Caveat Emptor – Don’t be fooled by the 925 “hallmark”

Image

 

Silver Hallmarking Part 2

A little while back I wrote a blog about the definitions and history of hallmarking in the UK entitled “Silver Hallmarking Part 1 – when is a hallmark not a hallmark?”.  Today I would like to share some of my own personal anecdotal experiences of buying  “silver” from China,  in the hope of raising awareness about not believing all you are told, and being given true information about what you are buying (this is very topical in UK right now because of the horsemeat scandal!!!).

Global market price

Silver is traded globally on the world’s metal exchanges.  In other words, like gold, it has a set price and although that price can fluctuate daily, it is fairly stable at the moment. As nearly everyone knows, gold and silver prices are the highest they have ever been.  Today I want to ask the question:

How do you know when buying silver if it really is “what it says on the tin”  ?

Someone (I’ll call her “Steph”) showed me some “925 silver” jewellery the other day and asked for my opinion as to whether it was “real” or not.  I recognised the familiar green boxes and those lovely little jade green pouches stamped “925″  and immediately knew their origin.  I checked “you bought these from China didn’t you?”  It turns out, yes, she had, by way of Ebay. (The other channel these sellers commonly use is Aliexpress.com).

Misrepresentation laws

In the UK we have strict laws about what you can and cannot say when it comes to selling a product. For instance if you say something is sterling silver when it isn’t, then you would be breaking the law and could be prosecuted and even go to prison. Such penalties do not exist in other parts of the world and therefore people can legitimately tell you something is sterling silver when it is only silver plated and they will see nothing wrong in that.  They will even go to the trouble of stamping on “925″ (anyone can buy one of these punches – try Ebay) to convince people that it is “hallmarked”  and supply it in lovely little green pouches stamped 925.

Counterfeiting

Some will sell items which are copies of Tiffany or Pandora products for example, and even reproduce the packaging so beautifully that only an expert could tell the difference.  Counterfeiting in all shapes and forms is rife on the internet and yet a surprising number of people still actually believe that they can buy a genuine  Karen Millen dress for £30 if it arrives via China.

Scrap value of silver

Without even looking at the jewellery, the price is usually (but not always) a giveaway.  In Steph’s case, I knew her bracelets were fake as soon as she said that her ” genuine Tiffany” bracelet was a real bargain at a mere £3.99 (about $6 USD).  Tip no 1: “if it seems too good to be true, it usually is”.  Tip no 2:  always weigh the item – or ask the weight if you haven’t bought it yet – then take the weight (e.g. 20 grams) and multiply it by the scrap value sterling silver as quoted on the Metal Exchange  (e.g. 50 pence a gram) – then you will know that piece of jewellery would be worth £10 as scrap.

You get what you pay for – usually!

So how can an item costing £3.99 possibly be made from sterling silver (92.5% silver)?  If you are buying it as a piece of jewellery it could be worth 10 times or even 100 times the scrap value (taking into account design, branding, workmanship, overheads)  but it is obvious that it will never, ever, be sold for a lower price than the scrap value unless the seller is a complete mug!

Slave labour myth

I asked Steph “how could you believe it to be genuine silver when it was so cheap?”  Her reply: “well I thought that because labour costs are so cheap in China and they send little children down the silver mines, they can sell the silver cheaper than anyone else”.  If you have ever been tempted to believe such myths, please re-read the bit about global markets.

(This article is to be continued)

(c) Copyright Caravela Jewellery.  This is an original article written by Geraldine Allen, protected by Copyscape.  Please do not attempt to copy it without asking permission of the author.

(to be continued)

Celebrating Mother’s Day – 10th March in the UK

Now that Valentine’s Day has passed, the next important date on the celebrations calendar is Mother’s Day  (March 10th) !  At least that is the case in the UK.  I noticed when I lived in Spain and Portugal that Mother’s Day was sometime in May – and I believe that is the case in the US as well.Blue heart reverse

My mother always used to say that Mother’s Day was a genuine religious celebration (“Mothering Sunday”) which  always falls on the third Sunday in Lent – three weeks before Easter!  What she was suggesting is that Mother’s Day is rooted in Christian tradition, as opposed to  “Father’s Day” which (she alleged) has been invented fairly recently purely as a commercial ploy to sell Father’s Day gifts and cards.  Or maybe a group of fathers invented it because they felt left out – who knows or cares??!

