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Originally, rhinestones were rock crystals gathered from the river Rhine. The availability was greatly increased in the course the 18th century when the Alsatian jeweller Georg Friedrich Strass had the idea to imitate diamonds by coating the lower side of glass with metal powder. Hence, rhinestones are called strass in many European languages.
Rhinestones can be used as imitations of diamonds, and some manufacturers even manage to reproduce the glistening effect real diamonds have in the sun.
In 1955, the Aurora Borealis, a thin, vacuum-sputtered metallic coating applied to crystal stones to produce an iridescent effect, was introduced by Swarovski. Aurora Borealis tends to reflect whatever color is worn near it, and it is named after the Aurora Borealis atmospheric phenomenon, also known as the "Northern Lights". Similar treatments are Aqua aura and "Flame aura".
Typically, crystal rhinestones have been used on costumes, apparel and jewelry. Crystal rhinestones are produced mainly in Austria by Swarovski and in the Czech Republic by Preciosa and a few other glassworks in northern Bohemia. In the US, these are sometimes called Austrian Crystal. In the Spanish-speaking world they are called Cristal de Bohemia (Bohemian Crystal).
Liberal use of rhinestones was associated with country music singers, as well as with singer Elvis Presley and pianist Liberace. In 1974 David Allan Coe released the album The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy and referred to himself as The Rhinestone Cowboy again in the 1977 song "Longhaired Redneck". In 1975 Glen Campbell had a top hit with the song "Rhinestone Cowboy", and became known as the "Rhinestone Cowboy". That song served as the basis for the 1984 movie Rhinestone, starring Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton.
Rhinestones are sized by using the term "ss", or stone size, followed by a number to indicate size (e.g. SS8 is equivalent to 2.3 mm, SS10 is 2.8mm). SS is more commonly used for apparel means, while PP (or pearl plate) is used for jewelry.
 Hot fix rhinestones
Hot fix rhinestones, also called heat transfer rhinestones, are mainly used for apparel. The flat bottom of the stone has a glue backing and when heated melts onto the surface of the clothing. These can be adhered using a regular iron, however, it is recommended to use a heat press, as they are able to reach higher temperatures (standard transfers require temperatures of up to 350–400 °F (177–204 °C), which regular irons are not capable of) while applying heavy pressures resulting in a more professional standard quality.
- "Rhinestones and Rhinestone Jewelry". Clothingdictionary.com. Retrieved 2013-04-06.
- "Rhinestone Size - SS Size and PP size". Jewelrymaking-beads-library.com. Retrieved 2013-04-06.
- "Hot Fix FlatBack Swarovski Rhinestones, Crystal Beads, Pearls". Lovetocrystal.com. Retrieved 2013-04-06.
- "Knowledge Base - Heat Transfer Information". Coastalbusiness.com. Retrieved 2013-04-06.