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Rhinestones: What are they and How to Use Them

The History of Rhinestones

Rhinestones is really just one of the names for imitation diamonds, but you may also know them as diamantes, paste flat back crystals or crystal beads.

And although the names suggests they are made of stone or crystal, today they can be made from rock crystal, glass or acrylic.

The Rhine part of the name comes from the fact that the original rock crystals used to create the stones were found around the Rhine River in Germany. In 1775 a jeweller had the idea to take these raw rock crystals, shape them and then coat the underside with metal powder, thus creating the diamond effect. From then on rhinestones have been a popular, much cheaper alternative to decorate and enhance items compared to using real diamonds.

See Wikipedia’s page on rhinestones for a more in depth background here

Today, the most popular producers of rhinestones is Swarovski. They make their Swarovski crystals in Austria.

The development of rhinestones

Since their initial development and use as replacement diamonds on costume jewellery, rhinestones have been developed a long way.

By developing different coloured rhinestones, and adapting their shape, they have been turned to lots of uses because of the wide variety of items and materials they can be attached to.

Today they are very popular for creating dazzling outfits for such diverse activities like ice dancers to Country and Western outfits (even getting their own song with Glen Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy).

Decorating your own possessions with rhinestones

Because rhinestones have developed so much and can be used to decorate almost any item, and are very affordable, they have become a very popular hobby for craft enthusiasts.  

What you need to start decorating with rhinestones

First of all you need an idea of what you want to decorate and what design you want to use. Keep in mind that if this is your first project, you may want to keep it simple to begin with.

Not sure what to make? Get some rhinestone inspiration here

Once you’ve picked you item and design, you need to buy your rhinestones. What type of rhinestones you buy will depend of what item you want to decorate, as different materials will require a different style of rhinestone and gluing method to apply them.

Very simply, if the item or material does not melt easily, and can be ironed, then buying flat back hot fix rhinestones with the bonding glue pre-applied is best. For example if you wanted to apply crystal beads to a t-shirt. These allow you to layout your whole design first, and then when you’re ready you can iron over them (using some heat-proof paper in between) for just a few minutes to bond your crystals to the material.

If however you’re planning to decorate something that might melt easily, like a synthetic fibre, or something that cannot be ironed at all, such as a mobile phone case, then you will need to buy flat backed rhinestones without the glue pre-applied (also known as non-hot fix). You will then need a hot-glue applicator.

Using these you then apply your rhinestones one by one to your item and let the glue naturally set.

What you choose to design is then just down to how creative you’re feeling!

Buying your first rhinestones

Below are some links to rhinestones available on Beads and Crystals

Swarovski Elements Flat Back HotFix

Swarovski Elements NO Hotfix Flat Back

Swarovski Elements Buttons & Trims