If you’ve ever wondered about the differences between handmade jewelry and jewelry that is mass produced, you’re probably not the only one. Buying unique handmade jewelry typically lightens your wallet more than machine made jewelry would. Because of that, it can be tempting to simply resort to cheaper options.
Those cheaper options may work better for you, depending on the occasion you are buying for, as well as some other factors. However, there are lots of reasons to buy jewelry that is handmade that most people might not be aware of. Read on to find out more about buying custom handmade jewelry versus jewelry that is mass produced, their advantages and disadvantages, and other helpful information you should know before making your decision either way.
MASS PRODUCED JEWELRY versus HANDMADE JEWELRY
There are distinct differences between mass produced jewelry and handmade jewelry. Understanding what each is and how they differ from one another can help you make the choice that is right for you.
MASS PRODUCED JEWELRY
Mass produced jewelry is jewelry that is made by machines in assembly lines by workers with low level skills. This type of jewelry is produced in large amounts, meaning that there are many copies made of the same item. The products are also produced over a continuous period of time.
Handmade, in contrast, is made by an actual person, by hand. There is likely either a much smaller amount of ‘copies’ of the item out there as compared to mass produced jewelry, or it may even be completely unique and one of a kind. The crafter is likely highly skilled and passionate about their art.
THE DIFFERENCE IS IN THE DETAILS
Usually, people find that handmade jewelry costs a little more than machine made jewelry does. The reason for this often has to do with the quality of the item. The quality tends to increase with handmade jewelry, and this can spill into the price tag of the piece.
Alternatively, jewelry made in mass production is often created with the goal of keeping costs low; this is consequently reflected in the quality of the products. If you think back to any costume jewelry you’ve owned in the past that was not handmade, you might remember that it rusted or lost its color quite quickly, or it may have even broken. When you buy handmade jewelry, you will often see a much longer life with the item.
10 REASONS to buy handmade JEWELRY
Not everyone is aware of the benefits of buying jewelry that’s handcrafted—there are actually quite a few plus sides to buying from your local artisans versus buying from the large department stores. Read on to find the ten things you should know about handmade jewelry.
1. EXPRESSES ORIGINALITY
Many people use jewelry in order to express their individuality. It accentuates their fashion and allows them to reflect who they are in the way they dress. It’s certainly a form of creative expression, so why not buy the pieces that will perfect your look from professional artists who express their creativity for a living?
2. NO MASS PRODUCTION
Not only is it probably safer right now to try and avoid buying products that would be made in large factories that lots of people have to come into contact with; it’s also just nice to know that your special piece of jewelry was made with care and great attention to detail. When jewelry is made by hand, it will be much less likely to find flaws or imperfections in your special piece. This kind of attention and care is simply not what you get when they are made in bulk and by machinery.
Because of the fact that they don’t use mass production equipment, you get a lot more time and care put into the item you have ordered. Designers spend hours, days, and even sometimes weeks creating their art. This makes owning such jewelry pieces so much more satisfying and worth it. There is much more meaning in something that has been given such care. This is an additional benefit and reason for buying handcrafted jewelry.
3. CUSTOMIZATION OPTIONS
With handmade jewelry, you sometimes have the option of asking for something to be customized. As the business owner will probably have each piece of jewelry made to order, they will likely take requests.
For example, some small businesses do custom engravings. They may do this on a handmade name pendant, necklace, or even handmade keychain gifts.
4. HIGHER QUALITY MATERIALS
This fact about handmade jewelry deserves its own section because it’s often a characteristic that is underrated and under-appreciated with jewelry. Consumers can never really know exactly what all is being used in the manufacturing of jewelry they buy from companies that mass produce. Therefore, it is common to have allergic reactions to the items they buy from those larger companies.
With your local hand-crafter, you will usually know every material being used in the item. In most cases, those materials will be of much higher than what is used in factories. Again, the large companies who mass produce jewelry are all about cutting costs and raising their profits any way they can, so quality is not their top concern. Supplies sourced by handmade jewelers are usually highly reputable in comparison.
5. NO TWO ARE THE SAME
It’s pretty fair to say that no two pieces of handmade jewelry are exactly the same. That’s the joy of handmade jewelry, after all! You get something that is truly one of a kind. Even if your jewelry item is a part of an edition the artist was doing, human touch isn’t exact every time.
