Fashion vs. Fine jewelry - What's The Difference and How to Choose?

Fashion vs. Fine jewelry - What's The Difference and How to Choose?

by Mary Grace Tacderas

Fine jewelry and fashion jewelry, is there really a difference between these two? What makes jewelry belong to the fine line and the fashion line? Does it depend on the brand? The intricacy of the design? Or the materials used? Is there even a definite criterion on how do we define if a piece of jewelry is under the fashion or fine line?

Jewelry has always been an object adorned to enhance the beauty and express one's unique identity, even in the olden times where royalties, nobles, and chiefs rule among their people. The difference in the appearance, make, and designs can be observed between pieces worn by the masses and their rulers.

We can see the difference in the mindset of the generations for most adults or elderly who would still prefer to purchase and wear a piece of single fine jewelry that wears a set of fashion jewelry. In contrast, most millennials have an affinity for fashion pieces of jewelry. This is why most brick and mortar jewelry shop would offer more fine jewelry pieces, while online jewelry shops mostly offer fashion pieces of accessories.

Fine Jewelry

What characterizes a piece of fine jewelry? There are no established standards to tell whether a piece of jewelry belongs to the fine line category. Some believe that even pieces of jewelry from high-end jewelry shops are not considered as one and instead fall under the middle-class group.

Several factors are considered to distinguish what piece falls under the fine group of jewelry. These properties must be present as a whole and not just in a single aspect.

Durability

Fine jewelry is expected to last more than a lifetime. This can only mean that it strong enough to withstand more than the usual wear and tear but also time. These pieces are can even serve as an heirloom passed through generations.

Material

This is the main factor that defined whether a piece of jewelry falls under the fine category. What is it made of? The material can be durable but not necessarily of high value, while some are delicate. Still, due to its availability, it is considered of high importance that changes the indicators altogether.

Precious metals

Precious metals are defines as a naturally available metallic group that has significant economic value. These are metals such as gold, silver, and the platinum group of metals. They are considered good investments accepted globally. Bullion is a bar formed by melting precious metals and stored as an emergency fund of various countries. The value of bullion is determined by its purity, traditionally assessed using fire assay, spectrometry, and weight. The bullion must have a purity of at least 99.5% to be considered as an investment.

Other metals like copper, nickel, and aluminum bars are not internationally recognized as a form of currency. Historically, Aluminum was at one time, considered a precious metal due to the difficulty of smelting aluminum. However, its value dropped in 1886 with the discovery of the Hall-Heroult method used to extract Aluminum in bulk.

Pros

  1. Future investment

Even in ancient times, where beads and shells were used as both jewelry and currency, fine pieces of jewelry are a form of investment that can be sold in exchange for cash during a financial crisis. However, this does not translate that there is always an increase in market value.  The value still depends on the amount during the day it was sold and not by the price it was bought.

  1. High class

What makes fine jewelry superior to fashion jewelry is not just its magnificent appearance but also the confidence it brings to the wearer. Knowing that what you are wearing on your finger cost more than other people's car or house gives that supreme feeling even without realizing it.

  1. Unique

Fine pieces of jewelry are commonly offered in limited quantities. High jewelry is one of a kind, meaning you will never see other people wearing one in any event that you attend. This safeguards that there will be none of those awkward moments where you say, Oh! We are wearing the same earrings. A one of a kind jewelry also contributes to the jewelry's future resell value. Limited editions and unique pieces are much more valued by collectors and jewelry enthusiasts, mainly when collecting samples of jewelry from a specific artist.

  1. Long-lasting

You are guaranteed that the material used was of high quality. This could only mean that these can last for a long time. If you are familiar with the song phrase, "diamonds are forever, forever, forever...) then this only translates to a long-lasting that can even surpass generations when adequately taken care of. 

Cons

  1. Expensive

If you do not belong to Forbes's top 100 riches people, then purchasing a fine piece of jewelry may create a hole in your pocket.  This is why not everyone can afford to own and wear these remarkable pieces of jewelry. We must note that the quality of the material is the primary basis and not just the material itself. Low-quality diamonds surmounted on a low-quality platinum or gold base is not considered a fine jewelry even if a diamonds belong to the precious stone category. Some fine quality precious gems that cost more than precious gems are considered as an excellent quality accessory.

  1. Occasional wear

It is not practical to wear a sapphire encrusted jewelry set when going to the marketplace or even on regular travels. You would probably be mugged in whatever country you may be for fine pieces of jewelry are eye-catching, particularly for robbers. In any case, the possibility of losing such expensive jewelry will always be on your mind. Therefore, these are only worn on special occasion, events and is mostly be stored inside your jewelry case or a vault.

