Swarovski jewelry: the best glass jewelry and beads you can get. Probably you don’t expect a blog about this subject from FlorenceJewelshop. Since I specialize in handmade unique and exclusive jewelry, made of gemstones and silver. And Swarovski beads are no gemstones. And you are right: You will not find many pieces of jewelry made of Swarovski beads in my collection. Still, this jewelry deserves a blog and a lot of appreciation. It is very high-quality glass jewelry in stunning colors, beautifully faceted. You can say that Swarovski beads are gems of glass.
There is a second reason to write a blog about Swarovski jewelry and beads. Women want to look and feel beautiful and they are willing to spend a lot of money to shine. But not every woman can afford to wear real diamonds. Besides that, when you are at a party and the lights are low, who will see the difference between a diamond, zirconia, and a great Swarovski crystal? It is a matter of good, best, and better: Swarovski, zirconia, and diamond.
Let us start by introducing you to Mr. Swarovski himself:
From a violist to the best glassmaker
Once upon a time, that is in the 19th century, there was a man, called Daniel Swarovski. He dreams of being a violist. He was born in the northern part of Bohemia, which is now the Czech Republic. In this region, the famous Bohemian glass was found. And many people worked with that glass and made a living out of that. Like producing jewelry, hair accessories, etc.
The father of Daniel owns a small glass factory. And like many others, he lives from his glass products, which are not exceptional. They don’t differ from the glass products that others in this region make. Daniel could not follow his dream and became an apprentice in the factory of his father. Later he is sent to Paris to become an engineer.
The influence of George Frederic Strass
To understand the development of Daniel’s ideas you have to know that about one century before he is born, there was a very famous jeweler, called George Frederic Strass. He copies the shape of a diamond in glass (which was a fraud of course). And the strass diamonds have become very popular as decoration of clothing.
The invention of the great machine
As an engineer, Daniel is interested in machines. And on an electrotechnical exhibition, he sees a machine that can grind glass. He doesn’t like that machine, and he decides to improve it. It took him nine years before he could present an electrical machine. A machine that can grind a large amount of crystal and stone, all of the same size and all of the very high quality. With this machine he started his business in 1895 in Wattens (Austria), working with rhinestone and crystal. He started in Wattens because that is a place in an area with a lot of local hydroelectricity. What does cheap energy do for his machines?
He produces luxury fashion items made of glass or crystal, like jewelry, sculptures, and miniatures. Another part of his business is producing highly technical items, like telescopes. But for this blog post, it is important that he starts producing high-quality beads.
How to make the perfect Swarovski beads?
Making a machine that can grind glass in high volume is not all it takes to make a high-quality bead. Daniel Swarovski works very hard to make his machine perfect. He tests a lot to find out the right proportion of the right component to make the right glass. This is necessary to create glass that he can cut and polish with a machine. That glass has to be very strong to survive in a machine.
He tests his material further because he wants to make glass that refracts light in a rainbow spectrum. Therefore Swarovski coats his glass with a special metal. And all his inventions create a great collection of special high-quality beads.
Special bead lines
Like the ‘AB’ (Aurora Borealis) bead line, which is coated in a way that the surface of the bead gets a rainbow appearance. And Swarovski has a lot of special bead lines where he uses this technique. Other bead lines are coated twice, like the ‘AB 2x’: very durable and with a beautiful effect. Then in his collection are faceted beads with different shapes, round beads, cabochons with a flat back, or elements with Swarovski beads in or on them.
And every time he invents a new product or a new technique, he makes jewelry out of it and sends examples to fashionistas in St. Petersburg and Paris. And they are excited and the designers want those crystal ‘diamonds’ for their clothing. Business is going well for Daniel Swarovski and his products get the name ‘Swarovski’.
The most successful mass-made products!
The popularity of the Swarovski beads goes sky-high. Especially when the fashion houses of Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli started to use Swarovski beads for the decoration of their new clothing lines. Everyone wants a dress with that luxurious glance, not coming from real diamonds. But those high-quality diamond-shaped Swarovski beads were a lot more affordable than the real diamonds. Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich order a gown decorated with Swarovski beads.
You see the use of strass beads or elements only in very cheap clothing or outfits. It looks a bit cheap compared with the Swarovski beads. The strass elements are not used so often in the fashion industry anymore. Couturiers like Christian Dior, Vivianne Westwood, and Yves Saint Laurent used the Swarovski beads. And those fashion designers made the name of Swarovski more elaborate than it already was.
