Joie de Vivre jewelry
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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.

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One of the challenges of buying jewelry online is determining if the item will hang well and have an overall flattering fit. In describing the length of a necklace, I use the following categories to designate how the necklace was designed to fit:

A collar 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.

A choker 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).

A princess 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.

A matinee 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!

An opera necklace is generally 26"-36" in length and rests below the breastline.
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.

A rope 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. To determine the necklace length needed for the desired fit, a person should hold a piece of string around her or his neck to the desired fit length, then measure the string. It's good idea to hang some sort of small weight, like a handful of beads or even a capped pen, on the string to provide a better estimate of where the necklace will hang (string tends to be more lightweight than most necklaces!).

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Selection of jewelry material could be as simple as selecting one that "looks nice" to a slightly more complicated approach of selection 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 filling cavities in organic material such as bone.

Gemstones sold in bead form are generally lower grade than gemstones used in fine jewelry; 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; 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. The pearls used in my designs are Chinese freshwater cultured pearls, except when noted otherwise. I love the organic shapes of keshi pearls, such as found in the Neptune's Flowers bracelet, which form spontaneously near a cultured nucleated pearl in the Japanese akoya oyster. Our 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.

With the recent emphasis on the environment, organic materials such as wood and silk have gained popularity. Also, the popularity of Swarovski crystals has exploded, and these colorful, luscious sparklers now adorn flip-flops as well as earrings and necklaces.

See the various links for jewelry products organized by material:

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The most common metal used in my jewelry is sterling silver. To be designated sterling silver, the item must be at least 92.5% pure silver. Pure silver is a soft metal so other metals such as copper, zinc or platinum are combined with silver to strengthen it and reduce its tendancy to tarnish. Hill Tribe silver is higher purity fine silver (93%-99% pure silver) made by expert silversmiths in the Hill Tribe region of Thailand. It offers brilliant luster and greater resistance to tarnishing than sterling silver; consequently, handcrafted components of Hill Tribe silver have greater value than other kinds of silver components. Silver-plate components are formed by electroplating base metals like copper, brass or nickel with a thin silver deposit that is on the order of microns in thickness. Silver plate components can appear similar to sterling silver, but the thin film can wear away with time exposing the base metal. Rising silver cost has led to the creation of more sterling silver-filled items; these are similar to silver plate in that sterling silver is deposited over a base metal, but covering is much thicker, constituting 10% of the volume. I use sterling silver, Hill Tribe silver or sterling silved-fill in my designs.

Karat values (10kt, 14kt, etc) are more commonly used to express gold metal purity. "Karat" is defined as 1/24 part pure gold by weight so 24kt gold is 100% gold. This means 9kt gold is 37.5% pure gold, 14kt gold is 58.3% pure gold, 18kt gold is 75% pure gold and so on. Like sterling silver, "gold fill" is made from layers of solid gold and alloys, and because the outer layers are gold are thicker than the micron layers of gold-plate, gold fill is more durable and suffers far less wear issues than plated components. "Vermeil" components are sterling silver that have been coated with high quality gold, usually 18kt or 22kt. Vermeil combines the lightness, strength and lower cost of sterling silver with the brightness and durability of gold. Gold adds a subtle glow to a piece that no other metal can match.

Copper has gained popularity in jewelry designs as the price of precious metals has increased and fluctuated since 2000 (silver fluctated from $5/oz to $30/oz at its peak in 2012 and currently ~$15/oz and gold increased from $350/oz to $1700/oz at its peak and currently ~$1000/oz). Copper is appealing to jewelry makers also because it's malleable, resistant to corrosion, and widely available in a range of wire gauges and bead sizes. Also, it has terrific color and a variety of patinas that can be created with combinations of heat and chemicals. I like copper for its warm and rustic hues.

Bronze and brass components are also used in jewelry design. Bronze is generally an alloy of copper and tin, and brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Both metals are strong and hold their shape very well, which makes them suitable for metal casting. They are not as malleable as copper or silver so most brass wirework uses smaller gauge wire.

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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.

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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 (Returns policy) 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.