What are rhinestones? All of Your Rhinestone Questions Answered

Last Updated on April 5, 2021

Rhinestones can be found just about anywhere.  Chances are if you own any costume jewelry or a Halloween costume, you have something containing rhinestones.

But rhinestones are not just cheap gems tacked on to clothing. The term rhinestone can also apply to high end quartz or crystal stones that are made to look like diamonds. 

What are rhinestones?

A rhinestone is defined as any imitation diamond and may be made from glass, paste or acrylic or resin material. Essentially any imitation diamond that is made from any synthetic material can be labelled as a rhinestone. 

A quartz stone, such as Swarovski crystal, is also labelled as a rhinestone because it is a non-diamond which is cut to look like a diamond. 

Original Rhinestones

As mentioned above, the original rhinestones were pieces of shiny quartz found in the Rhine river in Austria as early as the 13th century.

Over time, these rhinestones became harder to find. Today, rhinestones are really any stone (or glass or plastic) that is made to imitate a diamond. 

Different types of rhinestones

As mentioned above, a rhinestone can be pretty much any synthetic gemstone that is made to look like a diamond.

There are several different methods and materials to creating rhinestones. 

Rhinestones made from glass

Glass rhinestones are made by machine cutting.

The glass is transparent and manufacturers will add a reflective backing to the glass rhinestone to make it reflect light and be shiny like a diamond.

Quartz

Quartz stones, such as Swarovski crystals, are included in the rhinestone family since they are made to look like diamonds.

Crystal rhinestones

Crystal rhinestones are made from glass with lead oxide added. The lead helps the crystal to be shinier than pure glass.

Glass must contain at least 1% lead oxide in order to be classified as crystal. The higher the percentage of lead oxide, the higher quality of crystal and the more it will look like a diamond.

Acrylic rhinestones

Acrylic rhinestones are a cheap and popular choice for childrens costumes and cheap jewelry. 

The acrylic rhinestones are made by being injected into a mold. These rhinestones are hard to break and can be made in many different colors. 

Resin rhinestones

Resin rhinestones are made by pouring resin into a mold. The resin then hardens and forms a plastic rhinestone. 

Both resin and acrylic rhinestones are categorized as plastic rhinestones and are very cheap and easy to mass produce. You will find plastic rhinestones on things like childrens jewelry and clothes.

Crystal rhinestones can be higher end. Even a Swarovski crystal which can be pricy is considered to be a rhinestone. 

Are rhinestones expensive?

As mentioned above, many things qualify as a rhinestone and many different materials are used.

The answer to this question is that it really depends. You can get low end plastic rhinestones for next to nothing.

If you want a high end rhinestone such as a Swarovski crystal, you are going to shell out quite a bit of money. It all depends on what you want and what you are willing to spend.

What is the difference between a crystal and rhinestone?

As mentioned previously, a crystal can be classified as a rhinestone because both are recreations of stones that are meant to look like diamonds.

Crystals are made from glass that has lead or other substances added. Depending on how much lead is added, the crystal will look very similar to a diamond and can be expensive. 

Other rhinestones that are made from plastic, pure glass with a reflective backing or resin are lower end and are not expensive.

Within the rhinestone family, stones can be expensive or very cheap based on material is used to create them. 

How are rhinestones used?

Rhinestones are used for a myriad of applications. Because their quality varies so greatly, their applications also vary greatly. You will definitely see rhinestones on all of these items:

  • Children’s costumes
  • Children’s jewelry
  • Cheap costume jewelry such as rings, earrings and necklaces
  • Wedding dresses
  • Prop jewelry for TV and film – such as a queen’s crown

It is important to note that the quality of a rhinestone used on a wedding dress (such as a crystal) is far higher than a cheap plastic rhinestone that is added on to a children’s Halloween costume. 

It can be hard to remember that the highest quality crystal and the cheapest plastic can fall under the umbrella of rhinestone. So if you are looking at an expensive wedding dress that is bedazzled with crystals, remember that you are paying for high end crystal and not for cheap plastic gems!

Rhinestones vs Diamonds

Today, it may be difficult to tell if you are looking at a rhinestone or diamond.

The average untrained person may not be able tell the difference between a high quality rhinestone and a diamond.

As mentioned previously, a rhinestone can be made from quartz, glass and plastics. These will all be much softer than a diamond, which is the hardest gemstone available.

But they can still look very similar, regardless of their hardness. So how can you tell if you are looking at a diamond or a high quality rhinestone? 

Fog test

One way to test if you have a diamond or a rhinestone is to try to fog up the surface of the stone. A diamond will not fog up for more than a second if you breathe on it, but a rhinestone will fog up for 5-10 seconds. 

Scratches

If you have a ring or piece of jewelry and you are not sure if it is a rhinestone or real diamond, look closely at the surface.

Rhinestones are relatively easy to scratch and may get scratched up from everyday wear. Diamonds are virtually impossible to scratch, although they may get chipped when hit very hard.

If you are skeptical about your jewelry and you see that it has some scratches, you likely have a rhinestone and not a diamond.

Reading test

If you try to read a word through a real diamond, it will be very distorted and hard to read. But if you read through a rhinestone, it will be almost as easy to read as looking through glass.

If you are looking to buy a piece of jewelry but are not sure whether it is a rhinestone or a real diamond, your best bet is to have it looked at by a professional. That way you will know if it is worth your money!