Introduction to Rhinestones and Crystals

      What are Rhinestones?

      Rhinestones are machine made crystal stones crafted to resemble jewels and diamonds. The better quality stones are cut by machines creating consistent facets and sparkle. Lesser quality stones are molded or machine pressed. They are available in various sizes and shapes. In the past, high quality, finest rhinestones contained high levels of lead. New technological advances in the crystal industry led by Swarovski, brought to the market lead free and lead compliant stones that provide great sparkle without the lead.

      Flat Back Rhinestones (Chaton Roses) like their name have a flat underside. Gluing or mounting are proper methods to attach them to garments and other materials. The hotfix flat back crystals feature a pre-coated heat activated glue on the back (underside) of the rhinestone. Applying those crystals requires a hot fix tool. But, you can glue a flat back hot fix stone. The most popular stones are round with a flat Top (table) and facets all the way around. Different brands have different facets cut style, like the Swarovski 2088 Xirius rose, Swarovski 2058 Xilion rose or the Czech Preciosa Viva 12 as examples.

      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.)

      Brilliance of Crystal
      Crystals' brilliance depends on two main features. The quality or purity of the glass and the cut of the stones. Some crystals feature specialty coating for shine and effect. That brings the quality and durability of the finish into play.

      Rhinestones produce their diamond like sparkle in different ways. Foil back stones produce the sparkle from the “mirror” foil. The light enters the stone and bounces back through the facets creating the sparkle. The clearer or sharper the cut glass, the greater the light’s reflection. Coated stones like Swarovski Lacquer pro stones, produce sparkle from the outside coating of the stones. Foiled AB coated stones and the Swarovski’s shimmer stones sparkle from both the mirror and the coating creating a unique sparkle. Un-foiled stones (or transmission stones) reflect only from the surface shine.
      Sizes of Crystals
      Rhinestones have graduating sizes with an SS (stone size) designation. SS7 or 7ss as an example. They measure in millimeter range that correlates to a size. There is no correlation between the size and millimeter meaning - SS 6 or 6ss stone is not 6mm. See the Size Chart for conversion reference. The higher the SS size the larger the stone. Larger stones create a flash and smaller stones create glimmer. Flat back rhinestones run from SS5 (1.8mm) to SS48 (11mm).
      Quality of Crystals
      Quality of stones can be measured by their sparkle, color, durability and cut consistency. The European manufacturers lead the field in crystals’ quality. They started making crystal embellishments dating back to the 1800’s. These manufacturers, like Swarovski and Czech Preciosa, invest time and money in research and development to produce the highest quality of crystals.

      WARNING: Please read! Regretfully, the market is flooded with fake stones, so be warned. Beware of very low prices. If you see stone prices that are much lower than ours claiming to be European brand stones, the odds are that they are not genuine. You may be disappointed. Watch for wording such as: “Swarovski Quality” or Czech Quality” crystals. These are not genuine European crystals. Both brands appoint companies, like Rhinestone Guy, to represent their brand and goods for sale to the buying public. So buy your stones from Authorized Resellers for genuine stones. We are a Czech Preciosa Authorized Partner and a former Swarovski Authorized Reseller (until they changed their business model in 2021). In addition, our own private lines of crystals bring excellent sparkle and quality at great prices: RG Studio, made in Austria, RG Premium and RG2.

      Sample Cards are your reference tool.
      Sample cards of the various brands will allow you to evaluate the different stones. They will give you a size reference as well as color choices. We produce, in-house, two hinged and laminated sample cards with actual stones and crystal sizes. So there is no need to guess. One card has Swarovski and Czech Preciosa rhinestones with selected shapes. The other card features our RG (Rhinestone Guy) private line of products, rhinestones and nailheads. Professionals, sample cards are an invaluable tools for your craft or trade. Looking at a computer screen will not necessarily get you the right color.
      Method of attachment
      There are four general methods of attaching rhinestones: gluing, hot fixing, sewing and mounting. Each has its uses depending on the project. This is an overview, we discuss application methods in greater detail later.

