Sunday, August 16, 2009

Glamorous Glitz: Crystal Rhinestone Jewelry

With the Fall Holiday season just around the corner, it’s time to check out the glitz! If you have diamonds, wear them. If you don’t, then crystal rhinestone jewelry fits the bill.rhinestone
NOUN: an imitation diamond used in costume jewelry and to decorate clothes.
ORIGIN: late-19th century, translating French caillou du Rhin, literally pebble of the Rhine.
The history of this queen of all faux diamond-like stones seems a bit murky, considering the brilliance of jewelry grade crystal rhinestones. Somewhere back in time, rock crystals found in the Rhine River were harvested to create usable and decorative objects and as the base for blown glass from Bohemia and Austria. Around 1775, an Alsatian jeweler, Georg Friedrich Strass, came up with a method of coating the underside of faceted glass with metal powder to imitate diamonds. Ahhh … the beginning of glitz!In Victorian times, a common alternative method of making rhinestones involved a ground glass paste that was molded, cut and polished. When a reflective material was added to the back of the stone, it shone like a diamond – almost. Thus, many Victorian rhinestones are referred to as paste.

For higher quality stones, Strass’ methods were time consuming and required special expertise to achieve satisfactory results. Along came Daniel Swarovski, who in 1891 invented a machine to automate the cutting of glass with facets and the jewelry world would never be the same. High quality crystal rhinestones have been readily available ever since.Today the vast majority of rhinestones are crystal stones from Swarovski. But there are still many made of glass and acrylic available to jewelers and crafters.Rhinestones, or paste, were used in much of the Victorian era jewelry, often in rolled gold, or gold-filled, settings. In the Roaring Twenties, the Art Deco rage just screamed for the dazzling brilliance of rhinestones. By the middle of the 1900s, high fashion costume jewelers, like Eisenberg, Weiss and Trifari, used Swarovski crystal rhinestones to create brilliant over the top designs. At the same time, many producers of more casual, everyday jewelry – Coro, Sarah Coventry and Emmons come to mind – were making glitz for the masses using a large variety of glitzy rhinestones.Celebrities found that, while diamonds were best, rhinestones were preferred when decorating a piano like Liberace, a jumpsuit like Elvis, a cowboy jacket like Glen Campbell or a single glove like Michael Jackson.Rhinestones come in virtually every color imaginable. For this gallery I have kept to the clear crystal variety. Most of these are available in our shop, some are listed online. Click on the photo to see more information about the ones that are available online.

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