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AutumnBraceletWhy is handmade jewellery so expensive??!

As a handmade jeweller I so often hear “the jewellery is lovely, it’s really unique but why is it so expensive” or ”what a rip off” and “it’s just too much” many, many other comments like this.   Truthfully, I used to be like this, until I started making it as a business myself.

So here it is from my perspective as a designer running an independent small handmade jewellery business and I hope it helps you understand.

The Quality

When you purchase a handmade item you are for the most part purchasing a higher quality piece than if you buy mass-produced. Ok sometimes, like in anything, you may well come across a handmade piece that has been poorly made, maybe it has been rushed or made by someone still learning – it can happen.

But back to the point, Usually the finest material is used in handmade jewellery - real stones not plastic, enamel not resin, real leather or silk rather than faux versions and so on and I know that I certainly take pride in what I make and couldn’t conceive of using anything other than high quality materials. With this in mind you know that handmade jewellery will last a long time and certainly a lot longer than mass-produced items made using cheaper materials. I can recount plenty of stories of stones falling off, or chain links breaking back when I used to buy mass –produced jewellery. BUT this also means that the cost of materials for a handmade is going to make it more expensive, it simply costs more to buy the finest materials.

It seems an easier choice to me then when you think ‘shall I pay £12 several times or £80 once for a handmade piece’ that will last…but onwards.

Cost of Materials

Using high quality materials then makes the items more expensive in itself as I mentioned, so it has to be sold for more. It might cost £20 for material for a handmade piece where it costs just £10 for a mass produced items. Now you might be thinking ok so the handmade piece should then sell for £20 but there’s more so read on…

The Process

Handmade jewellery is just that…made by hand. Every little detail, each items designed, drawn out and scaled, every single one sawed

 out by hand, shaped and textured, each tiny wire delicately bent into place, every layer of enamel laid down and fired one by one, each piece filed and shaped, polished, re-fired until it is perfect. This paragraph is really too short to justify the amount of hours that are spent in designing, scaling - throwing out of the window (every creative process goes through this), re-designing and then the transferring to metal, cutting, shaping enamelling…you get the picture right? So the time it takes to make handmade jewellery is longer…

Salaries

Since the time it takes to make handmade jewellery is longer then as the saying goes ‘time is money’. After all this is still a business, I need to pay a wage to myself, to staff (and I can tell you it’s a lot lower than you think). Did you know ‘Labour’ is usually one of the highest costs if not the highest costs for a business? So I have to pay myself or my staff for more hours.

This doesn’t mean like every business I don’t try and cut costs but it will always be more for handmade jewellery. I don’t have machines that can cut out 20 pieces in the time it takes me to cut out 4, I don’t use resin that takes 10 mins where it takes me 1 hour to lay down and fire my enamels, I could really fill several pages on this but I won’t for your sanity and mine! But as you can see there isn’t or shouldn’t be a comparison between handmade and mass-produced. So far then the materials cost more, the time it takes to make the jewellery is longer.

Behind the scenes

I hate to harp on…. but aside from making the jewellery there is photographing it, adding to the website, writing the content, marketing the business, buying supplies, managing the emails, designing marketing materials, taking inventory, managing the accounts (Oh joy), buying new tools. And then of course there are the Overheads – Gas, electricity, internet, printing, business supplies.  Are you tired yet?

Much of this has to be added to the cost of the jewellery (as percentage of it anyway), this is how all businesses run. And a lot of this you won’t actually see so it isn’t obvious, but it can make or break a business. 

Uniqueness and individuality

I used to baulk at the idea of ‘Wearable Art’ until I started doing this. But it IS just that, the designs have come from the artists, our creativity and pride is infused in every detail of a piece. Our care and attention shows in the craftsmanship of a piece. We all have stories to tell, why we make, what inspires us, we take you on a journey, we give you an experience not just a piece of jewellery.

And we are always trying to perfect and improve because we care about what we make and sell, what our customers think and feel, we really do want you to feel unique and special (I’ll tell you a secret, it makes us feel unique and special in return).

Now you could go and buy jewellery at a department store but how unique is it really when there are a 100 of them?

Personally I strive to be as different from everyone else as I can (no offense!), I value my individuality and to me handmade gives me just that. I try to buy and support handmade as often as I can wherever I am – I finally get it.

Now you could say yes but this is just my opinion and you would be right, but then buying jewellery like buying anything else is subjective and it is of course your choice!

And so...

Although I have digressed at times during this blog it has only been to make the point as to why handmade jewellery is more expensive, I am hopeful thatafter reading this you will have a little more insight. It is more expensive because of everything I have written, our materials cost more but then you are getting the best and something that will last. That very uniqueness that attracts you to a piece of jewellery wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the creativity of the artist. The time it takes to make a piece by hand is so much longer but then you get quality craftsmanship you wouldn’t get on a mass-produced piece. 

Caring for your enamel jewellery

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Caring for your enamel jewellery

Silver

Fine Silver jewellery is softer than sterling silver, therefore you should always ensure that you don’t wear your jewellery activities such as gardening, very heavy lifting or where there is likely hood of the jewellery catching as this may bend the silver.   Silver jewellery should ideally also be removed before working with chemicals or photographic solutions as this can again cause tarnishing.