Top 10 precious metals

There are four precious metals used in the jewelry  industry, these are:

Gold

 

The ever popular and traditional among the group of precious metals. Its iconic gold hue is comparable to none. The purest form is 24-karat gold, which is too soft for any type of jewelry. This is combined with other metals for durability and takes shape. The lowest quality for fine jewelry is 18-karat gold. The most current and popular type of gold is still rose –gold, where gold is mixed with a suitable amount of copper to create that rosy pinkish to red color that is just too beautiful and elegant to resist.

Silver

 

Sterling silver is the most common silver used by high-end jewelers. Some cultures still value silver more than gold or platinum even when it the most reactive among all precious metals. Unlike gold and platinum, silver reacts with the sulfur content in the air that results in an oxidized state. These are the black impurities commonly seen on silver-based jewelry. These are easily cleaned with silver cleaning products; however, these also strips some silver material, resulting in the thinning of the silver jewelry. These are mined in Mexico, Peru, and China

Platinum

 
By Periodictableru - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9774375

Famous for biocompatibility and luster, coveted in the world of wedding and engagement rings. Similar to pallidum's resistance to hydrogen. These are used not only in the jewelry industry but also in healthcare, dentistry, aeronautics, and armory. Also found in Africa, Canada, and Russia.

Palladium

Belonging to the platinum group of metals, these are used in the jewelry industry to create a white gold appearance. Rare and highly valued used in the automobiles and electronics industries. These are mined in South Africa, Russia, and parts of the United States.

The remaining six metals are not commonly used in the jewelry industry. These are:

Rhodium, rare and is value for its lustrous silver color commonly used in mirrors and in the automotive industry.

Ruthenium, a member of the platinum group that is used in the electronic industry, rarely found in Russia and in Northern and South section of America.

Rhenium, a by-product of molybdenum and is considered as one of the densest metals. Utilized to improve the strength of turbines and thermocouples.

Osmium, much like rhenium, is also one of the densest metal ion Earth, having a bluish silver appearance. 

Precious and semi-precious gems

 

There were initially five stones belonging to the cardinal stones group. These are amethyst, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies. However, in the 1800s, amethyst was taken out of the list for a considerable amount was discovered in Brazil. Other gems like pearls, jade, amethyst, opal, aquamarine, and so many more are considered as a semi-precious stone. There are no established rules on how a gem may belong to the precious and semi-precious category. It is not based on rarity for most semi-precious gemstones are rarer than a diamond or rubies. Some say that this is based on demand and limited availability. Meaning, it is not too rare that there are not enough to go around and it is not readily found that lowers its value, just like what happened to amethyst. One great example is rubies. Even after these were found in various countries, it stayed as precious stones for there was also an increase in demand.

Precision and Artistry

No matter how valuable the materials are, the mastery, precision, technique, and skills of the artisan is shown on the jewelry they create, thus adding to its uniqueness, worth, and magnificent appearance.

Symbolism

Famous jewelers or artisans do not release a jewelry line without having an inspiration. Each piece has its own message that the artist conveys that adds value due to its limited if not exclusively available.

Value

What makes jewelry valuable is a combination of material, aesthetics, and demand. Platinum, for example, is a highly coveted material for its hypoallergenic property, lightness, and sheen. To add to the demand, it is quite challenging to extract and manipulate, adding to the cost. Its inherent durability and color make it the best base metal to complement another highly valued material, diamond when combined with fine jewelry.

High jewelry

Haute jewelry is said to be a stage higher than fine jewelry. These are elegant pieces only worn by the famous A-listers and elites. Highly bejeweled that it you can only wear them in an exclusive and well-guarded location.

Designer jewelry

These do not necessarily fall under the fine jewelry category for not all jewelry offered by famous jewelry designers, and shops are made from the highest quality of materials. They also mass-produced some pieces to cater to the masses. However, that being said, buyers are still assured of the high standards of technique and precision set by the brand in creating their jewelry.

Fashion Jewelry

 

These are made from modern materials that do not necessarily mean cheap. They are more economical than fine jewelry in the sense that they imitate the appearance of trendy jewelry pieces but at a much more affordable price. Note the word fashionable, for a piece of jewelry to be considered a fashion accessory, it must follow a trend.

Materials

Alloys

 

Alloys are affordable and can replicate the aesthetic of precious metals. Modern jewelry bases such as stainless steel, titanium, and tungsten are the most popular jewelry base seen in the jewelry industry. These are highly durable and affordable that millennials would opt to purchase them rather than purchase their authentic counterpart.

Metal Plating

 

To fully achieve the aesthetics of precious metals at a lower cost, metal-plated and metal filled jewelry  are developed. Metal plating is coating a base material through PVD or electronic plating process. Note that the gold, silver, or any other metal plated jewelry  that underwent the PVD process does not contain any precious metal layer unlike when a jewelry  undergoes E plating. Electronically plated jewelry  uses real metals to coat the desired jewelry  base.

