In the aristocratic classes of 17th century Europe, particularly the taste-making rococo Parisians, fine jewelry made of precious gemstones like diamonds and emeralds was flaunted and coveted. These stones were treasured for their beauty as much as their relative rarity—it was this rarity that prompted jewellers to seek out an equally beautiful, but less expensive, alternative material for their creations.

In 1724, French jewel designer Georges Frédéric Strass came up with “paste,” a kind of leaded glass that he cut and polished with metal powder until it appeared to shimmer like a diamond in the light. These white “diamante” or “strass” were a hit with glamorous Parisian high society.

During the Victorian Era, non-precious pastes were a part of a tasteful lady’s evening jewelry sets. They were also used in pieces intended to convey coded messages of romance, based on the colors of the pastes. Toward the end of the era, Austrian jeweler Daniel Swarovski introduced the first cut-glass crystals that successfully imitated the look of diamonds. While glass is not a rare material, the level of artistry and craftsmanship that went into his crystals made them appropriate for fine-jewelry settings of gold and sterling silver.

Swarovski crystals, which were made of high-lead-content glass and have a permanent foil backing, gave the illusion of almost any rare gem, including 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.

In 1895, Swarovski moved his family business, originally located in the Gablonz area of Bohemia, to Austria near the Rhine River—which is how pastes and crystals became known as “rhinestones.” As such, they were treasured by Belle Époque and Edwardian socialites alike, and used in elegant, swirling Art Nouveau designs.

The term “costume jewelry” didn’t become a part of popular vernacular until the 20th century. During the Art Deco period in the 1920s, Parisian couture designers like Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli adopted pastes, crystals, and other rhinestones to make high-fashion statement pieces with huge faux gems. These pieces looked so fabulous, socialites and Hollywood stars alike simply had to have them.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Researching Costume Jewelry

Researching Costume Jewelry

Jewelry lovers, venture through this amazing database of vintage jewelry articles, catalogs, and brochures, as well… [read review or visit site]

The Scrap Album

The Scrap Album

Malcolm Warrington’s The Scrap Album is a handsomely organized site, as you’d expect from an articulate champio… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Stevengraphs Bookmarks and Postcards

Stevengraphs Bookmarks and Postcards

Malcolm Roebuck's tribute to the ornate silk picture bookmarks and postcards ('Stevengraphs') produced by Thomas St… [read review or visit site]

Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry

Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry

It looks like we're not in Kansas anymore with Elizabeth Rowlands' site on vintage costume jewelry from the 1940s a… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]

Jewel History

Jewel History

Since March of 2007, readers of Lori Ettlinger Gross’s JewelHistory blog have been treated to her weekly (sometim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vtg Art Deco French Paste Rondelle Rhinestone Givre Art Glass Sautoir NecklaceAn Antique Late C19th Victorian Era, French High Grade 935 Silver Paste Brooch.Antique Victorian Sterling Silver Amethyst Paste Riviere NecklaceAntique Victorian Edwardian Amethyst Peridot Paste Glass Flower Brooch PinFine Victorian Paste Set Silver And Gold Locket Pendant20s French Art Deco Sterling Silver Sapphire & Diamante Paste Geometric BraceletAntique Art Deco Solid 9ct Gold & Silver Emerald Paste Stone Cocktail RingVintage Hm 9ct Gold Dress Ring Amethyst Paste Glass Size N1/2 8.2g Not ScrapAntique Hallmarked Silver Charles Horner Brooch, Mother Of Pearl & Paste Set.Huge Art Deco Repair Jewellery Vintage Antique Paste Egyptian Czech Rhinestone NFine Quality Vintage Antique 9ct Gold Brooch Amethyst Paste Glass 8.2g Not Scrap Big Antique Victorian Circa 1890 Gilt Metal Citrine Paste Brooch PinLot Antique Victorian Edwardian Art Deco Paste Jewellery Inc Silver ScottishStunning Georgian Silver And Paste RingAntique Art Deco Solid Silver Diamond Paste Cocktail Ladies WristwatchFive Vintage Deco Sterling Silver Rings (diamond Paste, Wedgwood Cameo, Onyx)Antique Georgian Woven Mesh Pinchbeck Garnet Paste BraceletArt Deco Sterling Silver Filigree French Paste Rhinestone Link BraceletStunning Vintage Deco Sterling Silver & Diamond Paste Starburst BroochBeautiful Large Georgian Silver And Paste Brooch Vintage Art Deco Jewellery Diamante/paste Hair / Dress Clip (i) Stunning Antique Victorian Silver Enamel Diamond Paste Lily Of The Valley BroochVintage Art Deco 9ct Gold & Silver Opal & Paste Diamond Ring - Size M - 1.8g!An Early C19th Century Victorian Era Yellow Metal Emerald Colour Paste Pendant.2 X Vintage Hat Pins 1 Paste & 1 Art Nouveau Style #4 2Antique Georgian Long Paste Earrings - Circa 1800 Silver Gold Long EarringsAntique Paste Gem Heart Pendant Vintage Art Deco Jewellery Diamante/paste Pair Of Dress Clips (a) Vintage Jewellery Diamante/paste Brooch Signed Queen Mum SardiVintage Art Deco*all.co*clear & Blue Paste* Rhodium Plated Hinged BraceletSuperb Vintage Sterling Silver, Diamond Paste & Real Opal Cluster Ring Vintage Art Deco Jewellery Diamante/paste Brooch (b) Vintage Art Deco Jewellery Diamante/paste Dress Clip (g) Stunning Vintage Deco Gold Metal & Carnelian Paste Collar Necklace Stunning Vintage Deco Silver Metal & Amethyst Paste Pendant NecklaceBeautiful Georgian Silver And Paste BroochBeautiful Georgian Paste BroochAntique Victorian Paste Heart Pendant With Silver Bow Brooch Attachment.Vintage 1950s Enamel Marcasite Paste Yellow Glass Golden Moon Night Owl BroochAntique Victorian Pinchbeck Gold Paste Amethyst & Diamond Floral Brooch!Fine 17th Century Paste Set Silver Ring Vintage Art Deco 9ct Gold & Platinum Paste Set Ring.Antique Victorian Pinchbeck Gold Paste Citrine Diamond Cluster Brooch -Vintage Jewellery Diamante/paste Art Deco Bracelet (b)Vintage Art Deco Paste Set Drop Necklace 15" Long #4 284Vintage Jewellery Diamante/paste Art Deco Bracelet (a)2 Vintage Possibly Art Deco Jewellery Rings Silver Moonstone And PasteFour Good Quality Large Vintage Brooches (amber Paste, Garnet Paste)Vintage C1950 Opal, 9ct Gold And Silver Paste Set RingGorgeous Vintage Sterling Silver & Amethyst Paste Ring - Adjustable SizeSuper Paste And Silver BroochBracelet Vintage Grosse (christian Dior) C D Gold Tone Paste Type Sparkly Stones Vintage Art Deco Jewellery Diamante/paste Brooch (k)Antique Victorian Pinchbeck Gold Paste Diamond & Seed Pearls Target Bar Brooch!Vintage Art Deco Graduated Paste Set Bracelet 7" Long #4 245Vintage Art Deco Paste Set Drop Earrings #4 9Old Antique Solid Silver Paste Brooch With Gold OverlayAntique Banded Agate Bead Necklace + 4 Paste Set Scottish Brooches Antique Art Nouveau Paste Glass Stones Marcasite Rhinestone Cast Ornate PendantVintage Victorian Edwardian Sterling Silver Ring Crystals Paste 3.8grs Sz 5-1/4