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One of the things I learned early in my costume jewelry collecting is that if a stone has a closed back, it’s definitely paste* — and open backed stones with a gold or silver backing were also paste*. Thank goodness for Marburger Farms — as Chris Enebo told me that isn’t always the case!!

*Paste: a technique used in costume AND precious jewelry to make stones look extra sparkly. When used on rhinestones, the result is what you see in brooches from the 1940s and 1950s — large glass stones that look dimensional and expensive.

As it turns out, the Georgians (think 1700s) also used paste on crudely cut diamonds – they were foil backed with silver, and these lower quality stones sparkled just as well as better cut ones. (I think candlelight also played a role here).

If you’ve come upon old jewelry either in a store or in your attic, pay attention  to the little details – like longer pins to enclose the harpoon on a brooch, or non-uniformly cut stones – to help determine if what you’ve got is simply paste or truly precious.

In this case, haste truly will make waste!


Many thanks to Chris Enebo Antique Jewelry.

Disclosure: Tickets were provided by Marburger Farm. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author.