Bohemia, which is now a part of the Czech Republic, played an important role in the history of costume jewelry. It was in glass center of Gablonz, at the end of the Victorian Era, that Austrian jeweler Daniel Swarovski introduced the first cut-glass crystals to successfully imitate the look of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. In 1892, Swarovski patented a mechanical glass cutter so his crystals could be mass-produced to meet the high demand.

Bohemian costume jewelers also pioneered a technique for replicating the look of pearls, which were enormously popular at the beginning of the 20th century. Instead of using glass, jewelery makers would cut mother of pearl into beads, which were then shaped and polished until they resembled the real thing.

But glass remains the Bohemia region’s most important contribution to costume jewelry. Beads rivaling those produced in Venice were strung into gaily colored necklaces, which swung from the necks of flappers during the 1920s. Sometimes filigreed settings held a handful of singular glass stones. Other times, heavier rectangular brooches were crammed to their corners with rhinestones in emerald green, sapphire blue, amethyst purple, and ruby red.


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