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The True Value of Your Jewellery

I still have a box of jewellery that I hate to part with, some pieces date back over half my lifetime! Do I wear them? The truth is some yes, some not often, some not for years, some never, but…. I just might some day! I dare not think about the amount of jewellery I have discarded over the years without a second thought to the effect on the environment. Nowadays I think very carefully before I buy more.

Jewellery has yet to come to the full attention of the ethical fashion movement. The jewellery industry sits comfortably within the fast fashion industry, and cheap jewellery plays its own part in the cycle of the easy throwaway culture that threatens our environment. There is a disappointing lack of transparency within the industry with regards to where the items are made, in what conditions, and what materials and chemicals are used in the manufacturing process. Furthermore costume/fashion jewellery is not biodegradable and rarely recyclable.

The fashion industry would not survive unless it continuously changed styles to encourage new purchases and restart the cycle again and again and again. Fortunately the detrimental effect of the fashion industry on the planet is now becoming more frequently documented, and the environmental movement encouraging us to contain our “throwaway” attitude is gaining traction worldwide.

Cheap high street products are generally not made to last, and so the consumer is not getting their money’s worth. The high street is drowning in cheap and affordable mass produced fashion jewellery. Cheap gold and silver plated jewellery will quickly lose their patina exposing the cheap metals they are made of; cheap metals are generally soft metals and therefore easily broken; plastic jewellery will break, scratch, bleach and will rapidly lose its “fashionableness”. Not to mention purchases made that were impulse buys and never worn! If the truth be known much of this jewellery is easily dispensed with and will be donated to charity, where it may or may not be sold on, or it is thrown away where it will spend it’s lifetime in landfill adding toxic chemicals to the soil and air. We will justify this cycle of cheap purchase because we feel we never spent that much on it anyhow! Now that is not to say that we will not have achieved reasonable cost per wear before it is rejected, but, the fact that it is damaged, broken, no longer fashionable, wearable or wanted after a couple of seasons will still make it a questionable investment. And that particular piece, generally, is accompanied by quite a few like-purchases.

The definition of “cost per wear” (CPW) is basically the initial cost by how many times you will actually wear it. Simply put, the less you wear it the higher the cost per wear, the more you will wear it the cost per wear drops dramatically.

Obviously not all cheap jewellery is a bad buy. I have earrings that I bought 30 years ago that were cheap even then, and I still love to wear them. My cost per wear reached 0 many moons ago! I also have quality fashion jewellery that I paid handsomely for that I only wear on special occasions but, being timeless in design and quality in product, I will still wear them occasionally for years to come, so my cost per wear will be improve by the time (if ever!) I stop wearing them and they are inherited by my daughter (who already borrows some of them!).

However… as per my introduction, I have some pieces that I have hardly ever worn, and am unlikely to wear much in future either, and so my initial investment was actually a bad one as my cost per wear is way too high. If I paid £25, and have worn the piece 5 times it is £5 cost per wear! That is not good! And if I am even vaguely honest with myself, if I have hardly worn them by today, the chances of my wearing them in the future is very slim, thus making my investment actually a complete and utter dud!

Jewellery need not be hugely expensive, but, if you want quality, like with anything, be prepared to pay for it and feel satisfied that you have invested well. Buying high value brings it’s own limitations as the higher in value the less choice you will have. The answer, which many of us are now starting to realise, is to buy wisely and buy less. Choose your jewellery carefully and think “will I still wear this and love it in years to come?”. Most importantly “Will the quality and design stand the test of time?”. Choosing your jewellery carefully, and investing in fewer pieces that will last longer means that you are significantly reducing the amount you send to landfill.

We are very fortunate nowadays that it is not difficult to find small, privately owned jewellery businesses and talented people who will hand craft jewellery. The hand made jewellery industry, like any other, will offer both good and bad quality, cheap and high end choices. The fact remains the same - just because it is cheap does not make it a good buy. There is some justification in supporting small business, but if the product will still soon end up in landfill, it is still a bad purchase. Within this talented group of people however, you will have the opportunity to find those who use quality products and who may accept requests for pieces to be made to your specifications as well as repair and remodel existing jewellery. Both of these services are invaluable, as you will most likely have far more wear out of the end result and, more importantly, love wearing it! Finding a designer who is prepared to repair and remodel your existing pieces is rare. Repairing and remodeling fashion jewellery is usually possible unless settings are involved, but do not underestimate the time it takes to do this. The same with bespoke pieces. Working closely with a client to get the design right takes time, sometimes a lot of time.

As an “artist” the conundrum of “sale valuation” is something that we have to consider constantly when we try to place a sale value on our work. How do you justify how much the piece is worth and how much will someone be prepared to pay for it? When you create anything by hand, be it painting, clothing, furniture, jewellery, you name it, unless you have been fortunate enough to become well known, you will always struggle to charge the true value of your craftsmanship as few people will pay for it. There is often an expectation that hand crafted products should be cheap precisely because they are handmade and an assumption is made that, consequently, they must be cheap to produce. Not so, and, particularly not so when quality products are used. The fact that these pieces are not mass produced by machines means they also cost far more to make as the cost per component is considerably higher due to the smaller buying power as well as the comparatively tiny fraction of quantities needed to complete the pieces. When you cannot bulk buy it always costs more. Add to that the time it makes to hand make anything, let alone design and plan it. Only those who truly understand the amount of thought, time, love and attention that goes into each and every piece of handcrafted art will appreciate the true value of the end piece.… the question must be asked, are they worth it? In my view, yes every time!

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Consumers are slowly considering their purchases more carefully. This is good news. I will go back to my jewellery box and take another look at the contents. Perhaps it was worth keeping that pair of earrings after all, let me see what I can wear it with, and the broken necklace that I loved, maybe someone can repair, remodel or update it for me?

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