You can't beat a flawless real diamond for fire and sparkle, but if your budget doesn't run to them there are lots of faux diamond simulants available to give you the look for less. Here are some of the diamond simulants and imitation diamonds you may have heard of...
Originally Rhinestone was the name given to natural rock crystals gathered in the Rhine River regions of Europe. These quartz crystals had a higher than usual lead content that made them sparkle like diamonds, and they were highly prized amongst jewellery makers who would use them as 'paste' diamonds. Wealthy clients often recreated valuable diamond jewellery pieces with paste diamonds so the imitation set could be worn in public while the real diamonds were safely locked away in a bank vault. Eventually the natural rhinestone crystals became harder to find, which lead to the first artificial imitation diamonds being created.
From the late 18th century scientists had been experimenting with creating the diamond look from glass. It's not really known who discovered the process, but somewhere along the way a thin metal foil was added to the back of cut glass crystals and lead crystal glass to create the first artificial diamond sparkle. These first imitation diamonds were all individually hand made and quite pricey, but over a century later, in 1895, Daniel Swarovski launched his patented gem cutting machine. For the first time ever, artificial gemstones could be mass produced and finally became affordable for more people. But what is a Swarovski crystal rhinestone?
After experimenting with different blends, Swarovski perfected their diamond rhinestone recipe with a 30% lead content in their glass gems. The lead gave the glass its diamond-like fire and sparkle, density, and the perfect amount of durability to be cut in the Swarovski machine. Once perfected, the clear rhinestone recipe remained unchanged for another century until a new process was perfected in 2012. The new 'Advanced Crystal' rhinestone has no lead content at all. Swarovski rhinestones are considered the best in the world, but mass produced rhinestones – effectively cut lead crystal glass with a metalled or powdered base – are manufactured worldwide.