What’s the difference between sequins, spangles and rhinestones?
Traditional sequins are small, colorful plastic discs with holes in the middle. The discs are attached by thread using an embroidery machine. Most people in the apparel decorating industry use some kind of attachment to an embroidery machine to apply sequins to garments. The end result is very colorful. Because they are sewn directly onto a garment, sequins are subject to thread breaks and wear after application.
Hotfix sequin decorations are similar in appearance, but the process isn’t a direct one. They are applied to transfer tape or transfer paper, much like a rhinestone transfer, and then applied to a garment.
Spangles are basically Hotfix sequins, but without the hole in the middle. So a spangle transfer looks very much like a rhinestone transfer, so much so that it is often confused with a rhinestone transfer. Spangles and sequins do not contain lead, and are both incredibly lightweight and soft to the touch.
Spangles (sometimes called threadless sequins) are very cost-effective to produce. They are about 1/7th the cost of rhinestone transfers. Real spangle transfers are produced with a special machine that can produce a design at 1,000 spangles per minute.
Rhinestone transfers and Hotfix rhinestones are the most common way to bling garments and continue to rise in popularity. Rhinestones are actually pieces of glass created either in a mold, for the more economical versions, or by mechanically cutting the glass, which is more expensive. The result is a three-dimensional bling design that can catch the light from many directions for maximum sparkle. They are produced a couple different ways—from the lower cost-of-entry manual hand-setters, to the template/plotter systems and, on the high production and investment range, with automatic rhinestone transfer systems.
The advantage of rhinestone decorations is that they are well-known to consumers. The cost of entry is also relatively low compared to sequin technology or the new spangle transfer systems.
For ideas on how to add some bling to apparel, check out this article.