It’s a nice feeling to adorn yourself. To want to buy only the best for yourself and feel like a queen! Spoiling yourself shouldn’t hurt that much right…right?! So imagine you are walking past a jewelry store and you see this real beauty you just gotta have! You step into the store to buy and met with the uncomfortable price tag…and right there you hit a U-turn scratching your head whaaaat! You go online and find a dozen other “similar” minimalist pieces – now your mind is just churning! Should I or should I not buy?
Minimalist jewelry at times comes with a hefty price tag, so when the dilemma comes of whether you should buy the “real” deal over the lookalike here are a few things you need to understand making the right decision. After reading this article you will be able to determine whether buying expensive jewelry is really within your best interests and when to opt for the less expensive option.
First thing – what is the definitive difference between expensive and less expensive jewelry? Can you spot the difference?
FINE or LONG TERM JEWELRY
Fine jewelry is used to describe jewelry made of solid gold, sterling silver, platinum, and/or other precious metals. This kind of jewelry also often uses genuine precious gemstones like real diamonds, rubies, sapphires, etc. What are these precious metals? Precious metals are;
- and Silver
When it comes to the precious metal Gold there are a few facts you need to know. There are various grades of gold purity, determined by the ratio of their alloy composition and rated by a karat system. Typical karat purity range from 10 karats to 24 karats (pure gold).
- 24 Karat Gold – Gold in its purest form is extremely soft hence why it is often mixed with other metals such as copper and silver in order to forge jewelry.
- 18 Karat Gold – Consists of 75% Gold and 25% alloy metals. 18 karat gold is often described as the perfect balance between gold purity and strength.
When gold is mixed with other metals it looses its shine and depth that is to say the more is mixed the less pure it is. Hence, why 14 karats and 10 karat gold are low grade and not recommended for fine jewelry.
Also important to note; fine jewelry can be considered an investment – the older the items are and provided they are in good condition, given proper care and stored safely they can appreciate in value. Fine jewelry is much stronger than fashion jewelry and will not tarnish again this largely relies on the care given. In addition to that when broken fine jewelry can always be repaired can also be used as a family heirloom passed down generation to generation.
FASHION or SHORT TERM JEWELRY
Fashion sometimes known as short term jewelry is described as jewelry made from base metals and simulated stones. This kind of jewelry is made with brass, copper or aluminum making them bend and tarnish easily. Also jewelry made entirely out of textiles or leather, base metal alloys, and even metals plated with precious metals like gold or silver also fall under fashion jewelry. Simulated stones include plastic stones, cubic zirconia, and Swarovski crystals.
Plating is a practiced method of applying a very thin layer of precious or non-precious metal over a base metal. With time, the jewelry will begin to tarnish and layers come off through wear and tear or oxidation. It’s when this plating comes off, underneath is a different color and tone – the base metal.
There’s currently a debate between jewelry enthusiast – the rise of “semi-fine” jewelry. The differences are not always easy to discern especially when new. Semi fine jewelry is made with gold vermeil or is gold filled and is also made with real gemstones that are much more affordable, like morganite and opals, which are treated with heat or chemicals to appear flawless.
However, it is not a standard by which experts and authenticators measure jewelry. It is still largely agreed that, “semi-fine” jewelry is still considered fashion jewelry because of its base metal composition. The materials fashion jewelry is made of are prone to cracking or tarnishing, they are way less strong therefore do not last. In addition to that, they are near impossible to repair once they have broken because the level of heat that would be required to solder the brass or copper pieces back together would ruin the piece leaving the gold or silver plating blackened. On the upside, fashion jewelry tends to come less expensive than fine jewelry – a broken piece can easily be replaced.
AFFORDABLE VS PRICEY
Now that we understand the difference between the types of jewelry we have – fine and fashion jewelry. Let us now delve into understanding the pricing strategy. There are many factors that determine the price of jewelry, besides being fine or costume jewelry. These include but not limited to:
- is the jewelry handmade? This is because handmade takes more time and often costs more or is under priced as the jeweler tries to compete with large companies
- where it was made ( for example China labor is cheaper hence they can afford to lower their pricing as compared to a sole proprietor who sources, creates and markets their own products)
- brand image – designer brands means higher prices simply because of the name (brand) and how popular it is
- the cost of materials, supplies, and tools needed to create the jewelry not to forgetting “indirect” which means the cost of an office, electricity, gas in the car to get to the post office or courier charges
- whether or not the jewelry is sold at wholesale price with additional discount to retail stores (if this is so, that means the base price to allows for 2* the pricing to generate profits)
- how unique is the piece (jewelry is like art, originals are worth more because they cannot be replicated easily)
Do your suffer from sensitive skin or allergies, if so than you need to know which precious and non-precious metal options are good for you. 18 karat gold and .925 sterling silver (92.5% only silver, with 7.5% of other metals to strengthen the silver) are great options that often don’t cause reactions. There’s also silver-filled, which is the same concept as gold-filled whereas nickel is one of the most wide-spread allergies according to reports.
Another metal considered hypoallergenic is Platinum because it doesn’t need to be mixed with other metals to be strengthened – so it is 100% good for jewelry making. Jewelry made from one kind of metal significantly decreases the likelihood of a reaction. In addition, Palladium is similar to platinum and is also considered hypoallergenic, but is a rare metal.
IS EXPENSIVE JEWELRY WORTH THE MONEY?
The answer is YES if you are buying pieces made from precious metals and naturally occurring gemstones, pearls and/or diamonds and not manufactured in a lab somewhere. This is something to ask the jeweler or is they do not volunteer the information. If the jeweler creates works of art and pieces are time-consuming than it is a definite plus on our list because nothing screams PASSION than handmade products!
Ultimately it’s about what you want out of your jewelry and do you want short term jewelry or long term. Are you looking for something to go with a current outfit or something you will still accessorize with 10 years from now, or are you simply want a family heirloom you’ll be passing on to your daughter?
I love jewelry and more often I buy fashion jewelry. I think it’s still worth it plus it doesn’t cost as much. But, I also buy fine jewelry pieces that are staples in my collection, because they are forever in contrast to fashion jewelry that comes and goes.