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Dear Friends: Please read this!
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 heat 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.
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.)
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.
All Rhinestones have several parameters we are concerned with:
Brilliance: this 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.)
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.)
Size of Rhinestone: 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
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 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! and Glue. 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 flat back rhinestone can be glued to a fabric or other material, even if it has Heat Fix glue on the backing! You cannot dry clean garments that have stones set with any glue other than some Heat Fix rhinestones!
Heat Fix Rhinestones to fabric....PLEASE NOTE: You must purchase Heat Fix Rhinestones to use this method. The Heat Melt glue is already on the back of the rhinestone, is heat activated and will fuse to the fabric when, AND ONLY WHEN, the rhinestone is set properly with the proper tools! Heat 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 Heat 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 Heat 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 Heat Fix Rhinestones are advertised as able to withstand Dry Cleaning.
- 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 current flat back rhinestone from Swarovski is Article 2028 OR the newer 2058 (flat back only, style 2058 released February 1, 2011, 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. 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 Heat 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 Heat Fix rhinestones. Make sure you designate what you want at time of ordering!
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 a Sample Card ... it has all Swarovski,all Czech Preciosa rhinestones, and our own RGA rhinestones on it, as well as all sizes of rhinestones....all in ACTUAL rhinestones. No need to guess, period.
RGA Rhinestones: These are our own brand, available at this time in Crystal and Crystal AB only, but very high quality at a very reasonable price for machine cut lead crystal rhinestones. I cannot tell a difference between the brightness of this rhinestone and Czech Preciosa Crystal rhinestones. These rhinestones are available only as Flat Back for gluing or mounting. We do not offer this stone in Heat Fix at this time. These are NOT Korean or Chinese stones. These stones are remarkable at their cost!
- RG Premium Rhinestones: These are our own brand, available in Crystal, Crystal AB and 28 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 glued on or hot fixed. These stones are remarkable at their cost!
RG2 Rhinestones: These are couple cut rhinestones (top and bottom are cut), facets are molded. They are very nice glass rhinestones, have Heat 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! This stone is shown on our Heat Fix Sample Card.
This pretty much covers the ABC's of rhinestones. Larger rhinestones are referred to as "Jewels," can be round or shaped, mounted/glue-on or sew on. Look in our "Jewels for mounting or sewing" for a full set of pictures and prices.
Below are terms for various shapes of both rhinestones, and descriptions of beads...these descriptions are very general, but may be of some help to you.
- Acrylic Rhinestones: We have discontinued Acrylic rhinestones, but not plastic jewels! There are many "plastic Jewels that are quite good, light-weight, and do a very good job. We prefer the MethylMethacylate jewels to acrylic, and handle sew-ons in these European-made products.
- Czech Jewels: Jewels by Preciosa are very good. They are now making some sew-on products that are excellent
- Swarovski Drops (Pendants): Excellent cut, color, clarity, available in many sizes in crystal, crystal AB, transparent colors, and colors AB. (Industry Standard)
- Czech Drops (Pendants) and Beads (tin cut, table cut, or machine cut...all the same thing) Excellent cut and clarity, available in crystal, crystal AB, transparent colors, and colors AB. These are Machine cut and polished and are also industry standards.
- Austrian Jewels: Excellent quality in color, clarity, and cut. More expensive than Czech, but worth it. These stones are fully cut or cast (depends upon the stone, but all are great), polished.
- Flat Back Rhinestones: Faceted Table and sides with very thin girdle, flat on the back, with mirror coating to help with light reflection. The standard stone for glue mounting. Does not pucker fabric when mounted with rim or tiffany mount. True name is 'Chaton Rose'
- Pointed Back Rhinestone: As the name implies, has pointed back like a diamond. Not suitable for gluing, so use rim or Tiffany mounts instead. Can be set with a Rhinestone Punch, will somewhat pucker fabric when mounted. Usually has metallic coating on back for light refection. Better reflecting power than flat backs and break up reflected light better due to facets on back of stone (flat backs rely on mirror coating on back to reflect light, pointed backs do some of the reflecting themselves. Rarely used for gown ornamentation. Cubic Zirconium stones have NO coating on back, but have become too expensive to adorn garments.
- Jewels: These are simply large Rhinestones of various shapes, such as Emerald cut (rectangular), Square Cut, Oval Cut, Round Cut, Triangle Cut, Heart Shaped, Navette Shape (similar to 'Marquis Cut), Pear Shaped, and may be of glue/mount style with no holes (IF Flat Back), or of sew-on type with holes bored in the edges for sewing onto fabric. Come in colors, crystal, and often Crystal AB. Available as Flat Back, Pointed Back, Sew-on. IF a 'jewel' is rose-cut, that means it has a flat table on top (not faceted over the top). Many of these jewels can be mounted with either tiffany mounts or rim sets. BUT, before ordering jewels to attach with mountings, refer to our 'Mountings' page to make sure a suitable mount is made for a specific size jewel.
