Fine Shine
Rhinestones are bits of faceted glass. The original "rhinestones" (pebbles of rock crystal) came from the river Rhine in Germany.  These stones of the Rhine gave way to mass-produced glass rhinestones. Finer rhinestones are hand-faceted and polished; many are handset within prongs.  Unfoiled rhinestones usually have a high lead content creating fire and sparkle.  These are referred to as crystals. The finest crystals come from Austria.

Aurora Borealis, no, not the Northern Lights, as seen in the skies above the 33rd parallel, but a way of coating rhinestones to make them sparkle in the colors of the rainbow was first used on glass beads in late Victorian times. This finish was tried a few times during the 1930s on rhinestones. It did not catch on in popularity until the early 1950s; a trend whose highest fashion peak lasted well into the 1960s, and still going strong today.

While a complete glossary to accurately describe the many diverse attributes of costume jewelry would continue for several pages, presented here were just some of the highlights in its glittering evolution.

The panorama of costume jewelry over the last 100 years reflects the changing currents as they shaped the century. Deco rhinestones gleamed bright during the roaring twenties. Whimsical Bakelite shapes cheered up the depressed thirties. The patriotism of the forties, the energy of the fifties, the boldness of the sixties, the minimalism of the nineties and every decade in between has been captured in the fanciful jewelry that reflected both the tastes of the ladies who chose to wear them and the times in which they lived.

I rest my case by submitting into evidence the stylish legacy of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  Long after Camelot was swept into the idyllic realm of what was, she remains, even today, the epitome of refined elegance.  Her icongraphic image, in addition to her pillbox hats and lacquered raven coifs, includes the triple strand of pearls she was rarely seen without.  Certainly, as the First Lady, the daughter of a Bouvier and the wife of a Kennedy, she could afford virtually any necklace ever made.  Yet she went to Kenneth Jay Lane (a famous designer of fashion costume jewelry), not Harry Winston, and had the piece custom made to reflect her personal style.  Case closed.

Back to the Style page

Back to the top

harlanyaffe.com © 2002