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Glass of several types, but usually of great brilliance that is cut and set in paste jewelry. The paste used by Italian jewellers of the 15th to 17th centuries and also in England for Anglo-Saxon jewelry, was basically ordinary glass that was highly refractive and simulated the brilliance of diamonds. After George Ravenscroft developed, c. 1675, lead (flint) glass in England, it was used extensively there and elsewhere for paste jewelry.
In France, such jewelry was made, from the mid-18th century, of strass. Paste is usually colourless, but some is tinted, although more often given a coloured effect by being backed with foil; the foil adds brilliance, but often becomes discoloured (especially when air or dampness enters the setting), resulting in a patina sometimes deemed desirable.
Some stones are sometimes erroneously referred to as paste, e.g. rhinestone, bristol diamond, rock crystal. The term 'paste' (possibly derived from the Italian pasta), as used in England, dates from the translation by Christopher Merret of the book L'Arte Vetraria (1662) by Antonio Neri. Good-quality paste is extensively made today in France, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.
From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson