Jewelry: "Small" treasure, petite price

Pippa Small is many women's dream jeweler, both because of her vibrant yet calm designs and her insistence on ethical sourcing for stones and metals.

I too admire Small's minimalist pieces, though find the prices substantial. (I wouldn't say overpriced. Ethical practices can increase costs and her materials are tippy-top quality, but you are paying for a status jeweler's cachet.)

The piece shown uses two aquamarines and a small amethyst, framed in 18k gold, and four hand-cast gold spacer beads, hung on a gold-coloured braided string. Price, $1,998. 

You can assemble a similar necklace for far less. The semi-precious gems will be framed in gold plate, the spacer beads are not hand-cast. (Also, we do not know the business practices of the vendors.)

Total cost for the Small-inspired elements above: about $275.

I've chosen a more durable 20-inch fine 14k chain; price, about $60, and 24k plated gold spacer beads from Nina Designs, about $30 for five beads.

The bezel-set gems shown (at left above) are framed in plated gold; I wanted the bezel settings to match, so chose an array of opals and amazonite from a single vendor, Etsy's finegemstone. The price per piece: $60.  

Temptations beckon at Vancouver-based I Found Gallery, who sell on Etsy.

The stone cuts are not as unusual as Small's asymmetric surfaces; however, when I browsed their trove of vintage findings, chains and stones, I was enthralled.  

Assembly requires only the materials and needle-nosed pliers, but if you prefer professional help, your bead store can make your piece for reasonable cost, with the photo as a guide. I once made a phenomenally ugly necklace, so I have real respect for pro help.

When choosing real jewelry, always think about two factors: the quality of the materials, and the workmanship. The touch of skilled hands shows in the simplest design, and excellent quality of stones will make a piece sing.

There are many pieces for which you "can't try this trick at home", but these chain (or cord) and bezel-set gem necklaces are not examples of expert bench skills; they involve simple assembly, accessible to anyone with a few hours and basic tools.

You could have a luminous, gemmy treasure, or make one as a gift, for less than the tax on certain designer versions.


Oh dear... a couple of excellent places on the Internet to wile away the hours... and the dollars! You always find the very BEST places - thanks for sharing them with us!
Anonymous said…
Dear Duchess,
What a fun post. As a beader for about 40 years, I have lots of experience at re-doing things (LOL). But, I find joy in that, also. I often look at current designs, look in my box (heavy!) of beads, and try out some styles.
I almost never wear anything made by others, with the exception of my good jewelry.
I have loved your PEARL posts and enjoy working with pearls--both freshwater and artificial. I loved reading the link to your "ugly necklace" and the many comments. I have remade coral necklaces, inserting both freshwater pearls and gold-plated findings.
As a thrifter, I find necklaces, which are then washed, cut apart, and sorted by color. They often make the most splendid designs at a tiny price! I even do some beading/button-ing on silk scarves, which I have first sewn into infinity scarves.
I could go on, and on... but thanks so much for the delightful post. Kirsten
Anonymous said…
Thank You for some great inspiration....I'll enjoy browsing around these shops online. I don't have any talent for making jewellery, but this looks promising.
Cathy Wong
Mardel said…
I admire Small's pieces. I also understand the points about cuts and detail and how they show in the simplest of pieces.

Excellent post, and excellent resources. And I wonder how many people really notice the difference, except for perhaps a detail-oriented few, unless one lives in rarified circles, of which I do not.
Duchesse said…
Mardel: re "how few notice the difference": someone might, and I encourage women to first decide if the quality pleases •them•.

I too admire Small's work, and the quality is there. Unlike, for example, a "Return to Tiffany" item, a woman is not paying inflated prices to be a status billboard for a boring piece.

At the same time, the secondary gem market is full of marvelous pieces that, with minimal effort or experience, can be made by anyone with the desire, and some basic instructions.

Kirsten; Any time you would like to show an example of your work, like that coral necklace, which sounds fascinating, please e-mail me. You are a goddess of inspiration.

Cathy: I know you have a great eye. The rest is learning some basics. One of my friends never made a thing, and on retirement, took a course on beading in the Mexican town she was wintering in. Now women beg her to sell the pieces off her neck.

Janice: And I would love to visit that little boutique with the vintage jewelery of which you wrote a short time ago.
The Dancer said…
Well spoken and good advice on the desirable qualities of jewelry pieces. My mother was an avid jewelry re-creator; she would take finds from craft fairs, thrift stores, yard sales, and various other outlets to use for their pieces and parts in jewelry she recreated with her own signature style.

Duchesse, I have read several of your blogs and have acquired a great admiration for your astute skills of observation, your flair for description, and your heart of concern for others. I feel that you are such a woman of quality, someone who really lives up to her moniker--a woman of substance and elegance worthy of nobility.

I look forward to reading more of your interesting blogs.
Anonymous said…
I'm an admirer of Catherine, Duchess of Cornwall's jewelry, and much of it is (relatively) affordable. I splurged for her Kiki McDonogh interchangeable small diamond hoop earrings, but then found a source on Etsy to obtain (much) less expensive drops for the hoops. It's amazing what one can find on Etsy!

Duchess, in a future post, could you talk about sources for vintage fine jewelry?

The posts with the most