When I first started Linkouture, I wanted to make one-of-a-kind pieces that were beautiful and affordable.
Because I didn’t have much capital, and because I was stuck on this idea of affordability, I initially made my chains using silver-plated rings. It had the look of sterling silver, but at a much lower cost.
However, I noticed that over time the plating started to come off some of my pieces, particularly the necklace that wore pretty much every day for six months straight after spending almost as long making. The necklace that I had poured so much time, love, and energy into making soon started to look worn and beat.
And in the end, the less expensive materials didn’t end up saving me or my business that much money.
While affordability is nice in theory, the truth is that comes at another price.
That price could be the quality of the work, the conditions of the people who make your jewelry, or the ability of a crafter to make a living.
This has impacted my own habits when it comes to buying and making jewelry for myself and others, and how I ensure that I purchase and make jewelry that is made to last.
Buy jewelry made from quality materials
Over the year, numerous people have commented at shows that they have nickel allergies. This made me realize it is so important to know from what materials the jewelry you buy is made, particularly if you have a sensitivity or an allergy.
If something is plated or filled, ask what the metal underneath is, such as brass or copper. Just because something says it’s silver or gold it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sterling silver or pure gold.
People like to buy cheap jewelry, and I totally get that — I used to be the same way before making my own jewelry. It’s easier to stomach spending $20 on a necklace than $200.
Just keep in mind a cheaper price tag often means cheaper materials, not to mention a cheaper quality. There is nothing wrong with having some cute, inexpensive baubles, but pieces made from higher-quality metals like sterling silver and gold are meant to last over time.
That’s part of the reason I switched from silver plated materials to making all sterling silver jewelry a couple years ago. I realized the silver plating would eventually come off of the jewelry I was spending so much time to make, and I wanted something that was designed to last.
While it did raise the price-tag of my jewelry, I feel more confident that I am selling jewelry that will last.
That’s not to say jewelry made from less-expensive materials such as brass or aluminum can’t be beautiful be well-made. What’s most important is that the jewelry is made with quality over quantity in mind.
Know that certain metals, such as sterling silver, will tarnish over time. That doesn’t ruin the jewelry, but it does make it look less pretty. If you know the materials are prone to tarnish, take extra care to store and clean them properly. For sterling silver jewelry, I always recommend storing it in a small anti-tarnish ziplock style bag to prevent tarnish.
Choose jewelry with meaning
Instead of just grabbing something that catches your attention, pause for a moment and think: Does it have any deeper meaning for me? Does it tell a story, either because of how it was made, who made it, or why I purchased it? Does this jewelry reflect my values?
A piece of jewelry can be so much more than an accessory.
It can mark an important milestone in our life, such as a graduation, a birth or a passing of a loved one, or a new step in a career.
It can reflect not just our tastes, but our values. For example, for the last few years, I have only purchased handmade jewelry because supporting other makers is important to me. I am also more inclined to purchase jewelry when I am traveling because wearing it brings back memories of that time.
When we take the time to reflect, we’re less likely to make an impulse purchase and more likely to put our money toward jewelry that we will cherish.
Invest in timeless pieces
It’s fun to go with the trends, but also incorporate pieces into your jewelry repertoire that will never go out of style. I recommend jewelry that is elegant and understated in a precious metal.
These are the pieces that you will spend more money on because they are made well and from high-quality materials and that you will find you will wear for years to come. (And maybe even pass along to someone else one day!)
What tips do you have for buying jewelry?
Jewelry photos by Lorna Stell