Adding sparkle to garments with rhinestones and spangles doesn’t only add value; there is a great history as well.
All that glitters is not gold; they might be spangles, sequins or rhinestones. Not only do they add flair and elegance to clothing, accessories and other products, but each one comes with a fascinating history.
History of Rhinestones
Original rhinestones were rock crystals taken from the shores of the Austrian Rhine River, the origin of the name “rhinestone.” Through time, as the source of natural stones became depleted, creative jewelers began to find ways to replicate the original look.
By the late 1770s, French jeweler George Frederic Stras came up with an idea of metal-coating the back of clear crystals. This forced the light reflection off the backing and through the stone. With that, Stras created rhinestones as they are known today.
Daniel Swarovski advanced a method of cutting crystals as a way to simulate the facets of gemstones. Producing gem-like stones in quantities, the popularity of rhinestones soared. Many modern stones are now made from glass, acrylics, paste or gem quartz.
In the past, rhinestones were affixed to garments and other fabrics only by sewing or with adhesive. This resulted in a slow, painstaking process to make even the simplest designs. To add rhinestones to a garment just took too long! Glues needed just enough to be applied of placing stones in 60 seconds. Anymore and the glue would begin to set before you had a chance to get to that area. When glue sets before the stone is laid, tackiness is limited, and the bond weakened between the rhinestone and the material.
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Decorating Easier with Hotfix Rhinestones
One significant technological advancement changed the whole rhinestone decorating industry—Hotfix.
Hotfix rhinestones have “heat fixed” adhesive backing activated by using a heat press, hand iron or dryer (although using hand dryers to set rhinestones is time-consuming and not a recommended method).
With the immense popularity of hotfix rhinestones, glues have improved dramatically, especially in the past few years. Different rhinestone manufacturers will use different glues, but in most cases the adhesives work extremely well when used properly. With lesser-quality hotfix stones, there is still a problem with stone loss from the backing, so choosing the right hotfix rhinestone is critical to your finished product.
Today, even the highest quality rhinestones are relatively inexpensive, such as the Brilliant Rhinestone and the bulk hotfix rhinestone line from Colman and Company. With the ease of hotfix, Brilliant Rhinestones can be used to adorn everything from tiaras, head wear and costume jewelry pieces to spirit wear like cheerleader outfits, team uniforms and figure skating costumes.
With the CAMS Automatic Rhinestone Setting Machines, designing with rhinestones can be both easy and profitable. Using silicon transfer paper, a pattern of rhinestones can be quickly put into place and attached to garments and other products with a heat press. Rhinestone transfers can be sold to a customer as do-it-yourself decorating projects.
Spangles and Sequins
Rhinestones have a gem-like quality that adds sparkle; spangles provide fabrics a metallic shine.
Spangles (sometimes used interchangeably with sequins) are small, circular pieces of sparkly metal or plastic traditionally sewn on garments for decoration. In the past, spangles were made with different materials, from metal and crystals to gems and stones. Today, spangles are commonly made of plastic.
Sequins are a variety of spangle commonly used as decoration, more frequently appearing on clothes or other material. The most popular sequins are round but are also found in shapes as well as a range of colors.
Sequins: From Money to Eveningwear
The history of sequins dates as far back as the ancient Mediterranean. “Sikkas” were small coins used for decoration, the name that eventually translated into “sequin.” Legends say Sikka coins were sewn onto clothing of men and women, as a show of wealth.
Scarves and other garments were also embellished with sequins, which was probably done not only to show wealth but also for safekeeping, having money close by when worn on one’s body. The style quickly became attractive to other cultures, eventually transforming into a fashion statement more than a way to safeguard money.
A sequined dress is considered formalwear and is often accompanied by a matching sequined bag; both are highly sought after as evening apparel. Items such as scarves, belts, hats, boots and more may also be trimmed with sequins, considered appropriate fashion for any time of day or night.
Technology Makes Spangles as Simple as Rhinestones
The biggest drawback of working with spangles and sequins is the process of adding them to garments; they almost always have to be hand-glued or sewn. Like rhinestones, individual application of spangles is time consuming and highly labor intensive. It is especially a problem for commercial garment decorators, who need to produce quantities of custom clothing quickly.
As it was for rhinestones, hotfix represents the biggest technological breakthrough for spangles. Creating a hole-free spangle, glued on like a hotfix rhinestone, makes decorating garments with spangles easy and affordable for commercial production.
ProSpangle is a rapid hotfix spangle system that can make adhesive-backed spangles at a rate of 600-800 per minute, with transfer designs up to 17.71” X 17.71”. The ProSpangle cuts patterns in different shapes, sizes and up to six different colors, all from continuous ribbons of metallic material.
Now, more fashion designers than ever can spangle eveningwear, daywear and accessories with fun and whimsical patterns. Retailers and manufacturers can make high-end clothing, signature jewelry pieces, and premium products that are a hot commodity in the collectibles market.
Rhinestones and spangles can be a terrific addition to a direct to garment or screen printing company, as well as ideal for embroiderers and other custom garment designers. Or they can be a perfect startup for an entrepreneur! Colman and Company offers a full line of rhinestones, rhinestuds and nailheads, in addition to the new ProSpangle Hotfix Spangle system.
For more information, visit ColmanAndCompany.com or call 800-891-1094.
Do you have questions or comments about using rhinestones, spangles or sequins? We would like to know! Join the conversation in the comments below.