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Articles of jewelry that are decorated with paste, often said to simulate jewelry set with diamonds or other gemstones, but having its own characteristics. It became very popular in England and France, and somewhat in Spain, during the 18th century, owing to the demand of the middle classes for inexpensive jewelry, to new techniques for cutting stones to increase brilliance, and even to the prevalence of highwaymen who made the carrying of paste jewelry a lesser risk.
So many persons were engaged in France in making paste jewelry after the invention of Strass that there was a corporation, c. 1767, of joailliers-faussetiers. The articles, including brooches, bracelets, necklaces, and especially finger rings, were made of silver or occasionally of pewter, and are often found with a rub-over setting or pavé setting.
Many examples have survived, as the low value of the stones and settings did not warrant the labour of remodelling, as was done with jewelry of gold and gemstones, and also such remodelling presented great technical difficulties.
Paste jewelry can be fairly readily distinguished from other jewelry by several means: the paste itself is warmer than gemstones and more easily scrathced; the paste stones are cut to fit the setting rather than in the conventional shapes of gemstones; the settings are different, those for paste being generally closed and foiled settings, especially for pieces made before the 19th century: genuine 18th-century pieces are lighter than later specimens, and the silver settings are usually without assay marl because of the thinness; and inspection for black spot.
From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson