Costuming with Rhinestones
Nothing Shimmers or Dazzles like genuine Swarovski Flatback Rhinestones:
Here’s a little history, if you’re interested...The Swarovski Company was established in 1895 as a factory in Austria, after Daniel Swarovski received a patent for his cutting machine, a relief from the old and difficult manual cutting process, and lead to the beautiful creation of Swarovski crystals. The outcome was uniformity for all Swarovski crystals and a cheaper affordable price. Swarovski crystals are still prized for their quality and brilliance to this day. When reflecting back in time, would you have guessed that the first rhinestones were named after the Rhine River whose banks border Germany and Austria? People collected stones for their natural beauty. Most rhinestones come from Austria and the Czech Republic. For thousands of years, people have been creating glass stones using various formulas for glass and various shades of colors.
The creation of any glass crystal is formed by a combination of sand (silica), soda (a form of salt), and lime (burnt limestone) in the presence of extreme heat these elements melt together to form glass. The Swarovski Company has perfected this technique and makes crystals like no other by using an exclusive glass recipe, which is still a well kept secret today. In the 1800’s Daniel Swarovski also invented a precision cutting machine which allows each brilliant rhinestone more faceted cuts repeated with exact precision than other brands of rhinestones. Swarovski flatback rhinestones have 14 facets instead of the ordinary 8 facets in addition to a higher lead content in the crystal glass which explains the increased clarity among Swarovski flatback rhinestones. This devotion to excellence of accuracy and detail has made Swarovski crystals the most prized rhinestones to use and own.
The Swarovski company creates its glass with a special compound that imitators cannot duplicate. This special compound creates the incredible brilliance of their product. The delicate color palette is another quality that sets Swarovski crystal components apart from others.
With so many stones out there, how can you tell if the crystals you are purchasing is actually a Swarovski crystal....or an imitation?
Tips to determine crystals are genuine Swarovski:
- Swarovski crystal beads and pendants are generally not strung when offered for sale.
- Look for the original Swarovski packaging. Dependent on size, the bulk packages will range from 10 gross to 1/2 gross, in well-branded, sealed envelopes. The newest Swarovski bulk packaging is sealed with an authenticated silver toned hologram saying "SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS."
- Swarovski crystals are perfectly uniform. Since they are machine cut, each crystal is the same. The precision cutting of Swarovski machinery allows each crystal to have its facet juncture "pointing up." This means the facet junctures all meet at precisely the same point. This is a similar aspect of diamond faceting. This means that the height, width and slope are consistent. A hand polished imitator bead will not have as uniform a cut. You may also notice different dimensions from stone to stone.
- Because of its special glass compounds, Swarovski crystal will out-sparkle an acrylic flat back of lesser quality when placed in a side-by-side comparison.
- AB finish Swarovski crystals have a uniform surface luster. There are no swirling marks from the vacuum process that produces the AB finish, and generally there are no scratches. The "imitations" often have scratches, swirl marks ("oily" looking surface). Some of these imperfections, in the "imposters," have to do with the lower quality of the finish.
- When you look inside the crystal, you will see no bubbles. If you see any bubbles, you know immediately that it is a fake.
The Swarovski flatback rhinestones (Style 2028) are most popular because of their faceted front and the foil covered flat back which adds to their sparkling brilliance. They can be easily attached to fabrics and other surfaces by using glue which is especially designed for this purpose (see resources). Swarovski flatback crystals are also used on bras, panties, pasties, lining the edges of a costume or to trace a pattern on clothing and whatever your creativity comes up with. The use of Swarovski flatback rhinestones to add sophisticated dazzle is almost unlimited. Let your own creativity be your guide and have fun decorating!
In my opinion, you should always use some Swarovski crystals for your costumes, however I have found an inexpensive trick to be helpful when covering a large area with crystals on a budget. If you mix genuine Swarovski crystals with inexpensive acrylic flat back stones, you can still achieve a dazzling look, and get a lot of coverage at a fraction of the cost. ;)
Colors of Swarovski Crystals:
Crystal is clear and the most common rhinestone with no color and a “diamonite” like appearance. Colors are transparent with many gemlike colors often easily named as emerald for green, peridot for lime green and sapphire for royal blue, amethyst for purple and siam or ruby for red. Any color with “light” in front of it, is just a paler version of the color Swarovski crystals.
The Aurora Borealis (AB) Coating:
AB Swarovski crystals refer to the clear stones that have an Aurora Borealis coating added to the stone to give it a beautiful prismatic effect. This AB coating applied to Swarovski crystals affects the light’s refraction so the stone appears to reflect colors of the rainbow with the clear base color showing through as most dominant. Swarovski Crystal AB rhinestones are clear crystal stones with an AB coating applied. The AB coating casts the light’s colors in all ranges and appears to reflect an Aurora Borealis throughout the clear Swarovski crystals.