I have never understood why the moveable feast of Easter Sunday couldn’t stick to the same day each year.  Once again, Easter also falls at different times in different countries.  For example, I visit Cyprus frequently and their Easter is always about two weeks after ours.  At least with Christmas you know where you stand.  Can you image the havoc if everyone around the globe celebrated Christmas Day on different dates?

To come back to Mother’s Day though, I always associate it with spring, and in the UK this week, it has definitely felt as if spring is in the air!  The daffodils in my front garden are preparing to burst forth from their hibernation – although that doesn’t mean we won’t still get snow, so don’t put the snow shovels away just yet!  I strongly believe we should show appreciation for our mothers throughout the year, and formalise it with a special token on Mother’s Day.

The traditional gifts for Mother’s Day  are chocolates and flowers.  The trouble with chocolates is that they are fattening, and many mothers will have had those at Valentine’s and will no doubt get more at Easter.   And the trouble with flowers is that they are lovely on the day, but they don’t last very long.

The best prese54-706-3133nt you can buy your mother for Mother’s Day is a bunch of daffodils or carnations PLUS a piece of jewellery that will last a lifetime – which needn’t be expensive.   A silver heart pendant always goes down well, especially the filigree designs we have on our website.  All our silver jewellery comes in a beautiful purple ribboned gift box so makes the ideal gift with money back guarantee if it fails to please.  We also have some lovely Murano glass hearts on crystal bead necklaces, for something a little bit different.

Why not take a peek now and order early for Mother’s Day!

"Amore"

“Amore”

Pearls are a girl’s best friend

Freshwater pearls and sterling silver toggle clasp

Freshwater pearls and sterling silver toggle clasp

Pearls

The pearl necklace is the equivalent of the wardrobe’s “little black dress”, a jewellery box staple that can instantly transform a plain dress or outfit into something eye-catching, classy and chic.

For many years, the pearl necklace has endured the reputation of being somewhat “frumpy” – the twinset and pearls image of an ageing spinster has been difficult to shake off and consequently, put younger women off wearing pearls for many years.

However, pearls are back with a vengeance – because things have changed! Real pearls are no longer the monopoly of the wealthy, and imitations have so much improved in quality and choice, that in terms of beauty and lustre, they can certainly give the real thing a run for its money.

Whilst a single or double strand of round white cultured pearls will always make you look like a princess, you can have a lot of fun experimenting with different types of pearls, different lengths, multiple strands, beautiful colours, and necklaces featuring combinations of pearls with gemstones, glass or other types of stunning feature beads.

The reason why cultured pearls have become so affordable is due to the Chinese who now have a huge freshwater pearl farming industry established around the coast of China.  Freshwater pearls appear in many shapes described by what the shape resembles such as “potato pearls”, “rice pearls” or “button pearls”.  There are many pearls to a shell, varying in size and colour. Freshwater pearls are often dyed – common colours being “peacock” and “peach”.  They can vary in quality.  The quality of a pearl is graded by its size, shape and lustre. Whilst a perfectly round large cultured pearl necklace would still be beyond most people’s pocket, freshwater pearls are very affordable and can be just as stunning in a fashion necklace.

Glass pearls such as those made by Swarovski (Austrian) or Preciosa (Czech) can allow the designer free rein to their creativity.  Always perfectly round, they come in a variety of glorious colours so there will always be a jewellery item to coordinate with the latest fashion ensemble.

Check out my designs in both freshwater and artificial pearls on the Caravela Jewellery website.

 

www.caravelajewellery.com

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Yes, it’s that time of year again already, and to celebrate I have launched my very own collection of handmade heart pendants.  I have used a selection of different materials from lampwork glass to cherry quartz, and the colours are just gorgeous.Each pendant is supplied with a leather thong necklace and a silver plated chain, in a lovely purple gift box.  All for just £12.00 (plus £2.50 p&p!! ImageImageImage

IJL: Jewellery galore – another great London event!

It’s been ages since I wrote my blog – so sorry if you have been waiting patiently -  but my excuse is that I have had a very busy summer what with the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the Olympics and Paralympics  – I have been out and about a great deal – and what fantastic  events they  turned out to be!  What a great time to be in London, and then all that was followed by the no less awe-inspiring International Jewellery London.  It’s a fantastic annual event and probably  the biggest and best jewellery trade event of its kind in this country.

