

Cracks in glass & crystal

Cracks in crystal glasses, vases, and other vessels are the most difficult category of damage to fix.

Cracks extend down from chip in Waterford crystal glass
Above left – crack in a Waterford Lismore pattern wine glass. Right: cracks often extend down from chips in the rim.

Cracks in glassware and crystal are often found extending down from a chip in the rim. Cracks are generally too tight to allow gluing and can seldom be satisfactorily repaired. Attempting to grind the glass will make the crack “run”. and the only approach is to sandblast the glass down to below the crack creating a much shorter, novelty wine glass.

Types of cracks in float glass

Float glass (window or tabletop glass) also breaks under impact and heat stress but cannot normally be repaired (unless the crack is very small). Like a broken mirror, it is necessary to carefully remove the broken material and insert a new piece.

Impact crack caused by bullet
Pattern of concentric and radial cracks caused by the impact of a high-velocity projectile (bullet)
Thermal crack in glass is curvilinear
Cracks caused by thermal stress are curvilinear and form at 90 degrees to the glass surface.

Breaks in glass and crystal

A broken glass container, dish, bowl or vase is easier to fix than a cracked one – because adhesive can be applied to the broken parts.

Objects likely to break are fragile items like stemmed drinking glasses that are used and washed

Other delicate items are vulnerable to damage when moving – crystal chandeliers, curved glass cabinet doors.

Arabic perfume bottle
Arabic perfume bottle – before and after

Broken glass objects can be glued together

A skilled glass restorer can restore badly broken crystal and glassware by using their skill and experience to use the appropriate adhesive and manual skills. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!

Crystal chandelier

Murano crystal chandeliers are particularly vulnerable to breakage – especially when moving. Crystal pendants are available to replace broken ones but the S-shaped glass arms are very difficult to repair if they are broken.

Chandeliers are available on Amazon for very affordable prices. Use a crystal chandelier to make a luxurious statement over your dining table and learn how to place your dining-room mirror to the best effect.

Always pack chandeliers yourself when moving. If you lose the pendant, replacements can be ordered from Amazon BUT the S-shaped arms are hard to fix and replace.

Broken wineglass stems

Broken stems are notoriously difficult to fix because the gluing area of a thin stem is too small for a strong glue bond. Read this amazing post for all you need to know about fixing broken stems.

Follow this link to learn about the history and the functions of stems on wine glasses.

Holes or leaks in cut crystal

This very unusual type of defect occurs when crystal (for example the Waterford brand) is cut too deeply by the craftsman. This rare mistake occasionally sneaks past the quality control and results in a glass that will “dribble”.

Waterford Lismore Wine Glasses

Very occasionally, the cuts in this classic glass are made too deep by an overzealous glass cutter and the resulting small hole will produce a “dribble” the glass is filled with your favorite wine. There is no satisfactory repair – so return to Amazon!

Detached joins in Swarovski crystal

Swarovski crystal parrot becomes unglued

Glues joints eventually fail and Swarovski crystal figures come apart. These are tricky to position correctly so consult the professionals at Artistry in Glass for expert repair.

We also glue footed bowls and cake stands when the adhesive has failed.

Swarovski Crystal began using chandelier pendants to create simple figures. They of now expanded to a wonderful range of sparking and creative figures featuring animals and other objects. Always keep your figurines in a china cabinet and take great care when handling!

Barski – European crystal . Large centerpiece footed punch bowl – (12″ diameter).

Footed bowls and cake stands like these are made in two parts and the foot is glued to the bowl with a special glass adhesive. Take care when using and especially do not subject to thermal shock – ie do not dump out the ice cubes and immediately fill with hot water!

Stuck or broken stoppers

Decanter with stuck and broken stopper

A minor but very irritating problem with crystal containers is that the stoppers often get stuck in decanters and perfume bottles if they are not cleaned regularly.

Great skill and patience is necessary to release stuck stoppers without breaking them. We recommend that you leave this procedure to the professionals.

Always choose lead-free crystal for your decanters – especially if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Read this comprehensive post for all you need to know about the danger of lead in crystal.

Surface damage: stains and scratches

Because glass is transparent, the slightest surface defect shows up very clearly. Crystal and glass can be marred by various surface problems including hard-water deposits, phosphates from dish detergent, and organic stains from evaporated wine or flower water.

Watch this video for foolproof removal of cloudiness

Don’t waste your time with vinegar and toothpaste!

Removing stains & scratches on glass and crystal

There are two methods of repairing surface damage – chemical or mechanical

Chemical means dissolving with a solvent like vinegar and mechanical means polishing with an abrasive.

Stains and scratches in crystal
Cloudy stains and fine scratches in crystal glass

Lead-crystal double-old-fashioned glass with two types of surface defect. Clouding is caused by etching with phosphate chemical attack from dishwasher detergent. Secondary damage is fine scratches caused by abrasive “scotch-pad”.

Water spot remover is our recommendation for removing hard water stains from glassware, shower doors, or windows. Caution! This product is labeled for professional use and must be applied using gloves and a mask.

Polishing glass with cerium oxide

Surface deposits that cannot be dissolved, and also scratches, can be polished away using a paste of cerium oxide on a felt or foam wheel. Cerium can be obtained on Amazon by following this link.


Damaged crystal and glassware can often be repaired but is best left to experts. Tucson customers – consult the professionals at Artistry in Glass.

Summary of tips for care and cleaning of crystal

  • Remove rings & jewelry before washing crystal
  • Wash glasses in warm soapy water – never in the dishwasher
  • Hold crystal by the bowl – never the stem
  • Never pour very hot liquid into crystal
  • Check for water spots before storing your crystal
  • Remove water spots with a mixture of vinegar & water
  • Do not store crystal stemware resting on its rim
  • Never store one crystal glass inside another one
  • Change the water in a crystal flower vase daily
  • Wash out a wine decanter after use to avoid staining

Artistry in Glass is your source for antique repair in Tucson

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Glass tabletops & shelves – info from Artistry in Glass


I was an exploration geologist and University Professor working in Botswana, Zambia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Portugal, and other countries before opening Artistry in Glass in 1986. In my more than 35 years of experience, I have brought my technical abilities as a scientist to the trade of glasswork. During this time I have become an industry expert in glass and glass-related skills. Watch out for special insider tips developed from my detailed knowledge of the glass business.

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