Difference Between Rhinestone and Crystal
Rhinestones and crystals are often used interchangeably in jewelry and accessories, but there are some key differences between the two. Understanding the distinctions can help you make informed choices when shopping for sparkling adornments. In this article, we’ll explore the composition, production process, appearance, uses and cost differences between rhinestones and crystals.
What are Rhinestones?
Rhinestones are man-made stones that simulate the look of diamonds. The earliest rhinestones were made from rock crystal, quartz or glass, but most modern rhinestones consist of plastic. Acrylic glass and crystal glass are two common plastics used to produce rhinestones.
Rhinestones are created by coating the back of the plastic with a reflective metal backing, usually aluminum or silver. This backing gives rhinestones their signature sparkle. The plastic piece is then cut and faceted to imitate the look of a diamond. While high quality plastic and expert cutting can produce stones that look quite similar to diamonds, rhinestones lack the brilliance, fire and clarity of real diamonds.
What are Crystals?
The term “crystals” is most commonly used to refer to Swarovski crystals. Swarovski crystals are man-made stones produced by Swarovski, an Austrian jewelry company. The original Swarovski crystals were made of leaded glass, containing 32% lead. However, due to environmental and health concerns, Swarovski transitioned to an environmentally-friendly lead-free formula in the 1970s.
Today, Swarovski crystals are made from a patented formula containing 32% lead-free glass as well as metal oxides and other compounds. The exact formula remains a trade secret. The glass is heated and fused with metal compounds to create crystals with enhanced sparkle and brilliance. Swarovski crystals have more facets than rhinestones, allowing greater refraction and dispersion of light. This gives Swarovski crystals an exceptionally vibrant, rainbow-like sparkle.
Rhinestone vs. Crystal: Appearance
In appearance, rhinestones and Swarovski crystals are quite similar, sparkling like diamonds in the light. However, upon close inspection, differences become apparent.
Swarovski crystals tend to have more facets than rhinestones, resulting in more flashes of color and light. The leaded glass formula also gives Swarovski crystals unmatched brilliance and fire. Well-cut Swarovski crystals have an internally flawless appearance without bubbles or impurities.
Rhinestones often have fewer facets, resulting in a less dynamic sparkle. While high quality rhinestones can be hard to distinguish from crystals at a glance, their plastic composition gives them a less vibrant glow. Lower quality plastic rhinestones may have visual defects like bubbles or flecks.
Swarovski crystals also come in a wider array of colors, sizes, and cuts than rhinestones. Their color palette ranges from classic to bold hues, with unparalleled clarity and uniformity of color. Rhinestones are available in fewer color varieties and may look murky or inconsistent in hue.
Rhinestone vs. Crystal: Uses
Both rhinestones and Swarovski crystals are used in jewelry, accessories, apparel, shoes, and home décor. However, there are some differences in their preferred uses.
Swarovski crystals are seen as a premium choice favored by high-end designers. Swarovski is known for collaborations with top fashion houses like Dior, Valentino, and Dolce & Gabbana. Due to their unparalleled sparkle, Swarovski crystals are perfect for adding dramatic embellishment to evening wear and jewelry.
Rhinestones are more widely used in costume jewelry and everyday accessories. Their affordability makes them ideal for incorporating sparkle into fashion pieces without high costs. Rhinestones are commonly used in bridal jewelry, evening shoes, handbags, sunglasses and casual jewelry. Lower cost means they can be used liberally without breaking the bank.
Rhinestone vs Crystal: Cost
One of the biggest differences between rhinestones and Swarovski crystals is cost. Swarovski crystals are significantly more expensive than rhinestones. Even small Swarovski crystals may retail for $1 to $5 each, while rhinestones are often just pennies per stone.
This price difference reflects the higher-quality materials, cutting expertise and brand cachet of Swarovski crystals. However, rhinestones offer an affordable alternative for adding sparkle without high prices.
For most consumers, rhinestones are the more budget-friendly option. Those desiring exceptional brilliance and design prestige may deem Swarovski crystals worth the higher investment. However, both offer shine and beauty.
Rhinestones are made from plastic, while Swarovski crystals are made from leaded glass. This gives crystals more brilliance.
Swarovski crystals have more facets, resulting in a more dynamic sparkle. Rhinestones tend to have fewer facets and a less vibrant glow.
Swarovski crystals come in a wider array of colors and cuts. Rhinestones have more limited color options.
Swarovski crystals are used by high-end fashion designers and in fine jewelry. Rhinestones are more common in costume jewelry and casual pieces.
Swarovski crystals retail for $1 to $5 each, while rhinestones may cost just pennies per stone due to differences in quality and brand prestige.
So in summary, while rhinestones and Swarovski crystals are both sparkling embellishments, Swarovski crystals offer superior brilliance and more versatile options. However, rhinestones provide an affordable way to add glitter and glam. When choosing between the two, consider your budget, the visual impact desired, and how frequently the piece will be worn. Let your individual needs and style determine whether crystals or rhinestones are the best fit.