It’s a great showcase for new and established designers alike.  The ubiquitous shamballa style bracelet was still very much in evidence dominated by Tresor Paris of course – although they do have many imitators with different brand names.   I originally stocked a few of the same style of bracelet on my website, though much cheaper, just to see how they went. They weren’t particularly cheap (compared to Ebay), but unintentionally they became my best sellers, so I have broadened my range, although I hasten to point out that shamballa bracelets are only a tiny part of my inventory. I feel compelled to keep stocking them because that is what customers want, and my aim is to please my customers. My bracelets have become more expensive now as I have chosen to move  more upmarket. I now source them from better quality suppliers, though I am still keeping prices below £30 which is competitive. Customer satisfaction is very important to me, and I know that some of the cheaper bracelets on sale out there may look as good,  but fall apart after a couple of weeks.  Quality costs more.

The exhibition is divided up into various sections.  Diamonds and gold are as popular as ever despite the soaring prices, but silver has now become uber-fashionable with so many silver exhibitors present and so many stunning styles.

There were some brands that I had not been familiar with before such as Ortak and Sheila Fleet from the Scottish Isles producing the most beautiful work, combining silver with enamel in many collections.  Much as I would like to stock their jewellery, my website is all about adding value so there is no point in me stocking items which are available through their own websites as I don’t want to compete with them, however I do admire their work.

Also of great interest was the section on loose gemstones.  You can buy loose rubies and diamonds if you want, but I am more interested in the semi-precious gemstone beads which are no less breathtaking.  I will shortly be offering designer pieces on my website, such as beaded necklaces using only the best materials, hand made and exclusive to Caravela Jewellery and I like to select each stone personally.  My favourite stones are blue lace agate, aquamarine and larimar, and these highly prized stones were available in all shapes and sizes (with high prices to match). I don’t think these shows are the most cost-effective places to buy gemstones and silver beads, so I settled for something more modest, a string of dark green and brown agate which caught my eye because of their autumnal beauty, and some dyed jade hearts which I can see as pendant focal points in my mind’s eye.

I’m already looking forward to the next exhibition which will be in Birmingham in February, in the meantime, I have plenty of new products to add to my website and ideas for my new beaded creations.

References

http://www.caravelajewellery.com

http://www.jewellerylondon.com

www.ortak.co.uk

http://www.sheilafleet.co.uk

The Kazuri Beads Story

Pink Spotted Newcklace

On special offer at Caravela Jewellery

The History and Background of Kazuri Beads

Kazuri is Swahili for “small and beautiful” which aptly sums up the Kazuri pottery and bead workshop when it was started up back in 1975. The late Lady Susan Wood founded the business just outside Nairobi, Kenya, with a view to providing sustainable employment for single mothers who were struggling to survive and support their families. The pottery and bead-making enabled them to learn new skills very different from the traditional crafts they had been brought up with.

Today, the workshop is now a factory, situated in a place called “Karen”, named after Karen Blixen of “Out of Africa” fame,  on part of the farm which was once owned by her.  It is a beautiful location just outside Nairobi, under the Ngong Hills between Kenya’s vibrant capital and the spectacular Rift valley. The factory was bought in 2001 by Mark and Regina Newman whose goal is to expand the business whilst retaining its commitment to providing employment to the most disadvantaged members of the local community.

The Kazuri factory has become a popular attraction for tourists and a guided tour shows the visitors how each bead is shaped by hand from local clay.  The beads are then fired, painted and glazed by hand, and then fired again before being carefully threaded to make necklaces, bracelets and earrings. As each bead is individually hand made, no two beads are exactly identical.  All the designs are colourful, vibrant, and as well as the visual appeal, the beads have a wonderful tactile quality about them also.

The women really enjoy their work which they find satisfying and creative and visitors often remark upon the relaxed, happy good-natured atmosphere of the place with women laughing and chatting to each other as they work.

Rose Pink Bracelet

Wrap around ceramic bead bracelet

The factory has its own shop where people can buy the beaded jewellery to take home as presents and souvenirs for themselves and others. The purchase of these products brings with it a dual benefit: not only do the customers get to take home a really stunning handmade piece of jewellery, but they also feel good about knowing they are helping the community of Kenyan mothers to support themselves.  This is what Fair Trade is all about.

