Sunday, May 22, 2016

Paste Jewelry - Looking Good on Any Budget!

Photos courtesy of The Three Graces  
As a child, I inhaled Little Women and A Girl of the Limberlost and all those wonderful classics. Whenever I'd come upon the term "paste jewelry," I'd picture them squirting out a big glob of Elmer's glue, letting it dry, and then making jewelry out of it. I couldn't understand how they could get the glue to look like gems. Whenever I used glue, it always dried a little cloudy, not sparkling at all, and I did try to paint it or color it with markers to give it that gem-like appearance, and it never worked. It was one of those mysteries of life I decided I'd never figure out, and then I forgot I'd ever been curious about it.

Last week, I finished writing Mail Order Molly, a book in the Brides of Beckham series by Kirsten Osbourne. She invited me to contribute a novel to the series, and of course I said yes because only crazy people would say no. 

Mail Order Molly takes place, in part, at a theater, and the actresses wear paste jewelry. As I wrote that part, I suddenly remembered the curiosity I'd had as a child, and I Googled. What do you know, but it wasn't made from Elmer's glue at all. (You can all laugh at me now. I did.)  Paste jewelry is actually made from glass that's then laid over foil to give it that shiny, reflective look. Colored glass produced the look of colored gemstones. These stones were used heavily from the 1700s to the early 1900s, but they weren't expected to take the place of real stones - everyone knew they were fake, but they were pretty, and that was the most important thing.

Here are some other examples of the beautiful creations they came up with:

With fake jewelry being the fashion and not a faux pas, women of nearly every social standing could sparkle when they went out for the evening. Of course, the most ostentatious pieces were still used mostly by the wealthy.

I found it very interesting that no one cared if their friends knew their jewelry was fake. That's certainly different from attitudes found in other eras, where you'd die of embarrassment to be caught wearing a cubic zirconia instead of a diamond. Frankly, I've always preferred wearing fake jewelry because I don't like the possibility of something expensive being lost or stolen. I guess I'm just old-fashioned that way. 


Amelia C. Adams is the author of the Kansas Crossroads series, the Nurses of New York series, and now a volume in Brides of Beckham - Mail Order Molly. You can learn more about Amelia by visiting her website.


  1. For some folks, collecting 'paste jewelery' has become a hobby. Like you, I prefer to wear the fake.
    Loved you sharing you attempts at creating your own. Fun post. Doris/Angela

  2. I have both but costume jewelry is so affordable and versatile, it is my preference. Also, if for some reason, you were to lose a piece, you won't be out a lot of money.

  3. All these years and I didn't know how paste jewelry was made--thanks for the post! :-)

  4. I agree with you, Amelia. I am not one to crave diamonds or other precious stones. Now especially with the news of the "blood diamonds" trade, I'd be leery of buying a stone that might be the result of slavery.