Mrs Beadsley’s Jewel Box: Vintage Jewelry-Rhinestones

Mrs. Beadsely’s Vintage Jewelry

Well spring officially starts today and nothing looks better in spring than a sparkly rhinestone brooch. So let’s talk about rhinestones.

To many people the word rhinestone conjures up thoughts of gaudy, cheap costume jewelry. Although some rhinestone jewelry may be just that, not all rhinestone jewelry is cheap or gaudy. There were many companies, including Eisenberg, Weiss and Kramer that made quality rhinestone jewelry, set with the best quality stones and finished beautifully front and back.

Made from 40 to 75 years ago, this jewelry looks as fine today as when mom bought it. The designs were mostly classic and definitely not gaudy. Not only have the prices for these works of art increased but some have traded for prices more generally associated with fine jewelry.

The word rhinestones originally referred to the bits of rock crystal found along the banks of the Rhine River. The word now refers to the faceted clear and colored glass stones used to decorate and add sparkle to costume jewelry. When clear rhinestones are set pavé or paved, they can create the look and sparkle of diamonds.

A talented designer can create wonderful works of art with the use of different sizes and shapes of rhinestones. Rhinestones were called “pastes” in the Victorian era. Pastes were incorporated into the copies jewelers made of their customers fine jewelry. Carrying paste jewelry when traveling insured against losses by highwaymen and robbers.

Thanks to Coco Chanel in the 1920s, costume jewelry became popular with all women, wealthy or not. Brooches, necklaces, earrings and more were available. They were pavé set in pot metal or silver and the better quality was rhodium plated to keep its smooth and shiny appearance. The themes for this jewelry ran from animals to floral to every sort of modern and abstract design. The sparkle of rhinestones lent just the right touch to snowflake designs, stars and comets.

Rhinestones are made with or without a foiled backing. A foiled backing ads extra sparkle to rhinestones. Clear stones without the foiled backing are best for open backed settings allowing color and sparkle to come through. Rhinestone jewelry, especially pieces incorporating foil-backed stones, needs a bit of extra care. Moisture is the enemy of these stones as it can deteriorate the foiled backing and darken the stones. This type of jewelry should be cleaned with a barely damp cloth and Q-tips. It should never be dipped in cleaners.

Well cared for rhinestone jewelry can last many years and remain just as beautiful as the day it was made with simple care. Please come by the shop with any questions you may have about cleaning your jewelry. Mrs. Beadsley can also replace lost or damaged rhinestones so please bring your rhinestone pieces to the shop for an estimate.

Mrs. Beadsley is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. She can be reached at 505.795.6395. The shop is at 2101 Trinity Dr. Suite G in Los Alamos.