Gold infused or silver infused jewelry  are better than metal plating for as the term implies, the jewelry is not made entirely of precious metals. Still, it has a thicker layer infused on another base material. These can last from 10 to 30 years, depending on the use and care provided. What is excellent about gold or silver infused pieces of jewelry  is that the difference is not visible on the naked eye.

Stimulants

Stimulants are used to replicate precious and semi-precious gems that are often encrusted on fine jewelry pieces.

Rhinestones and Cubic zirconia

 
By Gregory Phillips - English Wikipedia

Rhinestones were initially made from quart. However, at present, acrylic and crystal glass is being used. Cubic zirconia is made from zirconium oxide also to imitate a diamond stone These are commonly interchanged, for they do have similarities in terms of appearance.

Imitation gems

Manmade gems to imitate gems like opal, tiger's eye, turquoise, and other vibrantly colored gemstones are made of glass.

Slocum is a glass explicitly used to imitate an opal's aesthetics.

Plastics are also commonly used to replicate amber, pearl, coral, and jade.

Ceramic is used to replicate both lapis lazuli and turquoise. These are made by heating ground powder to recrystallize and form a fine-grained gemlike material.

Pros

  1. An excellent alternative for fine jewelry .

Fashion jewelry is primarily worn for its fabulous appearance accentuating our desired look. With the use of more affordable materials, we achieve the same look as that of fine jewelry without having to spend a considerable amount of money on a single accessory.

  1. Middle-class type of accessory, which is durable enough for everyday use without the constant worry of losing or damage.

You can wear fashion jewelry whenever and wherever you want without the fear of damage or losing it. Most fashion jewelry are also made from durable base material that guarantees long-term wear.

  1. Availability

Fashion jewelry is available everywhere, from department stores to online jewelry shops. Offered at a reasonable price range that most lower to middle-class individuals to conveniently purchase.

  1. Trendy

Fashion pieces jewelry is set to follow the current fashion or trend. It anchors its appeal on offering the hippest and latest trend seen in movies and in the world of fashion. They manufacture fast and in bulk that in a matter of days, you will be able to wear a replica and imitate the look of your favorite artist.

Cons

  1. No resell value

Because of its availability, fashion jewelry has a low to no resell value, which is already offered to the masses.

Costume Jewelry

We cannot speak of fashion jewelry without comparing it with costume jewelry, which is usually interchanged. The main difference is their use. Although all jewelry is used as an accent to one's look, Costume jewelry is grand and in the sense that most replicates high pieces of jewelry. These pieces serve as an accessory to complete a theme or a particular look like maybe a grand tiara adorned with rhinestones and crystals, which at a distance looks like the real thing. These are the most affordable type of jewelry that are quite flimsy at times and are mass-produced.

Pros

  1. Economical

These are cheap because of the materials used. These are plastics, Aluminum, copper, pewter, wood, and other highly affordable jewelry base and decoration.

  1. Eye-catching

Large pieces of jewelry decorated with vibrantly colored decorations would surely make heads turn and attract attention. The positive thing is that these are made from lightweight materials that are comfortable to wear.

  1. Wide range of styles

Mostly handmade or custom made offered in various designs.

Cons

  1. Lack of value

A piece of costume jewelry is not meant to last a long time. These are regarded as a disposable type of accessories, and, therefore, it has no value from the get-go. All you can do is recycle and use them for different use.

What is the point of defining the difference between fine and fashion jewelry? It is to understand what pieces are of value and disposable. The type of jewelry you own and wear gives an overview of your character. Both connote a positive and negative meaning.

As we have established, fashion jewelry is of no resell value and therefore is a disposable type of accessory. A person who wears them is practical and is not a fan of the worldly things or jewelry itself. However, if a person has a collection of fashion jewelry alone, this denotes one's economic status and taste. Some may see the jewelry collection as a waste of money for has no use aside from its beauty.

On the other hand, a person who only owns a collection of fine jewelry is seen of high status and taste. This represents their affinity to the fine things in life that are quite fussy and impractical as of today's world. Some may even see them as vain and materialistic. Alternatively, they can be seen as wise, for they choose to own something that is of value, which is a way a form of investment.

Now, if a person owns both fine and fashion jewelry, this is, of course, a great thing. This denotes that you have the financial capacity to own and appreciate fine things as well as know when to be practical and adapt to changes. You love jewelry as a whole and see its value.

This is just a generalization of things and not an established fact. The truth is we wear what makes us happy. This is why fashion trends come and go, while classic styles remain constant. Accepting that not everyone is capable of owning highly valuable jewelry and choosing to look fabulous does not make a person anything less. It only means that the person understands and decides to be content on what is available and affordable, and not stretch themselves trying to obtain something impractical to wear on a daily basis. So, if you have the resources to obtain and wear fine jewelry, by all means, have a collection. Otherwise, if your lifestyle cannot support you adorning these highly valuable accessories. There should be no judgment for fashion jewelry was made so that everyone can look and feel beautiful no matter the weather what type of jewelry category it may belong.

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