Although Fine silver should not tarnish as easily as Sterling silver due to its higher silver purity, it may still tarnish over time.  Where there are Sterling silver components or chains they will more readily tarnish.  Tarnishing can be caused by excess moisture in the skin, gasses in the air and a variety of other factors, however bringing back the shine is fairly easy!  You can use a small amount of baking soda in water to soak the piece, then rinse under water and gently drying off.  Or you can use the silver polish cloth included with all Secret Jewellery pieces to gently and lightly polish the piece to return it to its original shine.

Enamel

Whilst enamel jewellery is hard wearing and cared for can last forever, it is in essence still powdered glass which has been fused onto the silver through heating, therefore you should take extra care when wearing it. Try to  avoid dropping or hitting it against anything hard as this can chip at or break the enamel.

So don't forget with a little love and care your jewellery should last, and bring you joy for a very long time!

Choosing your chain length

Choosing your chain length

Chain length can make or break your style statement so I thought it might help to put together a quick reference guide for you.

As someone with a fairly slim neck I have often found necklaces and pendants can hang too low on my neckline at 18” yet make the perfect statement at 16” long.   In my experience I've often found that necklaces and pendants come with a standard 18' chain which has meant replacing or shortening the chain for it to sit on my neck the way I liked it, and where the pendant or necklace really looked at its best.

Therefore choosing the right chain length should definitely be considered.

I hope the simple visual guide above will help you decide what sort of statement you want to make, and what lengths might suit you best.

At the Secret Jeweller you can opt for these lengths for many of the pieces available, in some instances the chain lengths may be part of the design so you may need to contact me to discuss alternative length adjustments. 

Sharing my brand

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I'd like to share the brand with you

I'm very excited here at the Secret Jeweller (who I lovingly refer to as SJ, though I do know Sj is not a person!). I'm just excited because I can finally share the brand with you and I love sharing.

It has taken me not a small amount of time, a few setbacks and well frankly just too much Earl Grey and Prosecco (not a combination I would recommend) to get here, but making everything by hand takes time.

Still here I am, with pieces from my Earth, Air, Water, Fire series, inspired by a lifelong love of mountains, forests and oceans (Though I'm also 'secretly' a city person).

I really hope to create jewellery that is special and unique because I truly want to celebrate those qualities in everyone around me, and I want anyone who wears my jewellery to feel special. That has been my aim from the beginning and something i'll always work to (I'm very focused like that!). You can read my profile to find out more.

So have a look around and i’ll let you decide for yourselves, feel free to drop me a note or if you’re interested in commissioning a piece i'm happy to help.

Also, I just got back from the studio and I can tell you there are more pieces coming, but as I said earlier creating art really does take time and i’d prefer not to rush things so remember to come back!

Enamelling – a brief history

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tree pendantEnamelling - A brief history

The beautiful and colorful art of Enamelling is actually an ancient technique dating as far back as the 2nd century BCE and involves decorating metal objects with thin layers of powdered or vitreous glaze to add colour.  Bronze was a metal that featured frequently in the early forms of enamelling, from jewellery to vessels to swords, utensils and so much more -  and you can see the many such relics in museums around the world today including the Natural History Museum here in London.  Nowadays more so Copper, Silver and Gold are popular metals. The brilliant, vibrant colours are achieved through variations in oxides such as lead (still used today in leaded enamels) that lend colour to a clear base enamel known as Flux - what is not to love!

There are few different ways that enamel can be applied...

Cloisonné

In cloisonné , thin fine silver or pure gold 'strips' a few millimeters high are curved and formed into a design or pattern to create "cells' for the enamel powders to sit in. These are then fused into a base of clear flux by fusing first the base flux layer, onto the metal, then laying the wires on top of the fused layer, re-firing and re-melting the enamel to capture the wires. The wire can also be soldered directly onto the metal.

Coloured enamel powders are then laid down into the cells layer by layer,  each one is fired in between, cooled, then the next layer applied, building up until the layers reach flush with the tops of the wires. They are then 'sanded' down and polished, ready to be set into a jewel.

Champlevé

In champlevé instead of formed wired creating the cells for the enamel, cells are gouged out of the metal creating channels or depressions that are then filled with powdered enamel. In the case of champleve, the metal needs to be thicker than with Cloisonné to allow for removing metal.

Basse-Taille

Basse-Taille (low cut in French) is the technique of 'chasing' or engraving or in some way texturing the metal that is then enamelled with transparent or translucent enamels, creating amazing depth and variations in colours with the reflecting light over the textured undulations of the design.

Plique-à-jour

This technique is designed to lend a stained glass affect, commonly 'cells' are either cut out of metal in a pattern, or a frame has strips of wire soldered to it to create a network of cells which are then filled with enamel and fired, the technique has not backing metal so the light shines directly through the glass like looking through a stained glass church window!

Here at The Secret Jeweller we use a combination of Champlevé, Basse-Taille and Cloisonné, we love the depth and movement that comes from creating textures using Basse-Taille and think it really brings out art to life!