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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

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

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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)