It stays in the family
In the middle of the last century, the grandson of Daniel Swarovski introduced the multi-colored Swarovski crystals. And makes the Swarovski product even more famous. This development is very important for the people who make their own jewelry. Now they can choose from a lot of colors and shapes. All to make the pieces of jewelry, that are made of these Swarovski crystals more unique and more exclusive. They can get hold of Swarovski beads that look exactly like diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, or amethysts. And these beads are not only used in jewelry or fashionable dresses. But also on phones and even a scooter was decorated with Swarovski beads.
Of course, the marketing of the Swarovski beads is important. You have to convince jewel designers and fashionistas that using the Swarovski beads is good for their business. Therefore Swarovski designed in 2004 a star for the Christmas Tree on the Rockefeller Centre in New York. That star has a diameter of 2.7 meters (9 feet) and weighs 250 kilos (550 pounds) and it is completely covered with Swarovski beads and elements. Imagine what a beauty that is.
The sons of Daniel Swarovski join their father in the business. And they continue to produce beautiful beads, ornaments, and even lenses and telescopes. In 1988 the Swarovski products were symbolized as a crystal swan, the symbol of elegance and grace.
Until today the Swarovski factory is a family business. Today his great-granddaughter continues the work of her great-grandfather. That must be an honor. Because she is working on the dream of a man who accomplished such a lot: inventing a machine that can grind glass in huge amounts. Make crystals of high quality of all the same size and shape. Introduce a new product for jewel designers and fashionistas, but also for home-based jewel makers. And already for more than 100 years. A remarkable story of a remarkable man.
Swarovski jewelry is a good replacement for diamonds. Some ladies cannot afford diamonds but want to look a bit shiny and rich. And this type of jewelry includes jewelry made by zircon (a natural gemstone), or zirconia (a synthetic variety).
Working for my ‘diamonds’
Although I am not a rich woman at all, I have some diamonds I inherited from my mother. My father was a jeweler, and I was very interested in jewelry and gemstones. When I was young I worked in the shop, that is I picked up the pearls of the strings that were broken, I polished the silver and my last job was to do the bookkeeping. I had to write down every item a client bought and after a certain amount of purchases, the client got a present. For that job, I got 10 cents an hour (in the seventies!). And when I wanted to buy something from the shop I got a discount of 50%.
Unnecessary to say that most of the time I bought a jewel from my father and I received many pieces for my birthdays and Christmas. I never got diamonds or Swarovski, most of the time I got pieces of jewelry with semi-precious gemstones or zirconia. My father thought it was not appropriate to give a younger person very expensive jewelry.
My first real diamond
For my 21st birthday, I got a solitaire diamond ring from my parents. That was the first diamond I ever could call mine. And to be honest, I could not see the difference between the diamond set in a white gold ring and my zirconia or Swarovski equivalent. Now I can, but then… So my father explained it to me like this.
Best and better: Swarovski, zirconia, diamond!
A diamond is a mined (gem)stone, cut and polished in facets. It is the hardest gemstone in the world and with devices made of diamond, you can cut everything you want. Zirconia is a manmade stone that looks exactly like a diamond. It is very hard to see the difference without a magnifier. But the zirconia is not that hard (8.5 instead of 10).
Crystal is glass with a certain amount of lead oxide in it. When there is over 30% lead oxide in a crystal then the quality is superb. The Swarovski crystals contain about 32% lead oxide and can be called the top of the crystals.
Hazards of owing diamonds
Back to the party. Did you know that a lot of rich people owe beautiful and expensive pieces of jewelry made of diamonds, in order to make an exact duplicate of that expensive jewel? But instead of diamonds, they use zirconia or Swarovski beads. Sometimes it is necessary for security reasons: they don’t want to hang around with those men in black with little devices in their ears. Or the insurance company doesn’t want to insure the jewelry when it is not in a safe. But what can you do with your beautiful diamonds then?
Luckily I don’t have those problems and I can wear my mother’s diamonds whenever I want, without being surrounded by safety guys. Talking about safety. There are some things you have to know when you want to buy a diamond to avoid buying zirconia or Swarovski crystal by accident.
- Buy your diamonds in a certified, well-known jewel shop and ask for a certificate
- Diamonds are most of the time set in gold and zirconia in high-quality silver.
- Zirkonia is softer than diamonds.
- There are a lot of fake Swarovski beads on the market. Luckily normally you see quite fast whether you have fake or real Swarovski beads.
Although diamonds are the best of the best, zirconia is a great second, and Swarovski is a great third. In its area, the Swarovski crystals are top of the bill, but I should avoid the crystals since they really look like glass (which they are of course) and the breaking of the light on crystals is less.
Gemstones and jewelry are so beautiful and there is so much more to tell about this subject. FlorenceJewelshop published an e-book with stories about birthstones and well-known gemstones. If you are interested, just let me know where I can send it to. It is free of charge!
Hug, Florence from FlorenceJewelshop