Category Archives: Accessories

Pearls are a girl’s best friend

Freshwater pearls and sterling silver toggle clasp

Freshwater pearls and sterling silver toggle clasp


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.


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



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

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.


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!



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.