Everything You Wanted to Know about Rhinestones
(but Didn't Know Who to Ask)
What is a Rhinestone?
The definition of rhinestone is "stone of the rhine", a reference to the rhine region of Germany where they were originally developed. Rhinestones are a term used to broadly identify crystal that has been precision-cut to resemble a jewel. Today, rhinestone crystal is used in a variety of products, from stemware to jewelry and apparel. Custom rhinestone transfers are used to create a pattern, and then the pattern is transferred to a rhinestone t-shirt, custom rhinestone hoodie or other garment. Rhinestones can also be applied to hard surfaces, such as rhinestone cake toppers, to sparkle up her big day.
The history of rhinestones dates back to Austria in the 1890's when Daniel Swarovski invented a device for cutting crystal with speed and precision, far surpassing the hand-cutting techniques of local artisans at the time. After 9 years spent perfecting the process he filed the patent, beginning a new era in crystal manufacturing.
What is Swarovski Crystal?
Daniel Swarovski was the entrepreneur who founded the eponymous company that bears his name. Swarovski invented the processes used to produce rhinestone crystal with modern, precise cutting machinery. Until recently, Swarovski crystal rhinestone contained lead to increase the color intensity, but due to concerns over the safety of lead within the crystal, lead has been removed from the process without a reduction in the brilliance of the crystal.
Swarovski continues to innovate new processes for producing rhinestone crystal products. In 2004, they introduced a cut named the Xilion crystal, with 14 alternating facets that produce an optically brilliant refraction that deliver perfect refraction and intense light distribution through the crystal. Only Swarovski crystal rhinestones are manufactured with this patented technique, the difference in brilliance is visible to the naked eye.
What Other Types of Rhinestones are There?
The main alternatives to Swarovski brand rhinestones are Korean and Acrylic rhinestones. Over the past 5 years, Korean crystals have greatly improved their quality and cut and now are a viable alternative to Swarovski. The cut has 8 facets, compared to 14 for Swarovski, so there is a small reduction in the sparkle and brilliance. Acrylic rhinestones are much lower in quality and appearance and are used in very cheap apparel.