Jewelry value with pearls on

Happy New Year! We reopen with our traditional pearl post, and today I'd like to emphasize value, especially when some readers are feeling post-holiday bank-account stress.

The comparisons are not between identical items, but between price points for big-brand and artisanal pieces. (Prices shown exclusive of taxes and shipping, and exact items shown may be unavailable by now.)

Earrings: How would you rather spend $300? Drop it on silver Return to Tiffany buttons? You do get that blue box, but I encourage you to shift to a pair that shows the hand of the artisan, not a corporate logo.

If you choose the Sudha Irwin etched sterling with pink pearls, price, $175, you'd have $125 left!

Fancy a pearl bracelet?

Left: 8-9mm multi-coloured Tahitian bracelet, set in 18k gold from Blue Nile; price, $1,190. (There is some surface spotting.)
Right: 9.2-9.7mm multi-coloured Tahitian bracelet with gold-tone clasp, $369 from Kojima Company. (There is slight banding on some of the pearls.) 
Even if you wanted to upgrade the clasp, you'd have hundreds left!

One more. At a holiday dinner party, I met a man who told me he buys his wife a piece of Yurman every year; he wanted a lot of credit for his largesse and taste. (His wife did not look that pleased.)

Some women adore this stuff, but he could do so much better for the price, and if she already has a collection, why not branch out? (Answer: Men often use the Stick With What Works strategy; they need help.)

Left: David Yurman Cable Classics silver bracelet with pearls; price at Neiman Marcus, $775. You get the status brand (for some), a smidge of gold, and a design that has not changed since Cadillacs had fins.
Right: Oxidized silver bangle with pearls from Kimyajoyas on Etsy; price, $63. Definitely a more contemporary look. Even if he buys two bangles from the Spanish artisan, hubs could make a sizeable donation to her cherished cause, PEN International, and wouldn't that feel good?

I'm not unreservedly against mass brands, but so much of it is anodyne and soulless, besides carrying that brand tax. Nor am I averse to iconic pieces; however, if you long for a Cartier rolling ring, shop the vintage market.

Some artisans overprice work too, so the best strategy is to look and learn. When I'm assessing their jewelry, I look at every element. For necklaces, the telling detail is the clasp. When I find one like that on Serafino's keshi necklace, a handmade gold "pearl",  I  am in the realm of workmanship that brings joy for decades.

Please give your business to artisans when you can; they are the ones who can repair, restyle or help you or yours make the next choice. Why pay for a company's full-page ads in Vogue and freebies for Taylor Swift when you can support a talented person and receive far better value?


So true, and you ALWAYS find the most beautiful examples. Thanks, as always, for sharing! and Happy New Year...
Susan B said…
Love that last necklace especially. Welcome back and Happy New Year, Duchesse!
Duchesse said…
Pseu: That necklace is a different category the "relaxed real" of the silver and pearl bracelet; price starts at just over $US 2,000. It is fine jewelry and looks it!
LauraH said…
As a child of the 60s, I've always preferred the artisanal and have the scarves, pottery, basketry, etc. to prove it. Getting your take on what constitutes value in jewellery has been a real help in making choices.

Off topic - for Christmas my boyfriend gave me a requested a one hour beading session so I'm looking forward to having a lot of fun with that and maybe, with some luck, coming up with a few casual necklaces for the summer. I haven't forgotten your experience in that area so will keep it simple:-)
LauraH said…
Forgot to say - I really don't understand the appeal of the David Yurman type of jewellery. Yes, it's expensive and I guess that impresses if you know what it is but I prefer something more individual.
fmcgmccllc said…
Nice to see you are back.
materfamilias said…
Love the aesthetics and ethics of this post -- and love the way you demonstrate that you don't have to give up one to preserve the other. My daughter's husband had a local artisan make her two beautiful silver pendants on silver chains -- one pendant a cast of their infant son,'s fingerprint, the other of their pre-school daughter's. The artisan has a little shop right in their neighbourhood, but that doesn't mean that her work couldn't fit convincingly into a display case anywhere. Artisanal in no way means hokey or craft fair as you show very convincingly.
urbvirg49 said…
Duchesse, I have enjoyed your blog for quite some time. Thank you! I have come to the conclusion that supporting artisans is the way to go, for all the reasons you discuss ( but no one gets between me and my many colored collection of Alexis Bittar lucite bangles). Could you at some point give some pointers on searching Etsy for artisanal jewelry? It is overwhelming.
Happy New Year!
You always find the nicest pearls to tempt us...I love the look of the last necklace with the gold pearl clasp.
my daughter gave me a lovely strand of freshwater grey baroque pearls for Christmas. They are locally made and apparently were quite reasonably priced.

I have a friend whose husband buys her the big name brands...Cartier is his go to shop.
My favourite jeweller is the son of my Mother's jeweller and he has a small shop in Oak Bay where we take all our repairs and he has remade my wedding set several times as we have added more diamonds. My original pearls were purchased at his shop and they are currently in getting restrung...

Thank you for your pearl posts as they are such a delight.
I think I will wear my grey pearls today!
AnnetteAK said…
Happy New Year's Duchess and welcome back!
Over the years i have enjoyed your blog. I love pearls and I have several pieces. Most of my jewelry is locally made (Alaska). It depends on where my husband is when he buys. DH has a good eye and knows many of the artisans personally.
Duchesse said…
Tickie VanLan: Finding exceptional artisanal jewelry on Etsy is a matter, first, of knowing what you like. For example, if you like turquoise, use the filters to search that, and the price range. (You can also set the filter for vintage or not.)

You still have to hunt through various 'shops' to assess it. When you find one you like, use the icon to make it a Favourite Shop. (I find reading the seller's reviews gives me an idea of the quality. I have never had to return anything, gift or otherwise.)

Then Etsy's system kicks in and on your will suggest more shops and also "New fro Your Favourite Shops". That's fun. You can also follow people who have Favorited the same shops you do, and see what they like. Finally, on your Favourites page, go to the bottom and you will see a Subscribe button for Etsy Finds, which sends you e-mail re editor's picks. You can also see those picks by going to your Home page.

siouxjett said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Duchesse said…
siouxjett: What a lovely story.

I have never said that all Etsy sellers are small businesses or sole artisans, only that it is an excellent source for artisans, especially for those who live in remote areas. (You can generally spot the big companies by the number and type of their offerings.)

I have owned a number of pieces of Tiffany jewelry (and also other items), but only one piece was my own purchase.
Duchesse said…
LauraH: A private beading lesson, what a fantastic gift!
Julie said…
Good advice re the clasp. Recently I decided I'd like a second longer simple gold chain. A big store had a sale for a 14k chain that was the right length. When I wore it, I discovered they'd saved money with a small inexpensive clasp. I'll be getting that replaced. I'd hate to lose one of the artisanal pieces I rotate on it.
Duchesse said…
Julie: Replacing a clasp, like replacing buttons, can completely change a piece, besides making it more secure. It is one of my favourite fixes for too-plain pearls; I can spend hours looking at vintage clasps, and when I find a jeweler who makes (or uses) good clasps, know I've found someone who cares about every detail.
urbvirg49 said…
Thank you for the Etsy search tips. I will follow your guidelines. So many interesting things to be found, I am sure.

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