Rhinestones: Everything You Need to Know
Dec 18, 2013 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then rhinestones are the pal that always has her back! These sparkling lovelies can trace their history to the late 19th century in the Czech Republic, but the actual name comes from the Austrian Rhine River.
The Life Cycle of Rhinestones
Rhinestones are man-made gemstones. The process of making them goes as follows: the first step is to create the desired color by combining refined glass with different metals; next, the mixture gets pressed into molds; once the mold is ready, the gemstones get removed, ground, and polished. Typically an opaque coating is applied to the back side of the stone. (This process is also known as “foiled”) This application has two benefits: better reflectivity (more shine) and a surface for gluing the stone into place. Lastly, the rhinestone is set into a brooch, earrings, or necklace and it gets ready to embark on new adventures!
- To European vintage enthusiasts, rhinestones are often times referred to as paste, strass, or diamente.
- In 1891 Daniel Swarovski (yes that Swarovski) set hearts ablaze with a new machine that could cut the glass into facets. This ushered in a new era of automation for the entire industry. To this day Swarovski rhinestones are rarely beat in terms of quality and shimmer!
- In 1955 Swarovski was back at it again by inventing Aurora Borealis – a special coating technique that creates an exceptionally dazzling stone.
- The popular song “Rhinestone Cowboy” was written by Glen Campbell in 1975. It went on to inspire the 1984 film Rhinestone which starred Sylvester Stallone and the spunky Dolly Parton.
- The fashion designer and tailor Nudie Cohn shot to celebrity status in the 1940s with stunning rhinestone suit creations. To this day, rhinestones are often substituted for sequins.
An Illustrated Guide to Common Rhinestone Shapes
This is one that gives its form away by name, think of a loaf of bread: narrow and rectangular. A variation of this cut is also popular. Known as the tapered baguette, it is like a standard baguette cut – except it is wider at one end than the other. Both of these traditional cuts will look lovely in any setting and its geometry is most appetizing to any collector!
This cut has eight facets on both the top and bottom of the stone. The top will be flat (known as the table) while the bottom comes to a point (known as the cutlet). This is one of the easier settings to find in vintage jewelry. Its classic shine and dazzle brings joy to any accessory.
Emerald Cut (also Square Octagon Cut)
A square-cut stone; the edges are faceted.
Flat-back Rhinestone (also Round Cut)
Characterized by a flat back and a faceted top. You’ll notice that it’s similar to the Chaton cut, so this one will take a bit of practice to identify. Best to consult a trusted jeweler or vintage shop owner as you develop your detection skills!
Marquis, Oval, or Navette
An oval shape. You’ll see a point on each side and the top will be flat.
Another food-related name, is it just us or is there a tasty theme to uncover? Let your instincts guide you again, as it looks how it sounds: a tear drop or pear shape.
This is a triangular-cut faceted stone and its geometry makes it easy to spot. Slight variations on this cut are sometimes referred to as a trillion or trilliant cut.
Typical Rhinestone Settings
A very labor-intensive approach, a continuous metal band holds the outside edges of the stone. (Look specifically at the purple stone in the illustration). Prepare to impress your friends with this bonus knowledge: the large, central stone is a cabochon cut!
This technique is easy to remember; the stones are placed in a metal channel. A narrow rim on the channel’s edge keeps everything in place. You won’t see metal between the stones when this setting is used.
As the name suggests, this setting is employed when an artist or technician personally adheres each stone.
Hand Set with Metal Prongs
Once the stones are in place, metal prongs help secure the stones. (This is the technique pictured in the accompanying photo)
Think of this as a chance for all the rhinestones to mingle! In this instance the stones are arranged close together and you won’t see the metal surface that they were affixed to.
Cause A Frockus would like to thank our tremendous resources: Wikipedia, YouTube, Vintage Jewelry: A Price and Identification Guide by Leigh Leshner, and the wonderful people who put their images on Wikipedia Commons without restriction.
For our readers:
Have a favorite piece of rhinestone jewelry? Share a pic with us…
What do you love about collecting jewelry? Tell us what you think!
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I really like how the metal band holds all of the other stones in a beautiful display in the bezel set. I’ve never really considered rhinestones for jewelry but it makes a lot of sense that they could be used for more than just embroidery and that kind of thing. My mom’s birthday is coming up soon so maybe I’ll have to look at this as a nice alternative to more expensive kinds of jewelry.
It’s interesting to know that rhinestones are man-made gemstones so I might buy a hotfix version to apply it onto my dress project. I think a flatback rhinestone would look beautiful on that white dress I have. Since I’m going for a hand set look, it might take some time to finish but I think the result will be great.
It’s good to know that foiled rhinestones have better reflectivity than regular ones. My daughter want to get some really shiny and reflective rhinestones to put on her hair clips, and these foiled ones might be just what she’s looking for. I’ll pass this information along to her so that she can look further into her options for rhinestones.