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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

19 February 2007

More About Paste Jewelry

From my favorite antique jewelry dealer, The Three Graces:

What is paste? The origins of the term paste are unknown. However paste is a collective word used for cut leaded glass that is faceted to resemble gems or precious stones. Sometimes it is referred to as strass. Georges Frederic Stras, a Parisian jeweler in 18th Century France lends his name to these stones. Around 1730 and after, he became world famous for his paste jewelry. Appointed to the post of jeweler to the King of France in 1734, Stras's fame was assured. He used a mixture of glass and lead that makes glass highly reflective and began mounting them in the most sumptuous of settings. The stones are coated with a metal coating or foiling, sometimes tinted, to make them even more brilliant and refractive. The mid and later 18th Century was awash with paste and even Marie Antoinette wore it copiously.

The craftsmanship required to cut paste is demanding and is thought to be more difficult than the art of cutting diamonds. Diamonds are harder thus easier to work with in many respects. Examining 18th Century paste shows the variety of stone cuts – marquise, oval, pear and all manner of shapes and sizes. A surprising variety of shades and colors was utilized. The jewelry can be of very high quality and skill and is usually set in silver. Paste was used in everything from men's shoe buckles, to the most magnificent of tiaras. Most strass or paste jewelry ranges from the 18th century through about 1850, but the word has come to be used to encompass other finer imitation stones through the early 19th Century. Paste jewelry has drawn a special collector, thus quite expensive and more andmore difficult to obtain, particularly in the earlier examples or ones with color. Its luster, glow and shimmer are incomparable.

Black dot paste is paste which has a tiny black dot painted on the very bottom underside of the stone. It is thought to have mimicked the open culet of early diamond cuts, which often look quite dark or black. The culet is the bottom of the stone, where in today's modern stone cuts all the facets come to a perfect point. In years past, the facets did not meet in a point but joined around a flat area on the bottom. Black dot paste is one hallmark of very fine quality paste. However, there are many examples of excellent paste which do not have these tiny black dots.

Don't forget to enter my Lord Sin contest for a chance to win the pin shown.


3 Comments:

Blogger Keira Soleore said...

Thanks for an excellent article on paste, Kalen. I knew it was popular among the aristocracy, particularly the not so well off, but I had no idea royalty used it as extensively as well.

Keira

10:34 AM  
Blogger seton said...

thanks for the article Kalen.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Judy T said...

Thank you Kalen! I recently read about a paste ring in a historical romance and simply could not picture it. Having seen your example, I understand what happened ever so much better.

1:41 PM  

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