- Lochrosens: These are Round Rhinestones, measured in Millimeters (MM) and have a hole bored through the center for thread attachment to fabric (usually a rochaille or seed bead is use in conjunction with the stone for attachment). Very pretty when used for accents or where affordable, quality rhinestones are to be sewn on.. Please note: Use only Japanese Quality Crystal/Silver lined seed beads to mount these. (Chinese and Taiwan beads will discolor over time!)
- Coronas: Same as Lochrosens, except square shaped. Very Bright, well cut, polished. Have flat back. Swarovski or Czech are available. See Lochrosen about mounting
- Margaritas: Same as Lochrosens, except flower shaped edges. Very good cut, Swarovski or Czech, See Lochrosen about mounting. Use only Japanese quality seed beads.
- Cabochons: Domes of polished glass, mirror coated flat back, very similar to star sapphire stones seen in jewelry. Very good for accent, available in round or oval, are un-faceted, and are offered in colors, clear, and AB. Have flat back. Some AB colors available. These can be mounted with rim sets relatively easily IF rim setting is available for the size of stone desired...check Rim Set sizes before choosing size of cabochons!
- Rauten Roses: Similar to Cabochons, but are faceted. Available as rounds, Ovals, or Navettes (Marquis shaped). Have flat back. Do not have a flat 'table' on top of stone, as opposed to a 'large' rhinestone offered by Swarovski. Rautens are fire polished, so do not expect the dazzling cut look of Swarovski.
- Chaton Roses or Chaton roses: Another name for Flat Back Rhinestones.
- Chatons: Pointed Back Rhinestones
- Rose-Cut Jewels: Have a flat table like a rhinestone, as opposed to a Rauten Rose which is faceted over the top. Very nice jewels! An easy way to describe this stone would be: It is a very big flat back rhinestone!
- Mirrors: Thin mirrors cut into shapes of round, square, oval, triangle, rectangles. Measured in Millimeters (MM). Excellent for light reflection where sunlight or spotlights are used. Cast rays of light (Rhinestones glimmer). Use with Rim mounts to cover edges. These mirrors are also available in Prime Acrylic, are lightweight, and good, will not break (glass can break), but will scratch more easily, so care must be taken when cleaning them....use soft cloth, never paper. But again, Acrylic does not have the refractive power of glass, and the surfaces can be wavy.
- Mountings: Basically two types, Tiffany and Rim
- Findings: the metal stuff that stones and jewels are mounted in, such as earring posts, brooches, beading pins, clasps, jump rings, chain, etc.
- Rhinestone Chain: Rhinestones (chatons) mounted in metal findings, linked together with flat metal links. (Usually sold by the inch in fabric stores), available in gold or silver settings, crystal or crystal AB stones of some size (measured in SS), and special order in colors. (Rhinestone Chain can be found under 'Banding' here. We sell chain by the yard...much cheaper than you will find in fabric stores!
- Rondelle: ring or shape, usually round, with hole in center for stringing with beads. Rhinestone Rhondelles are rings of rhinestones mounted in metal finding with hole in center, used as bead separator. Sort of disc shaped. Rhondelle beads are usually discs with a hole in center. If using rhinestone rondelles with round beads, choose the rondelle size one mm bigger than the bead size. The beads 'snuggle' into the center of the rondelle.
- Tiffany Mounts: Prongs that come up through fabric and wrap around stone edges (like a ring's setting). They are very inexpensive, easy to use, BUT will snag everything in sight. We do not recommend their use on sweaters. Choose Tiffany mount of same SS or MM as jewel or stone for mounting. Available for all sizes and shapes of stones.
- Rim Mounts: Surround edge of stone with solid ring (bezel) with prongs going down into fabric, bending over on the reverse side of the fabric. Will not snag surround fabrics, but your garment should be lined to protect you and your underclothes from the "tabs". Available in all sizes and shapes, measured in SS (for mounting rhinestones 12 SS through 48SS) and in MM ( for mounting jewels and larger rhinestones, mirrors). If a stone measures 15MM, then mount with a 15MM rim.
Glue and Rhinestones:
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.
Choice of glue: There's a lot of choices here, we have preferred 'GemTac' for strength and consistency in the past, - dries clear, doesn't glop out of dispenser, and if used correctly, hangs on to the stones very well.
