Learn about Vintage Rhinestones
There are so many types of rhinestones used in vintage jewelry. If you are new to vintage jewelry, or jewelry in general, it can be confusing to learn about the different types of stones. This article covers the basics, to help you identify the most common types of vintage rhinestones. You’ll feel like an expert in no time!
What are Rhinestones?
Originally, the term “rhinestone” described rock crystals found in the river Rhine, which flows from the Swiss Alps through Germany and France, and empties into the Netherlands. In the 18th century, rhinestones became more abundant when jeweler Georg Friedrich Strass tried coating the bottom of glass stones with metal powder. This gave the glass a sparkle that simulated diamonds. In many European countries, rhinestones are called “strass.”
Many variations and improvements have occurred over the years, and today rhinestones can be made from crystals, glass, or acrylic. The bottoms of the stones are usually coated with a thin layer of gold or silver colored “foil” which gives the stones a nice sparkle.
Vintage Rhinestones Shapes
The most common rhinestone shape is the “chaton,” which is round. Another popular shape is the “marquise,” which is a diamond shape. Very narrow diamond shaped rhinestones are called “navettes.” Rhinestones can also be oval, teardrop, square, or rectangular. Long rectangular stones are called “baguettes.” Specialty rhinestones come in a variety of shapes, such as hearts and flowers. The flower shaped “margarita” rhinestones can be found on many vintage pieces.
This chart shows photos of the most common shapes for vintage rhinestones.
Most vintage rhinestones are faceted on the sides to create a nice sparkle, and have a flat table-style top and a pointed back. Rivoli rhinestones, however, are inverted, with the pointed end at the top. Flat back rhinestones are used mostly for rhinestones that are glued to clothing. The flat surface helps the stones adhere to the fabric.
Vintage Rhinestone Sizes
Rhinestones are sized using three different measurement systems used to size rhinestones, which can make things a little confusing. They are ss (stone size), mm (millimeter), and pp (pearl plate). Pearl plate refers to a plate or card with holes in ascending sizes used to measure pearls and rhinestones. You just drop the stone into the hole that fits to determine its size.
The most common measurement is millimeter. Sites that sell rhinestones will often indicate the sizes in more than one measurement. This can be helpful if you need to replace a vintage rhinestone in a favorite piece. Many sites have a helpful rhinestone size chart that you can print out, like the one shown here from M&J Trimming.
You can download this chart from the M&J Trimming web site using the following link: M&J Trimming Rhinestone Size Chart
Treatments for Vintage Rhinestones
As mentioned earlier, rhinestones are generally “foiled,” which means they have a silver or gold metallic coating on the bottom to give the stones extra sparkle and shine. In 1955 Swarovski created the Aurora Borealis finish, a coating for the tops of stones to give them a rainbow quality similar to the Northern Lights, hence the name “Aurora Borealis.”
I’m planning a future article about the Swarovski company, which has an interesting history. Make sure you don’t miss it – use the signup form at the bottom of this article (there’s also one at the top of the right sidebar). That way, each new article will be sent to your inbox automatically.
If you’d like to learn more about vintage rhinestones and vintage jewelry in general, check out the recommended books on my site: My Classic Jewelry List of Vintage Jewelry Books.
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Thank you, Christine 🙂