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Saving Vintage Rhinestones

Posted on August 18, 2015 by Christi York | 0 comments

The question I hear most often at markets and events is “Where do you find all your stuff”? Clearly, I can not reveal my sources or I’d have to keeeeel you. My short answer is “all over.” (Seriously, when you get asked that question 100 times at an event, you need to stick to the short answer).

The long answer is that I’ve been sourcing vintage goods for nearly 10 years now and I’ve built up some pretty fantastic relationships with my vintage suppliers. Some I’ve been able to visit in person, others have been though lengthy exchanges via the wonders of the internet.

One way to look at it is to say my designs break down into two categories.

Category one: Jewelry made from components that I have hunted and gathered in person at vintage fairs, antique stores, etc. These components are often one of a kind and will end up as an OAK: One of A Kind piece of jewelry.

Category two: Components bought on-line or in person from one of my trusted “bulk” vintage suppliers. I know this sounds like an oxymoron at first, but it’s not. Though limited in quantity, many pieces that are now considered vintage (over 20 years old) used to be mass manufactured in large quantities. The costume jewelry trade was absolutely massive from the early 1920s up to about the 60s. Think of all your grandma's old rhinestone brooches!

Those stones (made in places such as the former Czechoslovakia, West Germany and Japan) were made for high end costume jewelry manufacturers. This is how I’m able to find and buy more than one stone at a time for matching earrings, etc.

One of my favourites are the vintage glass rhinestones, especially the good-sized ones. They are getting harder and harder to find in perfect condition. Glass doesn’t really “age” the way metal does. Unless the glass gets chipped, it looks as pretty as the day it was made. I find new settings to put the stones in and voila - a pair of earrings that looks brand new - but are actually made with vintage stones.

One of the interesting things I’ve stumbled upon in my quest to unearth more variety, are  vintage glass stones that were coated on their back side with a metallic finish. I'm assuming this was originally done to help reflect light back out through the faceted glass. Unfortunately, over time, this coating gets worn off and scratched, rendering the stone rather unattractive and basically useless.

Until one of my vintage suppliers offered up this neat trick: try soaking the stones in vinegar and salt! 

I was skeptical to say the least (especially since I had to buy some stones to try it out first).

But holy heck does it ever work great! I find it best to let the stones soak overnight and then the old metallic finish slides right off - leaving a lovely transparent stone in it’s place.

I use an open-back setting with these stones so you can see the light right through them.

  

And voila! Vintage rhinestones saved! I especially love these gorgeous two-tone stones. The teardrop shape is called amber/sapphire and the oval is called ruby/jonquil - though I've taken to calling it pink champagne.

If these lovely two-tone vintage glass stones are calling your name, here's the listings for the pink champagne earrings and the amber/sapphire.

  

Posted in cleaning, glass, rhinestone, salvage, saving stones, sparkle, supplies, vinegar, vintage


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