      Gluing - A method where you glue stones one at a time with fresh and good quality embellishment glue. Our choice is GemTac Glue, an acrylic based glue. (Link to gluing). You CAN glue any stones that have a flat back underside (including hotfix stones). You cannot dry-clean garments that have glued on rhinestones.

      Hot Fixing - This attachment method uses hotfix stones. Those crystals have heat activated glue on their underside. Different manufacturers use different color glues. The stones fuse and attach to the garment when the glue is heated and melts. Hotfix stones hold well. Smaller stones will attach faster than larger stones. Various tools are available for this method. There are Individual rhinestone applications tools like the Kandi Professional Touch. Each stone is applied individually, one crystal at a time. Larger heat-press machines are available. A heat transfer design is created on transfer paper (tacky tape). The finished transfer is then applied with the heat-press. Dry cleaning of stones attached by heat set depends on the manufacturer.

      Sewing - Like its name, this method requires a needle and thread or sewing machine with special attachments. Crystals used for sewing come in two formats: Sew On Stones (pre drilled crystals) or Mounted stones (stones in specialty mounts for sewing.)

      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. You can mount by hand (labor intensive) or use mounting tools. This method is labor intensive.
      Rhinestones and Crystal Terminology
      There are more than just round flat back rhinestones for embellishments, decorations and other projects. Incorporating round stones with added shapes can produce incredible designs. Here are some descriptions and some terminology we use:

      Measurements:   All other crystal shapes are measure in millimeter (mm) using the metric system.  A ruler with one side inch and the other side centimetres (10 mm = 1cm) can be a great tool to help evaluate what sizes rhinestones and or shape will be suitable for your project.  There are 25.4mm in one inch. You may also use a jewelry's micrometer. 

      Rhinestone Shapes - Rhinestone shapes are crystals other than regular round rhinestones. They are available in sizes ranging from mini (great for nails) to larger stones. Swarovski created a great selection of shapes, varying is size and colors. We carry Czech Preciosa shapes both small and larger. We have a selection of RG premium crystal shapes as well.

      Sew on Jewels / or Sew on Stones – These are stones that feature holes for sewing onto the garment.  We carry all four brands of sew on stones, Swarovski, Czech Preciosa and our RG Premium and RG Studio lines.

      Cabochons – These are smooth, flat back, half dome glass with foil back.

      Pearls – Crystal Pearls are crystal cabochons featuring a special coating to create a pearl like luster.  We also have hotfix pearls, crystal or composite made.

      Nailheads – Nail heads are metal-made and are available in two main forms, hot fix or pronged.  Hotfix nailheads have a flat back.   The hotfix nail heads can be either flat or convex, three-dimensional.  You can attach them with a hot fix tools or you can glue them.  Pronged nailhead have metal prongs, they also have their own sizing using # reference. You can attach them by hand or with a proper mounting tools.

      Rhinestone Trim – Rhinestone trim refers to rhinestones that are preset in various materials, mesh, cup banding or chain.   Sewing is the proper way to attach these materials.  We carry the Czech Preciosa brand of crystal trim.

      Pendants (Drops) – Pendants are three-dimensional crystals with one hole at the Top that will hang and dangle, capturing light and sparkling as they move.  Many styles are available made by Swarovski.  We feature the classic and best sellers.

      Mounted Sew On Stones – Mounted sew on crystal those are fancy cut stones (pointed back stones) that are preset in metal cups that have holes for either sewing or wiring.  They are available in various shapes or rounds.  Mounted fancy stones, or chaton montees, will create the highest degree of flash and sparkle as they have depth and facets on both the surface and back side of the crystal. 

      These are the ABC’s of crystals.
      We invite you to continue reading and learning about Crystals

      At our Learning Center

      Credit Cards Accepted
      Rhinestone Guy Gift Cards
      © 1998, Rhinestone Guy LLC All rights Reserved