Experts Say Rhinestones Have Been Hot Since The Middle Ages
“That’s hot,” is probably what Paris Hilton said in 2004, when she saw an intricately bedazzled T-Mobile Sidekick with rhinestones.
For a while, rhinestones tragically went out of style, but as of late, they’ve been back with a fucking vengeance.
We talked to Preciosa Crystals, the company that manufactured many of the crystals and rhinestones used in The Blonds latest collection, about the history of bedazzling, and it turns out that crystals have technically been around since the middle ages. Sure, 17th century ladies in waiting were probs not wearing bedazzled “hottie” trucker hats like you did in your youth, but still.
Read on to school yourself on the history of crystals and rhinestones.
Can you tell us about when crystals/rhinestones first became used in fashion?
It depends on what we understand as “crystals/rhinestones,” but in the case of cut glass jewelry stones, their roots go back to the 17th century. They started in Venetia and then the production expanded to Europe and regions of the Czech Republic during the 17th and 18th century.
When we talk about glass stones used in jewelry in general, they were used even in Mesopotamia and Egypt 6,000 years ago. These stones were not transparent though, and didn’t have the look of jewelry stones as we know them today as their main feature was the rich color not necessarily the clarity.
When did it become mainstream?
In the Middle Ages people found that the color of the stone was not enough to get the perfect look and effect in jewelry. The effect was much more profound when the light reflected through the stone and the stone sparkled. People began experimenting with cutting stones between the 14th and 20th century and the cut was gradually perfected. Industrial production of imitation cut glass stones started in the 17th century and finished with cutting of high leaded glass stones in the 18th century.
Can you outline the times where crystals/rhinestones were “fashionable” and how they were used?
Initially, when the color effect was the main feature, rhinestones were used and mixed together with precious stones. The color was important and we can see this for example on various Crown Jewels from the Middle Ages etc. It was the industry production of cut glass stones and metal jewelry what separated that jewelry from fashion jewelry. Types of metal were important for differentiation of usage of stones. Natural stones were used for rare metals, glass stones for other types of metal like brass, and pinchbeck.
Can you speak to time periods where crystals/rhinestones were seen as “tacky?”
As I mentioned, glass stones were never understood as something inferior even in the very beginning and they are mixed with precious stones very often. So when we talk about “tacky” stones we talk about the lower quality stones; pressed and fire polished are a much different quality of stone than machine cut and polished crystals.
Where do you think crystals/rhinestones are right now on the fashion scale?
We see crystals are now rising to the top in the fashion industry. They are used for many different purposes ranging from expensive jewelry and exclusive fashion to more casual pieces that bring sparkle to our daily lives. Crystals these days are used by top fashion brands for many different designs and products.
What would you say was an iconic moment for crystals/rhinestones in fashion?
The important moment was invention of machine cut and mass production that brought the crystal cutting to the perfection. The roots of the top crystals are in the Crystal Valley, a place in the Czech Republic where crystal and glass cutting was born and where Preciosa crystals are still being produced.
Since the beginning of 20th century the technology has been perfected and thanks to that you can choose from a never-ending assortment of crystals. We believe there were several moments in fashion that helped crystals to the top, usually when famous fashion designers used them for their designs and show them on catwalk, like the designers The Blonds have been pivotal in creating pieces that use crystal. Crystals were always something that fascinated people all around the world, but crystal’s journey to the top of the fashion industry was gradual.