Acrylic, Glass, and Crystal Awards - What's the Difference?

Published by Brianne Savage - July 05, 2018

At first glance it can be hard to tell the difference between acrylic, glass, and crystal awards. Each is transparent and appears clear, and each can be formed into intricate shapes and structures, but there are some marked differences between each material.


Acrylic is the lightest of all three materials, making it especially easy to pour and mould into different shapes. Glass is heavier than acrylic, but lighter than crystal which is the heaviest of all three materials. Weight is probably the biggest factor in pricing these awards because the lighter the product, the easier it is to work with and the cheaper it is to ship. 


Acrylic was created in the 1920s as a shatter proof alternative to glass following WWI and remains the most durable option. However, while acrylic is resistant to shattering or breaking, it is also prone to surface scratches. On the other hand, glass and crystal are less likely to scratch, but more likely to break or shatter on impact, and crystal is vulnerable to heat exposure.


The easiest way to tell the difference between acrylic, glass, and crystal awards is by how light interacts with them. While all three are transparent, meaning light passes through them giving them their clear appearance, upon closer inspection, light actually interacts with each material in very different ways. 

Acrylic only transmits 92% of visible light, so it appears a duller than glass and crystal.

Glass is smooth and has no grain boundaries, so 100% of visible light passes through, making it perfectly transparent. This is why glass is used for lenses and windows!

Crystal is named for its basic molecular structure which is composed of atoms organized in crystal lattices that extend outward in every direction. This structure creates grain boundaries throughout the material that reflect and refract light in incredible ways, creating the sparkling effect that makes crystal the most attractive material. 

When choosing between acrylic, glass, or crystal awards, weight, durability, and appearance are the three main factors to consider.

Acrylic is a lighter, cheaper, and more durable material making it ideal for large events with modest budgets, or for events where the recipients are children and are more likely to drop their awards.

Glass is still fairly light and can be as cost-effective as acrylic depending on the supplier and because it transmits more light than acrylic, will appear more brilliant and clear especially at an event where the award will be under a spotlight.

Crystal is the way to go if you are planning an event with a larger budget and are looking for a spectacular high-end product. Crystal awards are also popular for retirement and anniversary gifts.

Check out our online store where we have everything you need to make the right selection for your event and get your order started today!

1 Comment
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Nathan Jul 06, 2018 8:29 pm
Excellent...succinct and well written!