What You Need to Know About Buying Quality Handcrafted Beaded Jewelry

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As a lover of handcrafted jewelry, you already know the difference between mass produced and manufactured costume jewelry and individually handcrafted jewelry made by artisans.

A further distinction exists between fabricated handcrafted jewelry and handcrafted beaded jewelry. Fabricated handcrafted jewelry is made by silversmiths or goldsmiths who almost always have had formal training and have received a degree from an art school or who have apprenticed with a Master. On the other hand, artisans who create handcrafted beaded jewelry may or may not have formal training. Rather than create the gold or silver used in their jewelry, these artisans purchase those materials.

In addition to purchasing metals,engagement ring brands beaded jewelry artisans must also purchase gemstones, crystals, glass or other materials. The quality of these materials plus the skills, expertise and creativity of the artisan will ultimately determine the beauty and durability of their jewelry. What’s important for you, the consumer, is to know what you’re buying. This article will help you to make informed choices about purchasing handcrafted beaded jewelry.

METAL MATTERS

When buying jewelry you have several choices of metal. Most often gold and silver is used by fabricated artisans. However, beaded jewelry artisans can and do use these same metals. Because gold is the most expensive metal at this point in time, even more expensive than platinum, beaded jewelry artists will likely use gold filled metal, gold plated or gold vermeil as well as sterling silver, fine silver or argentium silver in their jewelry. When shopping for beaded handcrafted jewelry, it’s important to learn about each metal.

1. The “K” in Karat: We begin with the karat because the karat is a very old measure of how much gold is in an alloy, or gold-blend. A measure of 1 Karat is 1 part of pure gold and 23 parts of metal alloy or 4% gold. So 24K is 100% pure gold, 9K is 37%, 14K is 58% and 18K is 75%. You get the idea.

2. Gold filled: To be called “gold filled”, the quantity of gold must be at least 1/20th by weight of the total product. This is commonly known as 14/20, 12/20 or 10/20 or 14K, 12K or 10K gold filled. By far, 14k gold filled metal is the best of the filled golds. There’s 100 times more gold in 14k gold filled metal than in gold plate. Gold filled metal is also called rolled-gold. A thick covering of gold, 5% or 1/20 of the total weight, is mechanically bonded to a base metal, usually brass or copper. This is gold filled metal. It’s hard wearing, will not flake or peel and should last as long as 14K gold when properly cared for.

3. Gold plate: When it comes to gold plating, steel or brass is dipped into a bath of electroplating solution along with a lump of solid gold. When an electric current is applied, a thin layer of gold is deposited on the metal. This process of called electroplating. Since the plating is quite thin, the plate, and hence the color, will definitely wear off rather quickly. The result is an unattractive flaking and peeling of this very thin layer of gold.

4. Gold Vermeil: Sterling silver is chosen as the base metal of gold vermeil and is plated with layers of 18K, 22K or 24K gold. The difference between gold filled and gold vermeil is the purity of the gold as well as the thickness of the gold and the base metal. This is why gold vermeil is more expensive than gold filled metal. It’s also why 24K gold is the best choice when choosing vermeil.

5. Sterling Silver: Sterling is a mixture of pure silver and some other metal, usually copper. The resulting alloy gives the silver strength. The standard is at least 92.5% recycled silver. Hence the.925 stamp you see on some sterling silver items. While sterling silver is subject to tarnishing, the more it’s worn, the better it looks. Of course sterling has to be properly taken care of to look its best, so wearing your silver and taking good care of it will keep a smile on your face.

6. Silver Filled: Silver filled findings and chains are also available to artisans. Because the price of silver has been high, some manufacturers have produced a silver filled product at far less cost than sterling silver. Silver filled metal is either 1/20 or 1/10 bonded to a base metal, like zinc, steel or brass. Like gold plated jewelry, silver plate is very inexpensive compared to sterling silver. While a 1/20 silver coating may be preferable to a 1/10 coating, the product is definitely inferior and will not hold up over time.

7. Hill Tribe Silver: Hill Tribe Silver is made of.999 pure silver. This is also known as fine silver. Although there are several hill tribe ethnic groups, the beads, chains and findings individually handcrafted by the Karen Hill Tribe artisans are quite remarkable and possibly the best available. Some beading artisans are very fond of Hill Tribe Silver because of the uniqueness and quality of the pieces. They are made by villagers living in the mountainous forests of northwest Thailand. The largest of the hill tribes, over 400,000 tribe members, live in this region with a history dating back to the 12th century. These incredible artisans continue to make Hill Tribe Silver with ancient tools just as their ancestors did. There is no substitute for Hill Tribe Silver, and it is expensive.

8. Bali Sterling Silver: Bali sterling silver is also quite popular with beading artisans. It is made on the island of Bali in Indonesia in the Indian Ocean. The Balinese are highly skilled silversmiths and goldsmiths, known for their granulation and wirework decoration. Their sterling silver is made from 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. The Balinese also make Bali 24K gold vermeil beads, spacers, toggles and other jewelry findings. These, like their sterling silver cousins are magnificent, expensive and highly prized by beading artisans. Always ask an artisan if their Bali findings are the real thing. There are some artisans who use “Bali Style” findings. These are a cheap imitation.

As a lover of handcrafted jewelry, you already know the difference between mass produced and manufactured costume jewelry and individually handcrafted jewelry made by artisans. A further distinction exists between fabricated handcrafted jewelry and handcrafted beaded jewelry. Fabricated handcrafted jewelry is made by silversmiths or goldsmiths who almost always have had formal training and have received a degree…

As a lover of handcrafted jewelry, you already know the difference between mass produced and manufactured costume jewelry and individually handcrafted jewelry made by artisans. A further distinction exists between fabricated handcrafted jewelry and handcrafted beaded jewelry. Fabricated handcrafted jewelry is made by silversmiths or goldsmiths who almost always have had formal training and have received a degree…

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