This enterprise has grown so much that it now provides meaningful employment for around 340 women from the large city slums and is a lasting testament to the altruistic vision of Lady Susan Wood. You can find out more about Kazuri beads from the websites below.

Buy Kazuri beads at: www.caravelajewellery.com

Read more about the fascinating story of Lady Susan Wood http://www.amref.org/who-we-are/lady-susan-wood/

See a video of how the beads are made here:

http://www.kazuribeadsusa.com/story.php

Read about Karen Blixen:

http://karenblixencamp.com/karen-blixen

Arctic Green Necklace

This necklace is currently on Special Offer

Featured in Bella Magazine

Stephanie Rose Quartz Choker

Stephanie Rose Quartz, Jade and Amethyst Wire Choker

 

Latest news – Caravela Jewellery’s Stephanie Rose Quartz Choker was featured by Bella Magazine last week under the caption “Pretty in Pink”. We have many other lovely gemstone wire chokers and cuff bracelets on our website: http://www.caravelajewellery.com

 

 

Silver Hallmarking – When is a hallmark not a hallmark? – Part 1

Image

Many people are confused about what exactly constitutes a hallmark and what the purpose of it is. This article sets out to clarify and explain what hallmarking is all about and the legal requirements for hallmarking. Silver Hallmarking Part 2 (my next blog)  looks at how foreign hallmarks can sometimes be misleading and when 925 silver is not necessarily so.

 What is a hallmark?

I think we need to go back in time a bit to understand how hallmarking came about and what it means today, but before we do, let’s clarify, what is a hallmark?

A dictionary definition of a hallmark is that it is a mark or series of marks stamped into precious metals.  In a broader sense it can mean any distinguishing characteristic or trait.  Most people are familiar with the term and believe that if an item has a hallmark, it must be genuine.  In other words, if an item is stamped 925 then it must be sterling silver, right?

A brief history of hallmarking

Although the practice of having some kind of quality mark for precious metals goes back as far as the Byzantine era, as far as England is concerned it really dates back to 1300 when Edward 1 recognised the need for some kind of consumer protection from rogue dealers, so he decreed that the sterling silver standard would be set at 92.5% meaning 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% alloy. Furthermore, once assayed, it should be stamped with a leopard’s head to denote that it had been tested and had met the standard.

Later, in 1327, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths came into being through the granting of a royal charter by Edward III.  Their headquarters are known as Goldsmiths’ Hall from whence the term “hallmark” is derived.  Slightly later still, (1355 in France and 1363 in England) individual maker marks were introduced. England added date letters to the marks in 1478.

Hallmarking today

Today, the compulsory part of the UK hallmark consists of the maker’s mark (now called a sponsor’s mark), the assay office symbol, and the figures denoting the  standard of fineness e.g. 925 for sterling silver.  Other marks are optional such as the date letter and, for example, the symbol of the lion passant is also often seen as an additional mark of sterling silver.

Other countries have their own individual systems and marks. In an effort to standardise the legislation regarding precious metals, the 1973 Vienna Convention set down common control marks for gold, silver and platinum featuring a pair of scales and a number indicating the fineness of the metal in the centre.

In the UK, we generally think of a “hallmark” as the mark of one of the Assay Offices. They are London (leopard’s head) Birmingham (anchor), Sheffield (Yorkshire rose)  and Edinburgh (castle), the sponsor’s mark, and the fineness mark (e.g. 925).

Is a 925 mark on its own considered to be a hallmark?

It depends on who you ask.  When I asked Goldsmiths Hall and also Trading Standards this question, the response from both was an emphatic “NO”.   Having said that, many silver retailers in the UK refer to the single stamp of 925 as a hallmark because much of the silver jewellery sold in the UK is imported and they may genuinely believe it to be the foreign equivalent of a hallmark. Truthfully speaking, it is not so much a hallmark as just a stamp or marking. The foreign manufacturer or wholesaler will undoubtedly refer to it as a hallmark and it may or may not mean that the item is genuine sterling silver.  A great deal of silver plate coming from abroad, especially China these days is stamped 925. Anyone can purchase a 925 punch (although some skill is required in using it!) It is not so easy or desirable to fake a complete British hallmark.

