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Antique Paste Jewellery

Paste is a heavy, very transparent flint glass that simulates the fire and brilliance of gemstones because it has relatively high indices of refraction and strong dispersion. From a very early period the imitation of gems was attempted. The Romans in particular were very skillful in the production of coloured-glass pastes which copied especially emerald and lapis lazuli.

With an increasing demand for jewellery, the number of imitations steadily increased. In 1758 the Viennese goldsmith Joseph Strasser succeeded in inventing a colourless glass paste that could be cut and that superficially approached the sparkle of genuine diamond.

Before 1940 most imitation gems were made from glass with a high lead content. Such glasses were called paste because the components of the mixture were mixed wet to ensure a thorough and even distribution. Pigments may be added to give the paste any desired colour: chromium compounds for red or green, cobalt for blue, gold for red, iron for yellow to green, manganese for purple, and selenium for red.

Pastes are softer than ordinary or crown glass but have a higher index of refraction and dispersion that give them great brilliancy and fire. The cheaper paste imitations are pressed or molded, but, on the better-quality stones, the facets are cut and polished.
Moulded glass imitations can be identified with a hand lens because the edges between the facets are rounded whereas cut glass has sharp edges. Cut paste stones may be distinguished from real ones in several ways:-

Paste has air bubbles, natural stones do not. Paste is a poor conductor of heat, and so paste stones feel warm to the touch. Paste, like all glass, has an easy conchoidal fracture, yielding brilliant curved surfaces particularly on the girdle (the widest part) of mounted stones near the mounting prongs.

Other differentiation methods involve hardness (paste is softer than real stones and will not scratch ordinary glass), index of refraction (1.50–1.80, less than diamond at 2.42), specific gravity (between 2.5 and 4.0, depending on the amount of red lead used).

Laurelle Antique Jewellery is part of the Antique Jewellery Group where a vast array of rare and distinctive pieces can be found at www.antiquejewellerygroup.co.uk

Our Antique Jewellery is not kept on the premises for security reasons.

Should you wish to view an item please provide 48hrs notice enabling us to collect from our secure vault.

This has been a first class personal service. Sam was so helpful and went out of her way to ensure I received what I wanted.

Katy