No one needs to wear fine jewelry. In fact, you may be someone who chooses not to wear any jewelry at all and I applaud you for having made a conscious choice about who you are and how you communicate that. However, for those of you who love jewelry and find yourself wondering what the difference is between fine jewelry and costume jewelry, we’d like to empower you to express who you are and make conscious choices about luxury.
Below are some considerations that led me to my choice to only wear fine jewelry and abstain, for the most part, from purchasing contemporary costume jewelry. Some are contrarian and others a little eccentric but the purpose of this post is not to convince you one way or another but rather to create a dialogue so you can discover for yourself what you value.
1. Yes, They’re Green But It’s Not Envy
Costume jewelry is made of brass, nickel, aluminum or some other alloy of base metals. It’s then plated with chemical treatments to alter the color so it looks like gold. In some cases, this plating causes allergic reactions when worn against sensitive skin and in nearly all instances, perspiration causes the piece to oxidize and then either it or you turn green—admittedly, not the hottest look. Gold and platinum never oxidize, silver tarnishes when it’s not worn but a quick wipe with silver polish and it’s regained its original sheen.
If you’re concerned about phthalates and BPA, the plastic gems contain both toxic additives. Unlike the plastic faux-gems in costume jewelry, natural gems are harmless, some are believed to have healing properties, and they become more beautiful with contact from the natural oils of your skin. Pearls, for example, become shinier the more you wear them because the oils from your skin keep the nacre (the outer layer of the pearl) from drying out and yellowing. Similarly, it is said that certain types of jadeite improve in color over years of contact with the skin.
2. Enduring Value
I understand that seeing a massive piece of jewelry that costs twenty, ninety, or even two-hundred dollars seems like it’s a good deal in comparison to its equal in fine jewelry. However, from a value standpoint, costume jewelry costs a mere couple of dollars to make and the markup is 10x, 40x, 100x when you purchase it at retail price no matter how minuscule the price tag. Marinate on that. The competitive price also tends to lead to impulse purchases that we wear once or twice (or never) and forget about only to repeat the process the following week. If you add up all those non-consequential purchases you could have invested in some pretty phenomenal real jewelry instead.
3. Treasuring Sustainability
We’re well informed about the effect of blood diamonds yet are often impervious to how wasteful and destructive fast-fashion and costume jewelry is to our environment. Costume jewelry made of brass and plastic is not resalable, it tarnishes quickly and there’s nowhere to recycle it. All that base metal and plastic ends up in landfills whereas fine jewelry is crafted from precious metals and gems which can always be redesigned, resold or recycled; and if has the element of design, our loved ones and next generation will gladly take it off our hands whether we’re ready to part with it or not.
Does it take a bit of discipline to forgo the cheap stuff and buy fine? Absolutely. But as someone who’s made the decision and has been living by it, I can attest that the process of saving up and pouring over which gorgeous piece to make your own prolongs the exhilaration of the purchase and being surrounded by consciously-chosen treasures is far more rewarding for the soul.
How will you choose to reward yourself?
By Jean Z. Poh
CEO & Co-Founder