Your product will likely have its own special character in some way or another. Plus, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever run into someone else wearing the same piece from that edition, anyway.
6. ELITE FINISHED PRODUCT
It might seem like a no-brainer, but the fact is that the end result with handmade jewelry is under much more quality control. This is due to the fact that the artisan either handles the whole process themselves—and take great pride in the whole process, too—or they have a very small number of artisans working under them. In this case, it is still much easier to keep tabs on everything happening in a small business compared to ones that make jewelry by mass production machinery.
The pride that comes with being an artist and jewelry maker means that they will ensure nothing of low standards ever get sent out to their customers. After all, they have a name and reputation to uphold.
7. SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESS
Small businesses are what keep the economy going. It is extremely important to support them. It’s because of their entrepreneurial spirits that we have such diverse and unique products out there. The creative minds that make these handmade products are what keep things interesting and allow people to express their individuality.
Now more than ever, it is essential to try and keep your business focused on the small businesses who may be struggling. After all, America was formed with the entrepreneurial spirit at the core of its values. If we don’t continue to support them, then are we truly doing our own home any justice? Many products you will find in larger stores are made outside of the United States, and buying them is further supporting the companies that are able to cut their costs by doing just that.
8. ONE-OF-A-KIND JEWELRY
What is it that makes it so unique? There is an unparalleled uniqueness to handcrafted jewelry in the sense that each piece is like a fingerprint. When something is made by hand, it has a special touch and is made with love and care.
Specifically, the uniqueness comes from a few different characteristics, one being the fact that quality handmade jewelry is much more sustainable than mass produced jewelry. It is also special because you can find it locally made, and feel good supporting a local business. Read on to find out what else makes handmade jewelry so amazingly special.
Each Piece Is A Story
It’s true that when an artist creates something, a lot of energy and thought went into that creation. Therefore, whatever thoughts and feelings they might have harnessed to craft the item make up a kind of story. This is what artists call their process, and it’s as personal as each piece they make.
Each piece has a unique one, and it all lends to more reasons why handcrafted jewelry is so special. It also provides quite a stark contrast when you imagine your jewelry being manufactured so robotically by machines in a factory.
What’s even better is that you get to be a part of that story the second you decide to become its new owner of a piece of handcrafted jewelry. The process they use to make their art, and therefore the relationship they have with it, is intimate. This is because of all the effort and personalization they are giving it.
Whatever the story is that each piece tells—whether it’s confidence, power, self-love, beauty, or even quirkiness—you inherit the meaning it holds, and then you get to make it your own.
An Element Of Exclusivity
Since the items you might buy from your local jewelry crafter is not made by machines in a large and consistent number, it gives the items an element of exclusivity that can make you feel even more special when you wear it.
It’s nice to know when you’ve got something that is of a limited edition, and that’s what you get from buying a product from handcrafters. They can retire at any given moment, so they can only realistically create a finite number of pieces.
Some jewelers will actually honor your request to never created your custom design again, which only further enhances the feeling of exclusivity. It may not be possible to ever get another piece of jewelry like the one you have bought, and it’s exciting being a part of that!
Whatever the story is that each piece tells—whether it’s confidence, power, self-love, beauty, or even quirkiness—you inherit the meaning it holds, and then you get to make it your own.
As mentioned, handcrafted jewelry is unique in the fact that its business owners often maintain sustainable business practices. The majority of handmade jewelry makers value using sustainable and ethically sourced materials within their creation process.
Doing this though, as expected, can become very expensive. It’s certainly the more costly route when you compare it with the corners cut by the refiners or dealers the larger companies work with. The sourcing they use for their materials could be questionable and even dishonest in order to get the less costly raw materials.
If you aren’t sure how you can know whether a company values and practices sustainability, consider these four examples of sustainable business practices and check whether their actions match up.
- Make sure the supply chain they are using is sustainable and ethical, meaning that they practice responsible and honest sourcing methods. You ideally want to buy from a jeweler who makes real efforts to have a minimal impact on the environment, and who ensures fair wages and a safe work place for their workers, too.
- Check whether they use recycled materials, or at least are a “green” company that recycles in their day-to-day activity.
