Gemology: R is for...
Our 18th journey into the world of gemstones brings you gemstones beginning with R. Take a look at Rhinestone, Rhodochrosite, Rhodolite, Rock Crystal, Rubellite, and Ruby.
A Rhinestone is an imitation diamond, with the name originally given to rock crystals collected in the Rhine River regions of Germany and Austria. They were popularly used to create 'paste' diamonds for high class jewellery in the 18th and 19th centuries – cheaper than real diamonds but still rather expensive as each crystal had to be hand-cut and faceted to create that diamond sparkle. In the 1720s a metal foil was added to the back of these cut gems to create a more diamond-like fire and radiance. Antique jewellery containing genuine rock crystal rhinestones is quite valuable. In the late 19th century, Swarovski patented a technique to mass produce artificial rhinestones using lead crystal (glass with added lead content), cut on the Swarovski crystal cutting machine – an artificial-artificial diamond, if you will! For the first time Rhinestones, and therefore imitation diamonds, became more widely affordable. Not all rhinestones on the market today come from Swarovski. Swarovski Rhinestones are considered the best, but there are lots of manufacturers creating their own mass-produced rhinestones out of glass, with or without that sparkle-adding lead content. Rhinestones on the market today are cheap and available in a huge range of gemstone colours and cuts.
See our article on Diamond Simulants (link at bottom of page) for more Rhinestone information.
Rhodochrosite is a mineral that, in its pure form, is a rose red colour typically streaked with white. Occasionally impurities can lead to pinkish or even brown-tinged gems. It's quite a soft mineral so jewellery use is generally limited to low impact pieces like necklaces and brooches, and the gems are usually polished en cabochon.