Friday, June 29, 2012

What’s in a Name? History of the Word “Rhinestones”

Have you  ever wondered how the word “rhinestones” came to be used to describe the gorgeous glass and crystal baubles used in jewelry designs, buttons, and for so many other purposes?

We sell so many beautiful vintage rhinestone treasures at Bumbershoot Supplies, so I did a bit of research to learn about their name, and here is what I discovered:
“In the early decades of the twentieth century, a few tourist shops along the banks of the Rhine river [in Austria] sold jewelry with stones called “Rheinkiesel”. These were water clear stones which were cut like diamonds, and had red, green and blue blotches inside. They were made from glass molded and cut in Bohemia, and the red, green, and blue patches had been ingeniously fused into the clear glass during the molding process.

“Rheinkiesel, literally translated, means “Rhine pebbles”. Whether the tourists believed that the “stones” had been fished out of the river, or simply bought them for their attractive appearance as souvenirs to take home from their trip cannot be known. At some point a businessman, probably an American importer, gave the small imitation diamonds from Austria the name “Rhinestones”, and to this day the public recognizes them under that name.” (From: Rhinestones! A Collector’s Handbook and Price Guide by Nancy Schiffer)


  1. Now I know why some of my Grandma's crystals are referred to as Austrian crystals. Thanks for sharing this tidbit!

  2. I suspected that the Rhine river was involved in the etymology, and now I know why. :-) Thanks!