We can't lie, shimmering diamonds and luscious gemstones are what we all want to be wearing,and there’s no feeling quite like being able to parade your finest jewels to anyone who is willing to look! (I mean, we’re almost sure that it isn’t just us that does this?!?) But rolling around in thousands of pounds of jewellery isn’t always possible or sensible.
Now, your initial thoughts on "an alternative" to precious gems might fill your heart with dread, and your head full of jewellery nightmares! But don't worry! When we say a more affordable alternative to Diamonds we don't mean the cheap man-made Cubic Zirconias of GemsTV, so you can be rid of your visions of tatty plastic rings and jewellery whose Gold plating has seen better days. No! Don’t be hasty, because there is a world of lovely jewellery pieces waiting for you at really reasonable prices.
Victorian Gilded Copper Alloy with Sapphire Paste Gems and Enamel Peacock Brooch, c.1880-1890, Source - The Victoria and Albert Museum
There are so many affordable jewellery options we can suggest that will give you a touch of glamour without a hefty price tag. From amazing antique Silver Albert chains that are edgy and versatile to bright bakelite and lucite bangles from the '50s and '60s, and the glittering cut steel of the 1700's to name a few. But today we've chosen to focus on our personal favourite, antique Paste.
Silver Italian Cross Pendant with Emerald and Diamond Paste Gemstones, c.1800-1867, Source - The Victoria and Albert Museum.
What is Paste Jewellery?
Paste is, for us, one of the most underrated types of jewellery out there today. It can be found all over the world, in different styles and settings, but the best Paste pieces are just as beautiful as Diamond or precious gemstone jewellery and is almost always a fraction of the cost.
So, "what is Paste?", I hear you say! Paste jewellery is a special type of flint glass that emulates a number of gemstones. The origins of Paste jewellery date back to the mid-18th century, to a jeweller named Georges Frederic Stras, who worked as a jeweller to the king when he moved from Strasbourg to Paris in 1724. His name is still attached to the craft as some people refer to fine-quality antique paste jewellery as ‘Stras’ (or "Strass") instead.
Much of the beauty and appeal of antique Paste jewellery is that it was such a difficult and labour-intensive thing to produce. The special Paste glass was cut and polished by hand so that is shone and glittered.
One of the earliest examples of Paste jewellery we have ever seen! A Frankish dish brooch with glass Paste cabochons, c.7th century, Source - The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Sometimes the craftsmanship was so superb that you couldn't tell the difference between a real Diamond and a Paste, a real Topaz, Garnet, Sapphire, an Emerald or a Paste. Whilst some in Parisian high society even deemed Paste jewellery as superior to the real thing!
Often Paste jewellery was set with a metal base or "foil" to improve the colour and luminosity of the glass. And sometimes coloured so if you wanted a romantic Ruby red or an amazing Emerald green, paste jewellery had you covered.
Paste jewellery was popular throughout the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras, and even the Art Deco period to some extent. And with this history comes the knowledge that there are many excellent pieces of vintage paste jewellery just waiting to be discovered!
Each piece of paste jewellery has its own slice of history running through it. It is an acquired taste, but we're sure if you try it you'll grow to love it!
Paste jewellery has risen the ranks in the past few years and is once again fashionable. (Prices are rising fast as these pieces are snapped up by dealers and collectors, so this is a great time to invest!) Owing to its versatility and sense of occasion, the jewellery has become a mainstay for some of its fans.
We’re definitely a fan of the genre and we have a few luscious pieces of paste jewellery in our collection at the moment that are available for purchase. We think you’ll agree, they’re drop-dead gorgeous!
Victorian Amethyst Paste Riviere Necklace, Source - Lillicoco
Almost every gemstone under the sun has inspired Paste jewellery, and this Victorian Amethyst Paste riviere necklace is no different! Amethysts were prized in the Georgian and Victorian period due to their associations with divinity and royalty. Yet, they were incredibly difficult to find in their sought-after Cadbury purple hue! This is why Paste was so popular, because it could create high-quality replicas of these gemstones. Plus, we love the simple yet dramatic elegance of a Paste Riviere!
Large Victorian Silver Paste Brooch, Source - Lillicoco
To wrap-up our little rundown we thought we’d go with something big! This large Victorian Silver Paste bird brooch will catch everyone's attention. Not only is this piece completely embellished with bright white Paste gemstones, but the eyes are red cabochon Paste - how charming!
These pieces are just a small sample of the Paste jewellery pieces we have listed on our website so check out the full range here. And as always, if there’s anything you have your heart set on, but can’t find on our website, then don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll help you find your dream Paste jewellery!