When people find out that I work in fine jewelry, they almost always ask me "how do I know if I am buying quality jewelry?" Often times this is followed by a 'quick' visit to their jewelry box to show me some of their favorite pieces. Sadly, I see lots of beautiful designs that they spent a fortune on, that are wearing away to nothing, missing stones, or are showing early signs of cracks and thinning. It's heart breaking because I know they love their jewelry, but sadly, their jewelry is just not holding up and soon they will not be able to wear it anymore.
So, to answer the question, "What is quality jewelry?" I would have to say that, in my opinion, quality jewelry should be defined as heirloom quality jewelry. It should be jewelry that you can wear your entire life and pass onto the next generation.
When I look at a piece of jewelry I ask myself:
"Will this jewelry hold up over the years?"
"Will I be able to pass this onto my grandchildren someday?"
"Are the stones bright and beautiful?"
"Will I spend more money fixing it than buying it?"
This leads me to another heartbreaking story. Many years ago, when I was planning my wedding, my photographer got engaged and, knowing I had a love of jewelry, she couldn't wait to show me her beautiful new ring. She was thrilled about the 'deal' they got on it down at the mall. My heart sank, the stone was full of carbon, feathers, and inclusions. The prongs were thin and barely held the stone and the shank was paper thin and would probably only last a few years. To make matters worse, it had been poorly sized with remnants of the cut shank still visible. The 'great price' she had paid was actually over priced and her future was filled with repair bills. Lesson learned; despite what their signs may tell you, not all jewelry stores sell quality jewelry.
I did not tell you this story to scare you, but to educate you. Having spent over a decade working with jewelry and seeing some heartbreaking cases of broken, lost, or damaged jewelry that could have been avoided if buyers were more aware, makes me eager to use this platform as an opportunity to help educate buyers so they can identify heirloom quality jewelry for themselves.
How Do I Recognize Quality Jewelry?
Learning to spot 'heirloom quality jewelry' takes a trained eye. The good news is that you don't need to go to gemology school to get started. Here are some easy steps you can take to get started today:
Step 1: Do your homework
Putting a little research into today's designers can go a long way. Don't be scared to ask questions like:
How is the jewelry manufactured?
Is the jewelry made in the USA?
How long have the manufacturer been in business?
In an ideal world they will give you the answers we give our customers when they ask us about our Jabel line, "the jewelry is die struck, manufactured in the USA, and has been in business since 1916."
Step 2: Look For Subtle Differences
Have you ever heard the phrase 'the devil is in the details"? This is especially true in jewelry. Look at the details: are the prongs large enough to hold the stone(s), is the band paper thin, etc. When in doubt, go with the heavier setting.
Step 3: Learn The Lingo!!!
Without a doubt, an educated shopper is an empowered shopper! Take some time to learn basic jewelry vocabulary especially when you are buying sentimental jewelry like engagement rings and wedding bands. Ask yourself if you know....
what a shank is....
what a head is...
what die striking means...
what the difference is between a prong and bezel set...
If you can answer these you're in great shape, if you can't, read this simple vocabulary review.
Step 4: GIA Certification for Engagement Rings
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is one of the most respected establishments for diamond grading in the world. Their certifications allow you to make an educated purchase with peace of mind. That is why we only sell GIA certified diamond center stones in our engagement rings.
What is Die Struck Jewelry?
By now, I'm sure you have noticed a recurring theme...die striking (plus it's in the title of the article)! Die striking is important to me because it is a major factor in the quality of the jewelry we sell here on Bella's. Now, that is not to say that cast jewelry is not good. On the contrary, a well alloyed, cast, and properly engineered piece of cast jewelry can be of exceptional quality and a great investment. However, die striking is just the best.
I like to think of a quality cast piece of jewelry as a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. It's delicious, it' balanced, and it gives you all the pep you need. Now, the die struck piece of jewelry is like your shot of espresso; it's calculated, exacting, it requires exceptional knowledge and expertise, and the flavor can't be compared. You see, both drinks are good, but one stands our for it's craftsmanship more than the other.
Are you asking, "so, what are the difference between die struck and cast jewelry?" While the answer can be a complex one, the simplest explanation is that cast jewelry is made in low pressure molds where melted gold is poured into molds and hardened. In contrast, with die striking the gold is struck with repeated force over and over again, both shaping the metal into the desired form and condensing the metal making it thicker and harder. The result of die striking is a highly durable piece of jewelry. That is why so many early early 20th century Jabel rings are still being worn today.
In addition, there are levels of difference within the die struck world. Jabel has engineered styles that are within the one thousands of a millimeter making their jewelry exact and near flawless. Plus, Jabel's die struck designs are struck with as few solder points as possible, leaving less opportunity for the jewelry to become weakened and compromised.
So, if you are in search of a beautiful piece of heirloom quality jewelry, look no further than Jabel's die struck jewelry collection including classic, modern, and vintage style engagement rings, a variety of wedding bands (including unisex wedding bands), ladies rings, gents rings, pendants, earrings, and bracelets.