There are three types of jewelry: fine, bridge and costume jewelry.
- Fine jewelry typically consists of karated gold and platinum
inset with precious gems such as diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds.
Well known designers include Cartier and Tiffany, though any jewelry designer
that demonstrates competency with materials and conforms to industry standards
regarding use and trade of precious metals and gems may be considered
a fine jewelry designer.
- Costume jewelry is typically made with silver and gold plated base metals that
are set with synthetic stones or glass. The term became popularized in the 1930s
when used by movie producer Cecil B. DeMille and generally refers to inexpensive
synthetic jewelry that mimics bold designer fine jewelry pieces. Recently, designs
offered by J. Crew and Boden have increased exposure to this type of jewelry; their
statement pieces show how sophisticated and versatile costume jewelry can be.
- Bridge jewelry is the nebulous middle ground between fine and costume jewelry.
Bridge jewelry is typically made of precious metals, though sterling silver and gold-fill
are more common than gold and platinum. Semiprecious gemstones such as aquamarine, garnet,
peridot, amethyst, labradorite and topaz or precious gemstones of lesser gem grade are
featured in the designs. Generally, jewelry items containing gemstone beads are considered
bridge jewelry because beads are not high gem grade quality according to gemological
classification. However, stone beauty can shine in unexpected ways and a bridge jewelry
piece may be more striking and unusual than conventional fine jewelry. In this way,
bridge jewelry offers the best of both worlds: the look and feel of quality materials in
a myriad of designs without the high cost.
One of the challenges of buying jewelry online is determining if the item will hang well and
have an overall flattering fit. The following categories designate how the necklace was
designed to fit:
necklace is generally 14"-17" in length and rests higher on the neck,
above the collar bones.
Multi-strand pearl or gemstone chip necklaces fitting snugly
about mid-neck are popular examples. Casual designs, like with gemstone chips, pair well
with collared shirts or high crew necks but may look awkward or disjointed with lower
necklines (scoopneck, V-neck, etc). Elegant designs, like with pearls, pair well with
strapless dresses or necklines just skimming the collar bones.
necklace is generally 16"-18" in length and rests on or just
below the collar bones.
Choker necklaces work well with a variety of necklines,
from collared shirts with deeper V-necklines to crewnecks and V-necks. Choker necklaces
do not tend to work well with turtlenecks or deep scoopnecks or plunging V-necks;
the proportion of the neck appears wrong for the clothing. Likewise, care should be taken
with the scale of the jewelry; the size of the stones should be compatible with the
underlying clothing print (think of the guidelines for pairing ties with jackets).
necklace is generally 17"-19" in length and rests an inch or
two below the notch of the neck.
Princess necklaces are great candidates for use
of pendants because they position the pendant in roughly the center of the breastbone.
This length pairs well with high necklines, like boatnecks and turtlenecks, and deep
scoopnecks and V-necks.
necklace is generally 20"-25" in length and rests from
mid-breastbone to the breastline.
Matinee necklaces tend to be made of pearls
or open metalwork; stone or lampwork glass necklaces of this length could be quite heavy!
necklace is generally 26"-36" in length and rests below
Necklaces of this length swing easily and care should be taken
while wearing because they can snag on nearby items and break. Opera necklaces are
dramatic and eye-catching, no matter what the material.
necklace is generally 37"+ in length. Most rope necklaces
are open in design; that is, there usually is not a defined clasp and it is up to the
user to decide how it is worn. Generally, rope necklaces are looped as lariats for
mid-chest fit or encircled around the neck with ends draping lower.
The actual length to achieve the desired necklace fit may vary for an individual, depending on
the person's build. It's a good idea to measure your dimensions first if you are uncertain
about the length of a necklace. Plus, remember that large scale beads take more volume.
•• w h a t m a t e r i a l ?
Selecting jewelry material can be as simple as choosing what looks appealing, or it can
slightly more complicated based on healing properties or resale value.
Popular gemstones - tourmaline, topaz, aquamarine, peridot, citrine, garnet, amethyst, ruby,
sapphire, emerald and moonstone - arise from crystals that form in igneous and metamorphic rock.
For stones of the same family, aquamarine and emerald (beryls) or amethyst and citrine (quartz), it is
the presence of different trace elements like chromium and titanium that affect the color of the stone.
Malachite, turquoise, limestone, rhodochrosite, agate and opal are sedimentary rocks that result
from deposition of material. For example, opals form from silica gel that settles from water
trickling through rock cavities and cracks.
Gemstones sold in bead form are generally lower grade than gemstones used in fine
jewelry so it's common to find inclusions, areas of opaqueness, and less brilliant color than in
loose faceted gemstones. Also, the facets of gemstone beads are not as precise and
polished as fine jewelry stones. Despite these limitations, excellent quality gemstone beads
are available, though naturally at a higher cost. If stones of particularly high quality are
used in a jewelry product, it will be noted in the item description. I am a regular at the Tucson
Gem and Mineral Show - a major international event in the US for the gemstone trade - and handpick
the stones with best color and clarity for the price points. Vendors at the show are screened so
buyers can shop with the confidence of knowing that our materials are genuine.
A string of pearls is the equivalent of the LBD - every woman should have one. Necklaces of cultured
freshwater pearls with terrific color, luster and uniformity are readily available and relatively
economical, thanks to a plethora of Chinese manufacturers. Rising Chinese labor costs in 2009
caused an escalation of freshwater pearl prices, though my freshwater pearl inventory is fairly robust
so I can pass along the lower material cost in the pearl jewelry items. The most expensive pearls,
due to their rarity, are natural saltwater and freshwater pearls. Unfortunately, our love of pearls has led to the
depletion of naturally occurring pearl beds. However, the Japanese were successful in developing a
reliable process for producing cultured pearls, in which a mother-of-pearl bead is introduced to
the oyster, and this process has been replicated worldwide. The pearls in the designs
are Chinese cultured freshwater pearls unless noted otherwise. Keshi pearls are organically shaped pearls that form spontaneously
near a cultured nucleated pearl in the Japanese akoya oyster. The product descriptions will indicate
if pearls are naturally or artificially colored, though an observant consumer will have
little difficulty in identifying a boldly dyed pearl!
