As a handcrafted jewelry maker, I constantly run into people who ask why my pieces are higher than so-and-so’s, after all, they make the same kind of jewelry, right?
Wrong! Sadly, the reputation of handcrafted jewelry has been tarnished (no pun intended) by the do-it-yourselfer who goes to Walmart of Hobby Lobby and buys some components and glass beads cheaply made in factories overseas and then tries to garner the same prices for their work as true Artisan jewelry. I am so tired of seeing this, so I have created a basic checklist for you, the customer, for just one of the components – SILVER
One of the first, and most noticeable differences is in the quality of their chain, wire and closures. Most claim to be “silver”, but there is a HUGE difference in the quality and pricing of silver coloured components.
- Silver Finish – this is the least expensive and lowest quality. This can mean anything from a thin layer of real silver over a base metal such as brass to – get this – silver coloured PAINT over base metal. This will flake off or wear off very quickly and is NOT recommended for people with metal sensitivity.
- German Silver/Nickel Silver – The name German silver or nickel silver is misleading since it has no silver content, but is an alloy of 60 per cent copper, 20 per cent nickel and 20 per cent zinc. It resembles silver but instead of the soft white colour it has a yellow-grey tinge. Again it is prone to tarnish on exposure to air and will turn the skin green with prolonged contact.
- Silver Plated – This is a thicker layer of real silver that has been applied using heat to a base metal – usually brass or stainless steel. This will wear much longer and with care will last several years before the base metal starts to show through.
- Silver Filled – Silver filled is 1/10 or 10% by weight sterling silver. Silver filled is hundreds of times thicker than regular silver plate and looks just like solid sterling silver. Silver filled also tarnishes less than sterling and if it does tarnish, cleans up easier than sterling silver.
- Sterling Silver – Is an alloy containing 92.5 by weight of silver and 7.5 by weight of copper. The sterling silver standard has a minimum of 925 parts of silver per 1000
- Bali or Thai Silver – This is handcrafted sterling silver and is generally only found in beads or charms, not chain or wire. It is very beautiful and high quality but tarnishes quickly.
- Fine Silver – Is defined by its purity. Investment grade fine silver is stamped with a hallmark certifying its purity. Fine silver is reserved for bullion investment products; it is generally considered too soft for industrial, commercial, or jewelry use. If someone tells you their jewelry is made of “fine silver” then RUN!
So, if you are wanting quality silver jewelry that won’t turn your skin green or give you an allergic reaction, you need to stick with silver plated (lower end) to Sterling or Bali Silver at the higher end. If the person or shop you are purchasing from cannot tell you exactly what type of silver they are using, or if they simply say “silver finish” or “silver” with no clarification of quality, then you need to steer clear. When in doubt, always ask before parting with your hard earned money.
Sadly it is a case of buyer beware sometimes. I know from personal experience after confronting a fellow seller on Etsy about a necklace that they were advertising as “turquoise and silver” and selling it for less than half of what I could purchase the stones and silver for wholesale. They finally had to admit to me that the “turquoise” was actually dyed howlite and the “silver” was silver finish brass. They justified it by saying that they did not state that it was sterling silver or genuine turquoise, but to me that is simply lying by omission.
As a handcrafted jewelry Artisan, I take pride in the quality of my materials as well as the finished product. You can find some of my ready to ship pieces in my Etsy shop – Blue World Treasures – but MOST of my work is custom.
Amethyst, Diamond & Sterling Silver Bracelet
Anyway, rant over 🙂 I hope this has been helpful. Stay tuned for my next comparison – “turquoise” LOL