The Story of Czech Costume Jewelry
Czechoslovakia became a country in 1918 absorbing Bohemia, which was well known for its quality glass, garnets and beads. The Bohemian glass works produced large quantities of stones and beads as well as complete jewelry which was exported between 1918 and 1939. During the war Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Germans, so most of the Czech jewelry you will find will be dated from before WWII.
The brooches on this page are of a very light cheap metal, but the brilliance of the paste shows that the glass used was of excellent quality. They have the flat geometric shapes of the Art Deco period, and reflect the fashion for white metal and brilliant sparkly diamante.
If you have been wondering, like me, what the difference is between paste, rhinestones and diamante, well, according to Lilian Baker in "100 Years of Collectible Jewelry", paste is a superior glass, made of pounded rock crystal melted with alkaline salts and coloured with metallic oxides. It has been used since ancient times to imitate precious stones.
Rhinestones are faceted glass stones with a foil backing. They are inferior to paste and lose their luster once the foil backing is scratched or worn away.
Diamante just means a sparkling decoration or ornament which could be made of rhinestones, paste, sequins or anything else brilliant. Nowadays they all seem to be used pretty interchangeably.
Czech jewelry is fairly distinctive and easy to recognise, although some French jewelry looks similar since they imported many glass stones and beads between the wars. Although Czech pieces are not all marked, many of them are, but the marks are often well hidden on the edge of the pins of brooches, or on the clasp or final link of necklaces.
I find a good place to find a good range of Czech Art Deco jewelry is on eBay. Here are some current displays from the USA, UK and Australia.
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