AB Color Swarovski crystals use AB coatings on colored crystal which reflect truer range of colors in the red, blue, green and gold areas. Other AB rhinestones such as the Czech stones reflect more of a gold/yellow color than the true color brilliance of AB coated Swarovski Crystals.
Effect Colors are special colors usually producing two or more different colors through polarization of the glass so that light affects its color depending how light hits it. Such as the fire opal I used for my Fever routine. Only Swarovski crystals have perfected this method and thus has a much broader color spectrum of choice.
How to Attach Crystals
Pre-Arrange Designs before attaching your Crystals:
Since glue can start to set fast, it is always best to arrange your designs first and place crystals, using wax positioner stick, in their proper upright position (flat side on bottom) so they are ready to be applied quickly. Always pre-plan your design so that when the crystals are heated or glue is applied, you are ready for immediate placement so you can continue to the next rhinestone to be placed on fabric without struggle. You can find transfer patterns online for purchase if desired, you can make your own transfer patterns, or you can simply arrange a pattern free-style.
Hot Fix Flat Back Crystals versus Foil Flat Back Crystals:
The two best ways to guarantee adhesion to fabric that is being gently washed is to use Swarovski hot fix rhinestones which already have a glue coating on the back that is activated by heat or by using glue which is especially designed for this purpose (see resources).
A hot fix tool is an electric heating wand which uses various tip sizes for application. Screw in the correct tip size for the size of each of the Swarovski hot fix rhinestones being used, than heat the wand for about 2 minutes. Do be careful, the metal end of the wand and the tip as well as any metal parts are burning hot and should not be touched. Meanwhile, using a wax positioner stick, place each of the Swarovski hot fix rhinestones selected turned face up. Now Vertically position the wand over the item you want to pick up and lightly pick up the rhinestone in the cup of the tip. Don’t force the stone into the tip. Push the correct tipped hot fix tool over a rhinestone and hold it up for about 12 seconds while watching for the glue on crystal to bubble to a shiny, lighter shade. Only when the rhinestone is heated, place it by lightly tapping the crystal on the fabric you want to decorate and quickly remove the hot fix tool. You do not need to use much pressure. The Swarovski hot fix rhinestones will adhere to the fabric in a few seconds when glue cools. Remember to have a safe place to rest your hot fix tool if necessary in between applications.
Using an adhesive to attach your crystals is as much less complicated process and if you are like me, safer. Basically, you want to plan your pattern and/or where you want to place your crystals. Keep them laid in place, if possible, while you work. Use a "syringe applicator" and twist on a colored "tip". Choose colored tip by size of stone and thickness of glue. For thicker glues use larger tips and for thin glues use smaller tips. I like to use a small pink tip when using E6000 since it usually tends to “ooze” out faster than you want in one squeeze. To fill syringe applicator with glue just remove the plunger and squeeze glue to about 1/2 full or less then press down on plunger to push glue to bottom of syringe to avoid bubbles. Make sure your crystals have been set up with stones facing up by using a "wax stick" instead of tweezers which are harder to maneuver. Squeeze dots of glue onto the surface; it's a good idea to practice on paper first. You can apply 3-4 dots or more when proficient. The wax stick will easily pick up each crystal and place it on dot of glue for quick work. Make sure dots are large enough to glue near edges of stones not just the center. Syringe applicators and tips are cheap and disposable. Professionals recommend this method of gluing because it is fast, easy and neat.
Sizes of Rhinestones:
Sizes are universal by using ss to mean “stone size”, and range from ss5, it’s tiny (1.7 to 1.9millimeters in diameter) to ss48( 10.9 to 11.3 millimeters) it’s big. Size 20ss and 34ss are the most popular sizes to use for costuming and making pasties.
How Else Can I Help?
I hope you found this article informative and inspiring! You'll be pleased to know that if you aren't the do it yourself type, or you just can’t find the time, Scarlet Peach is here to help. At Luscious Peach we offer lingerie including custom corsets, shoes, pasties, accessories, hair products, and feather products. I also handle custom embellishments and costuming work. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation and quote.
Rhinestone Wax Positioner Stick
Precision Syringe Glue Applicator (10 mL)
Precision Syringe Glue Applicator Tip (pink)
Iron On Mylar Transfer Paper 9.5 x 11 inches
Beacon Rhinestone Glue GEM-TAC