- Consider whether they try to stick to energy-efficient products in their daily activities at work.
- If they have any employees, do they work with them to ensure sustainability is maintained throughout their small business? Make sure that they have a reputation of treating those employees with respect.
When you buy handmade jewelry, you can rest assured knowing that the products you buy from them are made right there in your home community, or at least nearby. This already greatly reduces the chances of you inadvertently supporting a company that uses unethical business practices.
You will know they are not outsourcing their labor for cheaper labor elsewhere—labor that might not get the best treatment by their employers, either.
Local businesses usually also use local products, people, and materials in the items they create for their customers. Besides enjoying the extra value that these unique jewelry items have, you also get to feel good about helping to support your local communities.
9. KNOW WHERE YOUR MONEY IS GOING
When you buy quality handmade jewelry, you know exactly where your money is going, and who it is going to. When you buy from large stores, the money disappears somewhere in the corporation. You never truly know what it is being put toward, what the business practices are like, and whether or not your money is supporting anything unethical.
These are not things most people think of on a day to day basis, it’s true; nevertheless, it’s a good habit to get into. It always feels good to know all the ways you are impacting your society.
10. SUPPORTING A REAL PERSON
When you buy handcrafted products from a small business, you are effectively helping to support a real person who is trying to make a living. Large companies are able to have a high profit margin because of the low cost of their material—they don’t depend on the support of their individual customers as much as handmade jewelers do.
When you compare the products you get with handcrafted jewelry to those that are born from mass production anyway, it’s like apples to oranges. Plus, it’s incredibly rewarding knowing that your hard-earned money has gone toward bettering someone else’s life—someone who is also hard-working, and creates beautiful jewelry designs. After all, you will have bought their product because you admired their work!
WHERE TO BUY handmade jewelry
You can buy handmade jewelry from a variety of places, both online and off. Think back to places you’ve come across this specialty jewelry—you might’ve seen stands in outdoor events and festivals, at small vendors outside a mall, or a street downtown. Below you can find different categories where you might find some incredible handmade jewelry.
You can find a number of online handmade jewelry businesses, but it’s important to pick one you really like. Some things you might want to look for in the company you choose to order from are:
Does the site allow for personalization with their products? You might want this option if you are looking to buy some great handmade jewelry gifts for family or friends. The more personalized a handmade gift is, the more special your loved ones will feel receiving it.
Check to see whether the online business is enacting sustainable business practice in order to ensure your money is always going toward an ethical situation.
Make sure they are of a good quality, and that you are getting what you’re paying for. Find a site that lists out the materials used in making their products.
It’s all about location. If you would like to support local businesses, make sure the online business you shop with is locally-based and that their supply chain is local as well. This will ensure you maximize your support to your communities that are in and around your home.
This is usually a good indicator of the kind of business they are—if their customers have a history of being happy with their purchases, then it’s likely a good prospect. You can also see whether any customers claim to have experienced bad skin reactions from the material. Those kinds of reviews might be a sign that the company isn’t using the metals they claim they are, and that would be a red flag.
Specifically, check out the company’s Google and Facebook page reviews, as well as their on-site product reviews. Don’t forget to verify their standing with the BBB, either. This alone can tell you a lot about the kind of business they truly are.
Make sure to always read the return policy! This could become very important later on should anything be wrong with it when the item arrives to your home. Some companies don’t let you send their products back, nor allow any refunds. Knowing this in advance will put your mind at ease during your purchase, since you will know whether or not it will be risk-free.
BUYING AT A FARMER'S MARKET
You can also find some great jewelry vendors in your local Farmer’s Market. The jewelry is typically unique and one-of-a-kind and it's a great opportunity to find some out of the ordinary handmade jewelry.
If times have made visiting a Farmer’s Market more difficult, then you could utilize this Farmer’s Market Jewelry Hunt from Zulily. This is a place where lots of vendors selling handmade necklace jewelry, earrings, and lots of other unique items.
There is also a Virtual Market for Jewelry based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa that you could peruse if you wanted to have an item shipped to you.
SMALL SHOPS IN TOWN
Not everyone is online yet—we can’t forget about the small brick and mortar shops you see walking around town that sell handcrafted jewelry. Many of these little stores have great finds from local artists.