Most stone loss, after gluing, is the result of technique rather than glue failure. Always press stone into glue, put down just enough glue to come out around stone when pressed into glue (just barely). When gluing larger Jewels, it is VERY important to capture the edges with glue. No silvered backing can support the weight of the stone. The stone will break loose from the silver backing, fall off, and leave a very shiny silver shape stuck to the garment. And do not lay down so much glue that the surface will skim-dry before the stone is set into it. We strongly suggest using 'Applicator sticks' when stoning...much faster, much easier, and you don't need tweezers. These glues are usually white in the bottle, but dry clear, are water soluble before drying, and withstand washing very well. GemTac dries clear and has elasticity. It sticks to everything I have used it on, and especially glass (where I got sloppy and forgot to clean it off....razor blades had to be used to scrape it off.) I have glued 150,000 rhinestones to a motorcycle with Rhinestone Guy Glue, and have not lost one stone, even with serious washing and cleaning! (Yes, we sell glue and Applicator sticks.)
Other glues in use include E6000...good, strong, fast drying, but leaves strings of glue when you pull back. don't even think about hot glue guns...failure is very high. Super Glue is great for the fast fix, but not in the long run...too thin, runs out into fabric. Epoxy glues are strong, but highly allergenic (do not get this stuff on your skin, do not inhale fumes...it is only a matter of time before you will develop an allergy to it, and when you do, the body's reactions can be very strong, as in open sores, swelling, oozing, need I say more? AND, you can develop an allergy to it overnight...Surprise, Surprise!)...good for jewelry, but not garments. Epoxies usually do not have elasticity. OK for Belt Buckles, but rough sand the metal before setting with Epoxy. These glues are available in most hardware stores as a two part dispenser that must be mixed before using. Do not mix very much at one time, as it begins to set within seconds, and is very temperature sensitive. DO NOT allow water to mix into glue, as you will have a gummy mess. Do NOT get this stuff on your skin! It is not water/soap soluble. Use Acetone only if you must, Acetone goes into the skin and can affect kidneys!
DO NOT USE 'Super Glue' --It is just too brittle to be satisfactory with rhinestones.
AB: " Aurora Borealis" Coating on rhinestone to produce rainbow of color reflection. Very effective on Crystal rhinestones, used on colored stones to enhance reflection. AB coating make stones "shine" more under spotlights. (our opinion).
Tin Cut: High precision cutting of beads and drops, vastly superior to "fire polished", the difference between Cut Glass and Molded glass. This is another term for Machine Cut.
Fire Polished: Translation: molded glass, facet edges not as sharp as cut facets (machine cut)
Seed Bead: tiny, usually round beads of some color, with a tiny hole for stringing or sewing. Use with BEADING NEEDLES, as normal needle is too big to go through hole. Used for decoration, sewing sequins to fabric (bead in center), attaching Lockrosens, etc. Use size 13/0 or 11/0 seed beads to mount Lochrosens, Margaritas, or Corona rhinestones. Use Japanese quality only, as these beads do not discolor with time as does the Chinese or Taiwan versions. (Silver lining will tarnish in Chinese and Taiwan beads with time).
Bugle Bead: graded by size from 1 to 5, then in mm. The longer the bead, the more easily it is broken. Expect broken beads in your order! Look like little tubes with very small hole running length of bead. Available in colors, AB, silver lined, etc. Use Beading Needle to sew or string. Note: If you are making a costume, etc. that you expect to use for years, USE Japanese quality beads, more expensive, but silvers and reds will not discolor over time as with Chinese/Taiwan beads.
Rochaille Bead: very similar to a seed bead.
Cut Beads or Tin Cut Beads: This is the critter used for necklaces, bracelets, etc. Highly cut and polished jewelry grade beads sized in mm (from 3mm to about 18 mm) available in most colors and AB coatings. Have regained popularity BIG TIME to the point where supply cannot keep up with demand. Expect these guys to rise in price sharply! Produced by Swarovski and Czech, beautiful to look at, very durable. Use for fabric decorations, strings, bracelets, necklaces, etc.
BiCone (Bi-Cone) Bead: Same as Diamond Cut Bead, very popular when used by themselves or mixed with round and or cube beads.
Fire Polished Bead: faceted beads, similar to Cut beads, but do not have the sharp facets that cut beads exhibit. MUCH less expensive than Cut Beads. Available in huge color range, AB, and effect colors. Used in inexpensive (K-Mart) strands, but can be great for costuming, especially when making beaded fringes!
NAIL HEAD SIZING: sized either by SS sizes or Nail Head sizing...small nail heads 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!
We hope the above is helpful. If you have questions, please Email or call. If we don't have the answer, we will get it for you.