Say Hello To Jewelry Categories

When I first started making jewelry I had no idea that within the jewelry industry there are 4 distinct categories of jewelry. I learned about these categories from a very interesting and informative article on the Fire Mountain Gems website. The article was written by Barbara van Look, Marketing Content Development Group, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads. According to the article the categories are:

Fine Jewelry is created to last for generations, designed to be or become heirloom pieces. … made of the most expensive categories of materials…

Bridge Jewelry is manufactured to the same quality and standards as fine jewelry, only it’s made with less expensive materials. This level of jewelry “bridges” the gap between costume/fashion jewelry and the fine jewelry world…

Costume Jewelry (often used interchangeably with fashion jewelry) is made using a range of materials and techniques – hence the confusion. It is almost always manufactured using metal components…

To further complicate the issue, the term “costume jewelry” is increasingly limited to vintage or retro jewelry styles… 

Fashion Jewelry (often used interchangeably with costume jewelry) is made using a wide range of inexpensive materials and techniques. …which does not meet the standards or definitions of the other categories.

What I did know was that those of us who love jewelry have most likely cultivated a preference for jewelry that falls into one or more of these 4 categories. After reading the article it occurred to me that most of us have probably never really given much thought as to why we’re drawn to the pieces we like. We just unconsciously gravitate toward designs that have characteristics that give us pleasure & satisfy our “bling” cravings. However, based on what I learned about the 4 different jewelry industry categories, I think that I may now have better understanding of “why” we like what we like.

From my perspective as a Jewelry Designer, the most important and beneficial take away from the article was what I perceive as the purpose of the 4 categories. Specifically: to reference, define & quantify the quality and value of materials used in jewelry designs. Having this information has enabled me to more efficiently plan, create, organize and categorize my own designs, as well as better appreciate the designs of other Artists.

I believe that to a great extent, consideration of only jewelry style is unhelpful within the context of categorizing a design because style is subjective. Style will vary between designers, and as such, can’t be accurately quantified.  In contrast, consideration of a jewelry category based upon the actual financial value [cost] of the materials used, along with the perceived value of the time & skills contributed by the Designer makes the categorization process easier and more consistent because it is quantifiable.

So, my theory is this:  prior to what we now know, we hard-core jewelry lovers were actually (unconsciously) drawn to what we perceived as a specific measure of value in the jewelry that caught our attention. (I’ll bet you didn’t realize that you had such good taste!) Check out the full article here and tell me which categories your favorite types of jewelry fall into.

(BTW, my faves are Bridge & Fine.)



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