It’s easy to sometimes forget about the small stores that you’re used to always passing, but it might be fun to take a detour and go inside to see what you might find. Try to remember your small local shops!
HOW TO KNOW IF JEWELRY is handmade or mass produced
In some cases, you can easily tell whether a company’s products are mass produced, and other times it’s a little more ambiguous. Here are a few key things to pay attention to when you’re looking to buy handmade jewelry items.
Truly handmade jewelry will very rarely ever match exactly to another item. If the item has texture, this is an easy way to tell whether it’s handmade. If they look perfect and flawless, they might be mass-produced. Artisan jewelry can be detected because it will often have less than perfect symmetry as compared to jewelry that’s machine made.
Handcrafted jewelry is usually one of a kind, but if it’s part of an edition the artisan is doing, that does leave room for more of the same item. Even so, you will be able to see slight differences in each item if it was made by hand. Again, if they’re all perfectly identical, it was probably made by machines.
You can often see the hallmark of the artist. This will be an engraving of letters or symbols and will likely also have the item’s precious metal purity symbol—that is, if it is made of silver, gold, or platinum. According to Sell Your Gold, a rectangle missing its corners indicates gold, an oval stamp being silver, and a house shaped stamp would indicate platinum.
They might also leave their initials, the makers mark, and the year the metal was tested. You can find such marks commonly inside of a ring band. For necklaces, you might find it in the tag by the clasp of the chain.
You can also check to find out where the company’s products are actually being made. This would also be a good indicator to pay attention to. You will want to see that they are being created locally if the company is truly a sustainable jeweler.
You can do this by looking for the country or city of origin in the jewelry item’s hallmark, depending on whether it is included in the hallmark or not.
If you’re buying online, you should be able to easily see where the company is shipping their products from. If the products are created locally, it will much more often than not be stated on the website somewhere. You can also search the internet for reviews on the company, and look to see whether any source can confirm their shipping location.
Of course, this will differ between jewelry makers, but in general it can take days to a few weeks. It also depends on what you’ve ordered. If you are having an artisan design something unique just for you, it might take more time and effort to get the piece exactly how you want it.
Alternatively, it might only take a few hours to complete if it’s part of an edition the artisan is used to making jewelry pieces for. Tracy Matthews, an eco-luxury jewelry designer writes in an Uncommon Goods blog that it usually takes her hours to design a product for her clients, and then a few days on average to actually complete it.
BUYING handmade jewelry IN BULK
You can absolutely place bulk orders with handmade jewelers—just make sure to ask them before placing the order. This is so that you avoid any unexpected delay in delivery, and you are aware of how long your bulk order will take.
See below a few situations where a bulk order might be a good idea.
BUYING FOR CO-WORKERS
This is another good example of a reason you might need to buy handcrafted items in bulk. You might want to give the team you manage a little holiday gift, or simply a little boost in morale that can also contribute to team cohesiveness in the office.
You might want to even bring gifts for the team after they covered you while you were on vacation—when you work in an office, the little things really do matter and hold a lot of meaning.
BUYING FOR A TEAM
If you or your child plays on a sports team, you could get the team members all handcrafted sports dog tags to bring the team spirit up.
These can be custom engraved as well, leaving plenty of personalization freedom, such as having each team member’s name engraved on each.
BUYING FOR A GROUP OF FRIENDS
Maybe you’re graduating high school, leaving college, or moving abroad. Or, you might simply want to show your close friends you love them.
Handmade jewelry is an extra special way of doing just that—especially when customization is possible. Get each of your friends a name bar necklace, or even a trendy monogram necklace each.
GIFTING handmade jewelry
Handmade jewelry is an excellent gift for all people in your life, and it works for so many occasions as well. Give the gift of a unique piece of jewelry to your significant other, a family member, or even to a friend on their birthday or another holiday. This is a gift that truly is dynamic and could be enjoyed by anyone.
Handmade jewelry is the perfect gift for any occasion. It can be used as a symbol of celebration, camaraderie, love, memory, and of course, style. See below a few occasions for which you could give someone the gift of handcrafted jewelry:
- Birthdays-Make your loved one feel special on their birthday by giving them a truly unique and customized piece of jewelry. You can give them a birthstone engraved name pendant, a name bar, and so many other beautiful pieces.
