What is Rhinestone Jewelry?

Rhinestone is a fine replacement for expensive gems for jewelry and other purposes. Rhinestone can be called an imitation gem, which is substituted for its costly counterpart in jewelry. The origin of rhinestone can be traced back to rock crystal (stones found in the river Rhine in Europe). The refraction of light from these crystals gave them the shine and spark just like diamonds. The demand meant that sources of rhinestone were scarce, and synthetically produced rhinestones flourished and took over the world of imitation jewelry for their striking resemblance to diamond and practically any gemstone.

The History of Rhinestone

As already described, rhinestone originated as the rock crystal in the River Rhine. Georg Fredrich Strass can be credited as the first person who created imitation diamonds by applying metal powder to glass as early as 1724. Named after the inventor, the rhinestones are called Strass in many European languages.

However, the rhinestone that we know today was produced first by an Austrian jeweler Daniele Swarovski, whose experimentation produced these imitation gems that looked exactly like diamonds, and were very hard to distinguish from them. He patented a way of glass cutting and polishing with great precision that allowed glass to be given any shape and form. Coating this glass with a higher proportion of lead, he managed to make the refractive index such that the product resembled a real diamond more than its predecessor. His business grew multifold owing to the high demand of the diamond-like jewelry. Even today, the quality of the Swarovski crystal remains unmatched.

Types of Rhinestones

Mass production and popularity of rhinestone brought to life the production of rhinestone from cheaper materials like plastic and acrylic, however, the use of glass rhinestone continued. Rhinestones were produced in three forms:

  1. Flat-back rhinestones
  2. Hot stick rhinestones
  3. Sew-on rhinestones

As evident from their names, these can be used accordingly. The flat back can be incorporated into holders in jewelry, the hot stick ones have found other applications such as on clothes and other material for decorative purposes. They are easily stuck on the desired material using merely heat and give the impression of crystals on any object. Similarly, sew-on rhinestones can simply be sewed on clothes and objects of use, such as bags.

Use in Jewelry

In earlier times, women used to wear jewelry made of real gold, adorned with precious or semi-precious gemstones, and only the rich could wear expensive jewelry. The purpose of these adornments, too, was to flaunt wealth and compete in the world to establish themselves as rich families. Other reasons were religious or superstitious too, but jewelry remained a symbol of wealth and as an heirloom to be passed to the prodigy. The need to allow other people to wear and experience the artistic touch of jewelry inventors came up with ideas to incorporate inexpensive materials into the art of jewelry, just like the rhinestone.

With the introduction of rhinestone, experimentation and variety began to be introduced in jewelry, which no longer was restricted as a symbol of wealth but a tool to be experimented with. The rhinestones are used in jewelry of all forms, whether the bright or bold large brooches or pins to enhance the beauty of simple dresses, or necklaces, chokers, or ear-studs of a much delicate appearance.

Rise in Popularity

Rhinestones do not mimic merely diamond but can be substantially used as fake gems, including turquoise, opals, and rubies. They can be made to look like any gem one wants. Rhinestone jewelry was initially thought of as inexpensive and rather cheap substitution for real jewelry, until it was patronized by a famous French fashion designer, Chanel.

Through advocacy by Chanel, rhinestones rose in status and were gladly accepted into society. This kind of jewelry came to be known as costume jewelry. Costume jewelry was meant to be worn as art and was adornment rather than a symbol of wealth. It became heartily accepted and was a great success among peoples of all classes. The idea of inexpensive jewelry meant that risks could be taken, and much bolder and innovative designs could be made.

Following the same line and taking inspiration from Coco Chanel, other designers began experimenting and producing bigger and bolder jewelry with rhinestones now in reach and more readily available. While Chanel experimented with bold ornaments, other jewelers and designers imitated the real jewelry. They created delicate designs as were done with real gemstones. Hence rhinestones and other materials for fake jewelry or costume jewelry became a widely accepted trend.


In line with Chanel, Eisenberg began in 1914 as a women’s fashion brand and produced big, sparkly much-coveted necklaces and brooches for working women, who did not have the fortune to purchase real jewelry. They started manufacturing pins and brooches to complement the dresses and made huge sales. Eisenberg’s designs have stood the test of time and are still as fresh and trendy as they were back then.

Rhinestone vs. Real Jewelry

The purpose of jewelry remains from the beginning of time as means of adornment and a show of wealth because only the rich and elite could afford the jewels and the gold and other riches that made up the jewelry. As the world drove through various eras, various metals came into human hands to be manipulated as desired. This led to the production of jewelry too. The inexpensive metals meant that various experiments could be done. With the introduction of rhinestone, even more art could be drawn out of raw material for jewelry.

As wearing jewelry became an art. Methods were devised to produce various types of rhinestone and to improve the quality to make them look as close to real gemstones as possible. With more intricate patterns and designs, the market was soon full of buyers who were looking to buy a larger number of different pieces than one expensive piece.

The Worth

While real jewelry remains the most desired one for people who love the natural gems, which are so precious, but rhinestone jewelry has also attained the status of antique or precious with time. Some pieces and designs have become at par with real jewelry and are not as inexpensive as one might expect for imitation jewelry to be.

A triple-strand necklace of glass pearls, formerly owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, was sold at an auction for $211,500. Although artificial jewelry may cost a lot too, the grace and demand of real gemstones remained.

Where to Buy
AB Crystal Rhinestones set
Field Guide To Costume Jewelry: The Crash Course In Costume Jewelry (Field Guide to Jewelry Book 1)

Types of Rhinestone Jewelry

Another advantage that rhinestones have imparted to the world of jewelry is the various colors and hues that can be imparted to the rhinestones during the production. They can be given any desired shape imitating any gemstone through the use of color and shaping. The most common shape, chiton, resembles the diamond for whose imitation rhinestone is originally known. Teardrop, heart, oval, and navette and square shapes are also some of the basic shapes given to rhinestones for use in jewelry.

The rhinestones in jewelry became popular, and so did the quality and size became a determining factor for the cost piece of a rhinestone. Although always in a much lower range than real jewelry, the rhinestones also started procuring money. Rhinestones are sold in terms of stone size, or simply millimeters. Better quality and larger size mean a higher cost and most dealers sell them according to these factors

To this day, the Swarovski crystal remains the most prized and highest quality imitation rhinestone. It is known for the silver, gold, or metal foiling on the bottom that gives it the extra sparkle. Swarovski even invented the method to glaze the top of the crystal to give it the appearance like the Northern lights, hence known as the Aurora Crystal.

Following are some products that can allow you to experience the beauty rhinestone:

1. AB Crystal Rhinestones set

The rhinestone set is made of gold and silver coating on pure glass. The set has rhinestones of various shapes. They have a promising and durable sparkle and can be used according to your creativity and innovation.

The best thing about this rhinestone set offered by Ulgai is that they provide a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with these flat back rhinestones.

2. Field Guide To Costume Jewelry: The Crash Course In Costume Jewelry (Field Guide to Jewelry Book 1) 

Written by an eBay seller with 14 years of experience, this book is an excellent guide if one is looking to spot and learn about costume jewelry. With a multitude of photographs, this one is a promising guide to develop a sense of good costume jewelry.


The introduction of cheaper materials such as zircon crystals and even more inexpensive rhinestones, the field of jewelry-making, and earing underwent a revolution. With changing times, trends of jewelry change, and rhinestone carries them gracefully, due to its ability to adapt to all forms of jewelry in all shapes, colors, and designs.