Diamante Jewellery sparkles and shines like diamonds and other coloured gemstones. You will find that very much more affordable than the real thing. It is made of high-quality lead glass the designers varied the stones in shape and size to suit.
In the USA these stones are known as Rhinestones. During the Georgian and Victorian eras, the equivalent stones were called paste. There are slight differences between the two but mainly this is technical, down to the way they are made. Originally diamante was made in Czechoslovakia and probably the best ones are made by Swarovski in Austria. The backs of the stones were often given a coat of silver or gold coloured foil. This reflects more light out of the stone and gives it a higher sparkle.
You’ll find Diamante set into costume jewellery on their own or combined with other types of stones. Favourite pieces are brooches and necklaces, bracelets are quite sought after too.
Diamante are set in several ways, either glued or prong set being the most common. Look carefully at your pieces, can you see the prongs? If so it is better quality than with the diamante glued in and is most likely genuine vintage. Modern pieces tend to be glued. AntiquesAvenue sells diamante necklaces and usually has a quality selection for you.
History of Diamante:
The paste was developed about 1730. Georgian paste always has the stones foil backed and enclosed in a backed setting – just as fine jewellery was at that time. There is little real Georgian paste around these days. What we do see is often spoilt as moisture has got into the setting. The foil has lifted from the back of the paste stones.
During the Victorian era, paste stones would be set into gold and silver as well as into non-precious metals. I do come across Victorian gold brooches set with paste instead of diamonds which shows how highly regarded paste was.
The Edwardian used paste extensively, especially in silver. White stones such as diamonds and pearls were high fashion and everyone could afford a paste brooch to copy this style
I can’t find exactly where the distinction between past and diamante started but it is round about the 1920s. It appears that pieces of Edwardian age and before are set with paste and later than 1920 are diamante. This is a general rule and there is bound to be some crossover as fashions and manufacturing techniques spread more slowly back then than they do nowadays.
The 20th Century
Of course, white was all the rage during the 1920s so these were extensively used to imitate diamonds. The 1930s saw a broader palette of colours used and combining diamante with other materials such as enamel. Many of the diamante used during the 1940s were larger and in colours such as gold and blue which suited the big bold jewellery of the time. During the 1920s to 1940s, they were could be set into materials such as Bakelite as well as into silver and base metal ( pot metal).
There was an evolution during the 1950s with creations such as the Aurora Borealis finish which is a rainbow effect iridescent coating. Crystal clear diamante was popular in what has become known as “Prom Jewellery”. This is jewellery with hundreds of prong set diamante strung as a chain into a necklace bracelet or earrings. Vintage prom jewellery is fun to wear at a wedding or party today and you will find it is affordable too.
During the 1970s diamante are in leaf shaped necklace and bracelets. In the 1970s disco era, they added an extra touch of sparkle and become really big again during the 1980s club era.
They are often given the same names as precious gemstones:
Baguette, rectangular long and narrow with faceted edges
Cabochon, half a ball shape with a flat back
Chaton, cushion, Dentelle, Emerald, flatback. Marquis, Mine cut, pear cut, princess cut Rose cut, round cut and square cut are all names which you may come across when looking at diamante.
Take care not to get them wet. Water behind the stone will ruin the foil and stones become dull, the setting beneath them can go green or they can fall out altogether. The damage water causes has ruined countless pieces of good diamante jewellery. Clean with a soft brush such as a dry toothbrush to start with followed by a light polish with a lint free cloth. If this has not worked use something like a tiny spray of clear window cleaning liquid onto your brush. Almost dry this off the brush and then rub over the surface of the glass. Now polish dry and turn the piece upside down to make sure any residual moisture drys out rather than into the piece.
Please put your jewellery on after your perfume and makeup to keep it as clean as possible
I would say that condition is extremely important here. Perhaps a little more so than with other types of vintage and antique jewellery. This is because diamante, especially from the 1920s onwards, is relatively plentiful and therefore it is not worth buying in poor condition. You can buy replacement diamante and with a little effort replace one yourself if necessary. This will take a lot of time and effort probably exceeding the worth of the piece itself.
Names to look out for
Many top designers have used diamante in their jewellery. Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Norman Hartnell, Coro and Corocraft, Trifari, Eisenberg and Swarovski. Hobe, Boucher, Hollycraft, Weiss, Regency and Schreiner, Miriam Haskell are all names which are worth looking out for.