A Taste For Paste
Of the two pairs of earrings featured in Tuesday’s Facebook post, the top pair are paste, while the bottom are diamond. As you can see, paste easily emulates precious stones, but we must stress that it is by no means imitation anything. Its luster, malleability, and quality of workmanship set it apart from other jewelry materials.
What we know as paste jewelry developed from glassmakers experimenting with lead oxide to produce enough luster to closely emulate gemstones, particularly diamonds as increased access to them and improvements in domestic illumination increased their popularity. In this period paste jewelry came to be called “Stras,” or “Strass,” after Georges Frédéric Stras, a jeweler from Strasbourg employed in Paris who became famous for his paste jewelry and so highly regarded, he was appointed Jeweler to the King.
One special quality of paste was how easily it could be used for jewelry designs seeking to maximize the appearance of an unbroken usage of gems while cleverly disguising any metal. Regarding the use of metals, paste jewelry was usually foiled and backed in silver. These materials, in addition to the different shapes paste could produce, rendered it a widely coveted jewelry-making material. Considering all these characteristics, it is easy to see how one might cultivate a taste for paste.