Shell is another popular organic material due to its luster and ability to be dyed a variety of
interesting and vibrant shades. Mother-of-pearl is the most common shell material available, but
paua shell from abalone and river shell from mussels are also popular choices.
From ancient Roman glass beads to modern borosilicate lampwork glass creations, glass jewelry
has eye-popping appeal. Leaded glass crystal can be colored and cut in a dazzling array
of sharp, brilliant shapes that add sparkle to any design, and Swarovski crystal and glass
pearls have exploded on the jewelry making market. Handcrafted blown glass beads are
remarkable for their outstanding color and feel; they truly are wearable art.
When it comes to tiny, uniform, delicate glass beads, no products compare with the Delica
seedbeads by the Japanese Miyuki glass company. The variety of colors and consistent size
and quality make these the standard by which other seedbeads are measured. Likewise, no
one innovates like the Czech company Preciosa for new shapes and styles of glass beads.
With the recent emphasis on the environment, organic materials such as wood and silk have
gained popularity. These lightweight materials can be big and bold without sore necks.
Hand-dyed silk cords and ribbons are colorful and fun accents most often used with a pendant
for a versatile rope length necklace that can be adjusted to the desired length with a
quick tie or wrapped a number of times for a terrific bohemian style bracelet.
Along with environmental interest is the awareness that wood resources are precious.
Wood beads are often made from the scraps of harvested lumber so in a sense, they arrive as
recycled material. Pale hardwood beads can be stained or dyed for fantastic color.
See the various links for jewelry products organized by material:
•• c a r e a n d c l e a n i n g
Simple steps to care and cleaning for jewelry will keep it in good repair and looking great for
years to come. Contact with skin transfers oils that can dull the sheen of stones, pearls and
metals but some cleaning compounds can erode bead surfaces and stringing material; therefore,
I recommend periodic cleaning by soaking the piece in warm, soapy water for 1-3 minutes
using a mild soap free of chlorine and ammonia.
Baby soap is a great choice because it is gentle and pH neutral so it won't damage pearls, opals
or turquoise whose surface is more porous.
Tarnish occurs naturally to silver components (silver oxide forms with oxygen contact) and
there are a couple easy ways to remove lightly tarnished components; heavily tarnished components
may require professional cleaning. First, clean the jewelry in warm, soapy water described above.
Silver is a soft metal and can be easily scratched if scrubbed too hard or harshly; sterling silver
is stronger but still not immune from scratches. Therefore, select a soft, lint free cloth to clean
the piece. Soft, lint free jewelry cloths with tarnish remover are sold in jewelry stores, craft
stores and many drugstores. An alternative is to use a soft toothbrush dipped in a baking soda
paste to gently remove the tarnish, followed by thorough rinsing with warm water and drying with
a soft cotton handkerchief or bandana. If possible, limit contact of the baking soda paste with
gemstones. Baking soda is only mildly alkaline (pH 8.1; neutral pH is 7) but
the abrasives in the paste could scratch the surface of stones.
Over time, stringing material may stretch or crack, particularly if the load on the line exceeds
the stated test weight. I typically use nylon coated stainless steel threads for
designs with larger, heavier components and Spectra fiber threads for designs with more lightweight
components. Spectra fiber is used for fishing line due to its low friction coefficient
(lower than nylon), high resistance to abrasion and high tensile strength. Test weights for
Spectra fiber range from 10 lb for very fine lines (0.006" diameter) to 30 lb for
medium weight lines (0.011" diameter). The thread generally breaks much higher than the stated
test weight, but the line may stretch. For anyone who has snagged jewelry, it's no surprise
that a good snag puts serious strain on the stringing material! For this reason, I offer free
repair of a damaged or broken jewelry item in the first year after purchase; after that, I offer
repair services given hourly fee for labor plus material cost. A common sense reminder: jewelry
products should be handled with care, particularly for longer length necklaces that can swing and
catch on nearby items. The best way to store jewelry is to lay it flat to lower the risk of
unintentionally catching a dangling item. I also recommend restraint wearing beaded
jewelry around small children; their bright eyes and inquisitive hands are drawn to the bright colors
and sparkle, and once broken, beads present an obvious choking hazard.
When it comes to purchasing necklaces for children, it's better to select necklaces with magnetic
clasps or low test weight stringing material because it's more desirable for the necklace to
come undone or break than to choke the neck of the child. The test load is found in the product
description for the stringing material that was used, if the load is known.
Broken or damaged jewelry is never desirable, and I select materials and construction with
robustness in mind. However, no jewelry item is immune to wear and tear, and breakage and/or
damage can result with a hard snag. For this reason, I offer free repair of any jewelry product
in the first year from purchase. Simply return the item to us via the return address
) and I will repair the
item and ship it back at no charge. If I'm unable to repair the jewelry item, I'll offer
alternatives such as jewelry redesign or store credit for the purchase price. Due to the nature of
the credit card transactions, I can't offer refunds beyond 60 days.
I'm happy to repair jewelry - both mine and others - for a $20 hourly labor fee and cost of materials.
Please contact me and we can discuss the nature of the repair and provide a rough estimate for cost.
I'll provide a detailed quote for repair when the item to be repaired is received; we'll then
either proceed with the repair or return the item if the quoted repair cost is undesirable. I can
usually complete repairs within 10 business days, but more time may be needed for complex repairs.