- Holidays-Every holiday ranging from Christmas to Easter could be filled with special family-oriented jewelry items that have been handcrafted with love. Bring your family together with the unique gift of handmade jewelry.
- Engagements-If you’ve got close friends or family that recently got engaged, you might’ve just realized you’re supposed to get them an engagement gift. Don’t panic—something like this two name bar necklace would be an adorable gift for the happy new couple.
- Anniversaries-This celebratory day is always a day in need of a gift, and the more unique it is, the better! You can go as romantic or as sentimental as you want with customizable handmade jewelry, making it the best kind of gift to get for your significant other.
- Bridesmaid Proposals-This is an occasion that calls for gestures, and these kinds of proposals are often done in the form of gifts. You could pop the question to your potential maid of honor and bridesmaids by sending them all handcrafted, personalized necklaces.
- Weddings-This could go both ways, since handcrafted jewelry could serve as party favors for guests, or it could also be a nice gift to give the newlyweds.
- New Parents-New parents would delight in a piece of jewelry customized with their new born child’s name and birthstone engraved into the pendant.
- Grandparents’ Day-if your family doesn’t do family reunions, you could still put a smile on your grandparents’ faces by giving them a beautiful handcrafted piece of jewelry. Give them a piece that symbolizes family and love, giving them a physical daily reminder of the family they have to be proud of.
- Mourning-When sadness and mourning is surrounding someone you love, something as symbolic and meaningful as a handcrafted piece of jewelry can mean the world.
- Pets-Your pets are like your very own babies, so why not get their names engraved on handmade necklace jewelry? You can even get their birthstone as well, if you know when their birthday is.
- Moving Or Going Abroad-If you or someone you know is moving away from home, a great way to give your loved ones a meaningful symbol of your love and the memories you share together is matching pieces of handcrafted jewelry. You could also get them these state shaped dog tags to symbolize home and togetherness. This is a wonderful way to maintain closeness, no matter how far you are from one another.
HANDMADE JEWELRY frequently asked questions
We get that purchasing handmade jewelry is not an every day purchase. Find some of the more frequently asked questions below.
Is handmade jewelry worth the wait?
If you want your handmade jewelry gifts to last, then they will absolutely be worth any wait that exceeds what you might have with buying mass produced jewelry. Not only will you feel good about supporting sustainable handmade jewelry businesses, but you will also take pride in telling people where you bought the piece from.
The company will likely have a brief background story on their site or somewhere in their stand. It will certainly feel good to recount to your friends knowing you helped contribute to their continuing existence. As they say, the best things don’t always come quickly, but are always worth the wait.
Can handmade jewelry be personalized?
Handcrafted jewelry can be personalized when you find certain companies who will do custom engravings. For example, this rose gold bar necklace can be personalized by name. A handmade name pendant like that is definitely trending, and the fact that it’s handcrafted makes it even better.
You can also get items with birthstones embedded, like this silver heart shaped birthstone necklace. Having a birthstone put into your jewelry adds a beautiful degree of personalization These kinds of items can be amazing gifts for various occasions.
Does handmade jewelry hold its value?
Handmade jewelry actually is known to hold its value beyond that of jewelry that is mass produced. This is because they are often of a much higher quality than machine made products. The quality control is simply much higher with hand-crafters, according to Matthews.
The jewelry at Messages in Metal is made with authentic heirloom quality Sterling Silver. Just like an antique sterling silver flatware set, our jewelry requires polishing every now and then to keep its luster (we include a special polishing cloth with every purchase). Most jewelry manufacturers use an alloy that keeps their jewelry from tarnishing, but this results in a lessened amount of precious metal used in the making of the jewelry.
A HANDMADE TREASURE you will cherish always
Staying loyal to your local handmade jewelry businesses presents many rewards, some of which being that you get to help support small businesses during the challenges this year has presented. You also get much better quality in the product and the knowledge that your piece of jewelry is unique and special in so many ways.
As there is something for every occasion, you can have fun buying custom handmade jewelry for your friends and family, too. It makes a gift that much better when it isn’t simply a copy of many more like it—your loved ones will know you actually put thought, time, and effort into their jewelry gift.
October 27, 2020 by Conor Daniels