Legally, a hallmark is not required at all unless the item being sold contains more than 7.78 grams of silver.  Those who import silver items for resale should ensure their goods are properly hallmarked at a UK assay office if their items exceed this threshold.  Reputable jewellers automatically do this, but as more and more silver jewellery is being sold over the internet, the buyer needs to be aware of the risks.

To put it another way, a 925 stamp on its own – or nothing at all – is perfectly legal if the item contains less than 7.78 grams of silver.  Of course, it follows then that low silver content items would be small items – a pair of earrings, or a pendant maybe. If you are planning on spending more than £100 on a silver necklace or bracelet though, then you definitely should insist on a British hallmark even if the item was imported or handmade in this country.

In my next blog on silver hallmarking, I shall be talking about my own personal experiences with buying silver from China, and through Ebay, and why you shouldn’t always believe what the vendor says!

 Sources and Further information:

Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_hallmarks

Goldsmith’s Hall -http://thegoldsmiths.co.uk/assay-office

Birmingham Assay Office – http://www.theassayoffice.co.uk/hallmarking_history.html

Caravela Jewellery 

St Valentine’s Day – Ideas for Gifts

It will not have escaped your notice that the countdown to Valentine’s Day has begun with shops decked out in red hearts, roses, cupids and cherubs.

Have you bought your Valentine a present yet? This year, forget the chocolates and overpriced roses that die within a day, why not buy her something that she will treasure forever?

How about some beautiful sterling silver heart-shaped earrings, or a silver heart pendant?  If hearts are not your thing, you could opt for the latest trend in jewellery, such as the ubiquitous shamballa style bracelet that all the celebs are wearing (both male and female) these days.

Caravela Jewellery is running a special offer for one week only in honour of  Valentine’s day with shamballa bracelets reduced to £14.95 each and lots of other special offers besides.

www.caravelajewellery.com has loads of gift ideas including some really original pieces that you will not find anywhere else, and the beauty of it is prices start at just £5 and all our items are presented in either a gift pouch or box. Go on – it costs nothing to look!

Rhinestones

Rhinestones – what are they?

I’ve often wondered, why are rhinestones so called? Have they ever been in contact with the River Rhine? A little research on the internet reveals that indeed they were, once upon a time.

Rhinestones were originally so named because they were made from rock crystal collected from the River Rhine.  (In case you were wondering,  rock crystal is a colourless form of quartz).

Some time later, circa 1775, a French jeweller by the name of George Frederic Strass developed a process which basically involved coating one side of glass with a metallic powder.  Light is unable to defract through plain glass, but his process improved the reflective quality and brilliance of the glass and created the illusion of diamonds. It meant that this glass could be facet cut, polished and even coloured, a great step forward in the evolution of costume jewellery.

Of course, it also meant that rock crystal was no longer needed for the rhinestone effect, and through Strass’ process,  imitation diamonds became much more widely available and affordable throughout Europe. The name “rhinestone” was kept, however, and is often universally applied to imitation diamonds whether made from rock crystal, acrylic, or glass. The word “diamante” means diamond-like and can be applied to any type of imitation diamond, including rhinestones and crystal.

In the US, rhinestones were popularised by the song “Rhinestone Cowboy” (Glen Campbell) highlighting the way country and western singers often dress in cowboy style, but the song says they are fake cowboys, like the rhinestones they wear are fake jewels.  These days rhinestone cowboys have become very much a part of  western US culture, and I would hazard a guess that those dressing as such probably do more line dancing than horse riding.

As with everything else, there are variations in quality of rhinestones.  Some of this jewellery is relatively expensive and of very high quality.  Even when it comes to imitations,  some are better than others.

In the UK, rhinestones have become a firm favourite when it comes to bridal jewellery and any occasion where a girl wants to wear “a bit of bling”.  Nowadays rhinestones mean anyone can afford to look like a princess.

Christmas is coming and that means parties, and dressing up,  so why not check out some party jewellery, including crystal and rhinestones  at www.caravelajewellery.com

Thanks for reading.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhinestone

http://www.crystalandglassbeads.com/blog/2011/what-are-rhinestones.html

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-rhinestones.htm

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 413 other followers