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How to...use and choose nail art rhinestones

Nail art Rhinestones

How to use and choose rhinestones for nail art

Rhinestones are a great way to add glamour and sparkle to nails. They are inexpensive and easy to use on all types of nails. This How To is designed to be a basic guide to choosing stones and applying them to natural nails. 

What you will need:

Types of rhinestones by material

Acrylic stones:  these are the least expensive nail art stones. They are available in a huge variety of colours, sizes and shapes and can be used in all sorts of nail art.  They are made in moulds from acrylic (plastic).  Translucent stones usually have a metallic foil coating on the back to make them even more light reflective.  With most acrylic stones now being made in China, the quality (and sparkliness!) of acrylic rhinestones can vary hugely from manufacturer to manufacturer.  As they are made from acrylic, they may not be suitable for use under acrylic or gel products.

Glass stones:  are made from glass crystals that have been machine cut to shape.  Like acrylic stones, glass stones can be made in a huge range of colours and shapes. This process produces a stone with more sparkle and durability than an acrylic stone at a higher cost.

Crystal/Swarovski stones:  Crystal rhinestones are machine cut from synthetic crystals that are specially formulated to imitate diamonds.  Swarovski crystal is made a secret formula and produces stones with amazing glitter and sparkle.

Real diamonds: yes, well, we can dream, can’t we...?

Key features /Terminology:

Flat backed: Stones used for nail art should be flat backed (stones designed for jewellery-making usually have shaped backs and stones designed for crafting may have hollow backs  so neither  are suitable for nail art.

Size:  at Nailtopia, we describe a stones size in millimetres across. The smallest stones we sell are size ss5 (1.7 to 1.8 mm in diameter)...but we also stock some much larger ones!

Faceted: faceted stones are cut (or moulded) to have many flat surfaces or faces like a cut diamond. The faces help to reflect light and create sparkle.

Moonstone: moonstones have smooth, rounded surfaces. They lack the sparkle of faceted stones but often have interesting depths of colour.

AB: this term refers to a light reflective coating covering the surface of the stone.  It changes the colour of the stone to give its colour an opalescent light reflective quality. Clear crystal rhinestones that have an AB coating will look opalescent and will reflect light in a wider range of colours than a clear stone. The way an AB coating changes the colour of the stone depends on the original colour of the stone.

Colours:  rhinestones come in more colour variations that we could attempt to list here! Most often, the colour describes the precious stone that they most resemble.  The most popular coloured stone for nail art is clear crystal although AB crystal stones and silver rhinestones are really popular too!

Shapes: the most popular rhinestone shape for nail art is round but these stones come in such a huge variety of shapes and sizes that it is a shame not to try something new!  Here are some of the more common rhinestone shapes we’ve come across (shaped rhinestones are generally acrylic as they are much easier to produce from moulds than cutting stone!):

  • Flowers
  • Hearts
  • Bow tie
  • Star
  • Square
  • Tear drops

How to apply to natural nails

There is no set way of applying rhinestones to nails – my recommendation is to experiment and see what works best for you!

The basic process is that you are setting the stone in semi-dry nail varnish.  The polish needs to be dry enough not to smudge when place the stone on the nail but wet enough to dry onto the stone.  You can apply top coat to the point that the stone is going to be applied if the polish has dried – this is a useful idea if you are doing detailed work nail by nail.

Now you need to pick up the stone and place it on the nail.  My personal preference is to use a slant ended orange stick that has been dipped in water and then blotted on a lint-free cotton wool pad (if you’re doing your own nails, just lick it!) – the surface tension of the water gives you enough sticking power to pick up a rhinestone and allows it to be released into the polish...easy!.  Other techniques are to put blu-tack or pertroleum jelly on the end of the orange stick.

As an alternative to the orange stick, you can use a dotter or a rhinestone picker upper, nail art tweezers or even a tooth pick!

Once the stone is in place, you need to top coat. This stone is going to be held in place by your top coat and the nail varnish you have set in into so you need a good, thick long lasting top coat to give the stone and your nail art lasting wear!

Top coating over the stone will dull its sparkle, regardless of what type of stone you’re using. This may not be an issue if you are using acrylic stones as a feature, but if you are using Swarovski crystals you will want to retain the sparkle. One way to do this is to apply the top coat around the sides of the stone using a fine brush.

The length of time you can expect your rhinestones to last depends on the quality of polish and top coat you are using, the amount of wear and tear you subject your hands to and the size of the stone. Larger and more raised stones are more likely to come off than smaller, flat stones.

Applying to enhanced nails: rhinestones applied to enhanced nails look great and give lasting wear. They can be subtle (a single gem added as a highlight to a perfect French manicure) or ultra-bling for a special night out (perhaps just one nail totally encrusted with gems?)  This How To is not intended as a guide to applying stones to enhanced nails  but is intended to help and inspire clients to consult with their nail technician.