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Introduction to Rhinestones


There is a considerable product offering in our catalog. These notes will help to clarify differences and similarities in products, especially Rhinestones and their grades.

What are Rhinestones?

Rhinestones are Lead Crystal or glass made to resemble or imitate jewels. They can be cut lead Crystal or glass, or molded glass. They can be cut like diamonds with a point back (chatons) or flat backed for gluing or hot fixing (iron on or heat setting) (chaton roses). Obviously, the finest rhinestones will be cut lead crystal, the less expensive will be molded glass...and there is a very big difference in light refraction. Cut Lead Crystal can be a very convincing "jewel," where as molded glass is really glittery, but does not compare with cut lead crystal in any terms.

Flat Back Rhinestones are no more than faceted mirrors of some shape. Rhinestones we normally use are round with a flat top (table) and faceted sides. The back of all Flat Back Rhinestones must be mirrored with a silver coating to reflect light, just as mirrors must be coated with silver to reflect Images. Without the coating, a flat back rhinestone will be no more than a piece of transparent glass of some shape, reflecting no light except from surface shine.

Point Back Rhinestones (Chatons) are used mainly in jewelry, not in the clothing business. Therefore, we will limit this discussion to Flat Back Rhinestones (Chaton Roses.)

All Rhinestones have several parameters we are concerned with:

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Brilliance of Rhinestones
Rhinestones brilliance is determined by two qualities:

The quality of the glass the rhinestone is made of. Lead Crystal is, by far, the most brilliant of rhinestones, for leaded glass transmits light better than glass without lead. Remember, only light entering the "mirror" can be reflected back out of the mirror...the clearer the glass, the more light is reflected (without being absorbed by the glass.) All glass havs some lead... The higher the lead content, the higher the quality of the glass. Some newer technology allowed for brilliant rhinestones that are lead compliant.

The cut of the glass or lead crystal. Here, rhinestones can be Machine Cut or Molded. Machine Cut Rhinestones are far more brilliant than molded rhinestones, but are far more expensive than molded glass rhinestones. The cut of the rhinestone yields some number of facets around the table. Every cut breaks the reflected light into a new plane or fragment of light that entered the rhinestone through the table. Obviously, the fewer faceted stones will result in a higher "flash" value, while the more faceted stone will result in a higher "glimmer" value. Somewhere, compromises must be made to have a rhinestone do as much as it can with light, for a rhinestone with fewer facets will have a larger table (desirable for costumes) and a rhinestone with more facets will have a smaller table (desirable for gowns and evening wear.)
Sizes of Rhinestones
Rhinestones have their own size names which bears little or no logic, other than the sizes and their "names" are very old jewelry terms. Flat Back Rhinestones are sold by sizes preceded or succeeded by an SS number. (SS = Stone Size) There is NO relationship to millimeter in this number, in that 6SS or SS6 rhinestones are NOT 6mm in diameter! But, there is a chart/table that explains sizing. I am sorry this sizing system leads to so much confusion, but I cannot fight city hall on this one....it is what it is, I accept it and go from there. But in general, the higher the SS number, the bigger the rhinestone's diameter, and the more flash it will have . Conversely, the smaller the SS number, the smaller the rhinestone's diameter and the more glimmer it will have. Here is a listing of popular, available Flat Back Rhinestone Sizes available, with their diameter in millimeters:
5SS = 1.8mm, 6SS = 2mm, 7SS - 2.2mm, 8SS = 2.4mm, 9SS = 2.6mm 10SS = 2.8mm, 12SS = 3mm,
16SS = 4mm, 20SS = 4.7mm, 30SS = 6.4mm, 34SS = 7mm, 40SS = 8mm, 48SS = 11mm
Quality of Rhinestones
Quality of rhinestones is determined by how they are made, and with very few exceptions, who makes them. Sadly, this parameter is also accompanied by pricing...arguably, the best rhinestone is made by Swarovski ...I do not agree with this assessment, but due to a number of factors, most people consider the king of rhinestones to be:
Swarovski. The latest rhinestone introduced by swarovski in 2014, is the Xirius 2088 (flatback) and 2078 (hot fix). Prior to the 2088 rhinestones Swarovski had a different rhinestone style Article 2058 (flat back only) and Article 2038 (hot fix only). The Swarovski rhinestones are a 14 facet rhinestone, machine cut to standard, with very little variation in sizing and cut. Even I concede the color, "Crystal" is better in Swarovski than in any other brand of Flat Back rhinestone...it is very bright and in side by side comparison, wins any competition for brightness. Any colors or treatments can be duplicated, or perhaps surpassed, but a less expensive stone, the Czech Preciosa Machine Cut, but again, this is a matter of personal judgment. The previous style of Swarovski 2028 is still out in the market in certain colors both flat back or hot fix, especially on AB colors, the 2028 is also 14 facets. Any rhinestone sold as Swarovski at this time will have 14 facets unless it is sold as a "vintage rhinestone". Older Swarovski rhinestones have had two incarnations: Article 2012 had 12 facets (I actually preferred the 12 facet stone) and Article 2000 (very old, with 8 facets.) Anyone selling you 8 facet stones as Swarovski is highly suspect at this time, unless that rhinestone is 48SS, for in this size, colors have not been produced in years, for the most part. Swarovski rhinestones are made in Austria, and anytime you see "Austrian Crystal", that is a Swarovski rhinestone. There is no such thing as Australian Crystal...people actually mean Austrian. Swarovski offers over 100 colors/treatments at this time. AS with other rhinestones, a wide range of basic colors, their Colors AB counterparts, and Effect stones are available. Photographs do little to show any rhinestone for it real impact. This is especially true of Effects and Colors AB. These rhinestones actually change color depending upon how light is hitting them at any time. Purchase a Sample Card if you are not familiar with rhinestone sizes and rhinestone colors...this is very, very important! These rhinestones are available as Flat Back or Hot Fix. Make sure you designate what you want at time of ordering!

Czech Preciosa Machine Cut Rhinestones: Long before Swarovski was even a thought, Czech Preciosa was producing rhinestones of very high quality. In fact, Swarovski was born from this company when one of its master glass artists left Preciosa to form his own company...over years, this company, Swarovski, bought up all crystal companies in Austria to form one conglomerate, Swarovski! Czech Preciosa produces wonderful Flat Back Rhinestones. Their colors are great, their coating are every bit as good as Swarovski, but I must admit, their color, "Crystal", is a tad less bright than is Swarovski's. The kicker here is the price! Preciosa runs about 20% less expensive than Swarovski, and when costuming, this difference can add up quickly. Trust me, no one asks, "What KIND of rhinestone are you using on that wonderful costume...?" They have already paid the compliment when they put in that "wonderful..." Save the bucks and buy Preciosa. (I really should not be telling you this, I make more on Swarovski, but The Rhinestone Guy tells it how it is, and always has! Preciosa stones, today are cut in the VIVA cut, 12 facets about the table. Older Preciosa stones had 8 facets (I preferred the 8 facet for costumes, but ..... gone is gone! I find the Preciosa stone to be flashier in costumes than is Swarovski...bigger facets means more light and better flash. When costuming, choose Preciosa. When doing high end clothing, use Swarovski. Czech Preciosa are available as Flat Back or Hot Fix rhinestones. Make sure you designate what you want at time of ordering! Vintage Czech 8 Facet rhinestones are still available in limited colors and sizes, see our Czech clearance section.

WARNING: Please read! China is now duplicating both Preciosa and Swarovski's cuts! They use cheap glass, not lead crystal. They are selling these stones to whomever will buy them ....those who buy them get a very low price and pass these things off as Swarovski or Preciosa.!!!!! IF you see prices that are very much lower than ours, you are going to get an imitation stone and be very disappointed. I have seen these stones showing up on Ebay™ often now! There are NO GREAT BUYS in Swarovski or Czech Preciosa ...these are expensive stones to import, period! And in fact, China is duplicating the packaging of both companies! Be very careful when you purchase out there, buy from reputable dealers ONLY! This warning becomes very important in our selling policies later! Sorry, but that's how it goes!

Before we go farther, I am going to say this just one more time! BUY Sample Cards ... they have all the Swarovski,all Czech Preciosa rhinestones, and our own RG Premium and RG2 rhinestones on it, as well as all sizes of rhinestones....all in ACTUAL rhinestones. No need to guess, period.

RG Premium Rhinestones: These are our own brand, available in Crystal, Crystal AB and 57 colors including AB colors. A high quality at a very reasonable price for machine cut lead crystal rhinestones. These rhinestones are all purpose. They have glue on the back, so they can be hot fixed or glued on. These stones are remarkable at their cost and truly the best bling for the buck. If you want to glue these stones, we recommend the Gem Tac Glue or any acrylic based glue. The solvent type glues tend to react with the glue on the underside of the rhinestone.

RG2 Rhinestones:These are couple cut rhinestones (top and bottom are cut), facets are molded. They are very nice glass rhinestones, have Hot Fix adhesive on backs for setting with tools or heat press. This is our most popular rhinestone for moderate-priced Heat Transfers. This is the quality rhinestone you find on Dillards, Macy's clothing. Sizing is good, colors are fine. Do not expect a Swarovski quality from this rhinestone!
Method of attachment
For a rhinestone to be useful in the clothing trade, it must be affixed to the clothing (that makes a lot of sense, doesn't it .....duh!) Basically, there are 3 methods of attachment
Mounting. Mounting refers to attachment with mechanical mounts such as Tiffany mounts (prongs that come from back of clothing and bend over the edges of the rhinestone), Rim Sets (rings of metal surrounding the edge of rhinestones with prongs going through the clothing to back of fabric and bending over. These systems have fallen out of favor lately due to time, and time is money if labor is involved!

Gluing. There are two methods of gluing rhinestones to fabric:

Glue Flat Backs with quality glue, one at a time...we prefer GemTac Glue for this method. Purchase "Flat Back Rhinestones" for this purpose. Please note: any rhinestone can be glued to a fabric or other material, it does not have to be "flat back" even if it has Hot Fix glue on the backing! You cannot dry clean garments that have stones set with any glue other than some Hot Fix rhinestones! What glue to use? read here.

Hot Fix Rhinestones to fabric....PLEASE NOTE: You must purchase Hot Fix Rhinestones to use this method. Hot fix rhinestones have glue already on the back (bottom, underside) of the rhinestone. The glue is heat activated and will fuse to the fabric when, AND ONLY WHEN, the rhinestone is set properly with the proper tools! Hot Fix rhinestones hold very well to fabric within certain guidelines.....we do not like setting larger rhinestones with this method...rhinestones over size SS30 are probably better set with the Glue Method, for setting larger rhinestones with Heat Melt glues presents problems we will address later. The biggest advantage of Hot Fix rhinestones is that they can be used in the Transfer System of setting rhinestones...100's of rhinestones set at one time using a Heat Press.
We find little to no advantage of setting Hot Fix rhinestones one at a time with a setting tool, and in fact, it takes more time to do this than just using GemTac Glue and gluing using our techniques. Some brands of Hot Fix Rhinestones are advertised as able to withstand Dry Cleaning.
More about Attachment - Rhinestones and Glue
It seems that everyone has an opinion about glue, what glue, when to glue, glue is better/sewing is better, and .................. but since I am the one that is writing, my opinion counts more!! Whether to glue or sew/use mounts is more a question of future use than what is better or easier. So: IF your garment/item must be dry-cleaned somewhere/sometime, DO Not use glue. All glues currently in use are sensitive to the cleaning fluids used ( including iron-on types ). The fluid deteriorates the glue, and discolors it. Therefore, if you are stoning velvet, AND you plan to use it to the point that it must be cleaned, then either mount or sew on the stones. If you plan to use pointed back stones, they will have to be mounted. Otherwise, glue IS the choice. It is fast, easy, and 'do-able' where thousands of stones are to be used. Both Swarovski's and Czech Preciosa's Heat Fix glue is dry cleanable today. No one will guarantee this to be true, for NO ONE knows what cleaning fluids may be used...but in normal cleaning applications, the glue stands up well.


This pretty much covers the ABC's of rhinestones.



Yes, there is always a but. There are more to just round rhinestones when it comes to embellishments, decorations and other projects. Here are some additional terms for various shapes of bother rhinestones and other items that may be helpful for you. These descriptions are very general and you can find further details in the individual items' pages.


Rhinestone Shapes - When we refer to rhinestone shapes we mean smaller rhinestones in a shape other than a regular round rhinestone. Both Swarovski and Czech Preciosa make these shapes. Swarovski has a greater selection of various shapes. In certain instances larger shapes can be purchased by special order and subject to availability.

Jewels - Larger rhinestones are referred to as "Jewels," can be round or shaped, mounted/glue-on or sew on. In flat back jewels (not sew on) we carry a large variety of Czech Preciosa Jewels. In Sew On Jewels we have both Swarovski and our own RG Premium Jewels.

nailheads - nailheads can come in two types. Hot Fix nailheads - they have a flat back at the bottom and can be either Hot Fixed or Glued. These nailheads are measured in mm (do not ask us why). Pronged nailheads - they are metal and have prongs on the bottom. Pronged nailhead are sized either by SS sizes or Nail Head sizing (a #)...small nailheads are measured in SS, larger ones are Nail Head sizes...very confusing, even to us! A 48SS size is (rhinestone, 11mm diameter) is equal to a size# 60 nail head diameter! (Please do not call me and ask me "why." I have no idea, nor do I particularly want to take on the industry in this insanity of sizing!)

Rhinestone Trim - Rhinestone trim refers to rhinestones that are pre-set on either Mesh, Banding or Chain. Our rhinestone trim is Czech Preciosa. Swarovski does make various rhinestone trims, however, we do not stock them. We can special order them.

Drops - are hanging lead crystals with a hole at the top to look like a tear drop. We carry those in Swarovski.


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