February 13, 2016

Costume Jewelry verses Artisan Made Jewelry

Costume Jewelry verses Artisan Made Jewelry

What is Costume Jewelry?

Jewelry made with inexpensive materials or imitation gems.

This type of jewelry usually starts with a base metal such as tin. The metal is treated to resemble a more expensive metal such as gold, silver, or platinum. Traditionally, fake stones made from glass or paste were used; however, some costume jewelry uses real gemstones that are less expensive versions of their precious counterparts. Usually, the “stones” used are large and involve flashy cuts.

Costume jewelry is jewelry made from inexpensive metals and imitations of precious stones. It tends to be flashy and sometimes over the top with gaudiness, although subdued costume jewelery that is designed to imitate more upscale jewelry is also available. This type of jewelry is popular among fashion and set designers, as well as people who want to have a little bit of fun with their accessorizing. It can be found in vintage stores as well as retail stores specializing in accessories.

Originally used as props, costume jewelry originated on stage sets. Jewelry for the stage was designed to be larger than life so that it would be visible to the audience, and it was a cheap way to make the set for a stage production more rich and lively. Some actors became attached to these gaudy additions to their costumes, and started wearing it off the stage as well. For someone of lower income, it can be a way to dress up without spending too much money.

This type of jewelry usually starts with a base metal such as tin. The metal is treated to resemble a more expensive metal such as gold, silver, or platinum. Traditionally, fake stones made from glass or paste were used; however, some costume jewelry uses real gemstones that are less expensive versions of their precious counterparts. Usually, the “stones” used are large and involve flashy cuts.

Costume jewelry is made in all sorts of styles from Victorian inspired brooches to imitation pearl necklaces. Rings, bracelets, earrings, and other jewelry accessories all come in costume as well as regular form.

How is Custome jewelry made?

The fabrication process for nearly all metal-based costume jewelry falls into one of three broad categories: cast, die stamp and manipulated construction. Let’s explore one of these methods that were, and still are, used to create costume jewelry.


As a goldsmith with journeyman's degree sinc 1086 I am well schooled in the wax model process as well as casting in creating 18 ct gold components.

 So let me give you a little insight in this preocess.

First, a designer or artist creates a model (master pattern) from wax, clay, wood, plastic, metal or other material. Wax is typically used for costume jewelry models, as it can capture tiny details and nuances of shape. The model is impressed into a two-part master mold (die) that is made from plaster or rubber. 

 The mold is then hardened to capture the inverse design. Working models (wax patterns) are made by pouring liquid wax into the master mold, and allowing the wax to harden. The two-part mold is then opened to remove the wax model.

If a single piece is being manufactured, a pouring channel (sprue) template is attached to the working model. If the piece is small, or is a component rather than a single piece of jewelry, multiple models may be assembled on a wax runner also called tree, because of it's resemblance. The final mold (investment) is made by placing the wax pattern or runner into a container (flask) and pouring in a liquid material (usually plaster or ceramic powder mixed with water).
The mold is allowed to dry completely, then is turned upside down and placed in a heating unit to melt out the wax. This is done very quickly to avoid cracking or breaking the mold, allowing some of the wax to liquefy and drain as the remaining wax continues to expand. Using high heat, the mold is burned out to remove any residual wax and moisture. The mold is then firmly secured in a frame or other structure with the opening facing upwards. The metal to be used for the casting has already been measured, heated and liquefied, and is poured into the mold. The mold may be placed in a centrifuge or vacuum machine to assure that the metal completely fills all crevices. If white (pot) metal is being cast, it will harden quickly on its own as it cools, and the mold is broken by hand to release the cast piece. If the metal being cast is silver, the mold is quenched in water. This cools and sets the piece, and shatters the mold.


White metal looking like precious mental  is a mix of different metals that always includes tin and lead with other metals such as bismuth, antimony, cadmium (not to be confused with precious white metals such as platinum, rhodium, white gold, etc.). It was the basic vintage costume jewelry casting material, and each manufacturer had their own alloy or alloys to be used for casting, with the recipe being a well-guarded trade secret. So be aware, when you buy "VINTAGE CUSTOME JEWELRY" 


When the Label Says ARTISAN, What Does That Mean?

Artisan is Not a Label

The authentic meaning and application of artisan leads to a simpler time when people took pride in their craft: It’s about special and unique. 

Today, the draw for real artisan products is born out of a movement deriding overly processed, mass-produced jewelry linked to big corporations. Manufacturers, attempting to ride the wave of this movement by stamping artisan on their products, are hoping it will suggest that what’s inside is higher quality—even premium.



Artisan is not a label.  Marketers are attempting to use artisan to suggest value-oriented, premium in a down market economy. Just as natural became organic and moved beyond to local (due to its link to nature). Artisan has become a Trend


Artisan jewelry is custom made by a highly skilled craftsman. It is sold on the Internet, in local markets and jewelry stores around the world. This jewelry is made from many different types of materials, and some pieces are made from a combination of materials. These materials are often the best and highest quality in the world.

 Artisans often work with metals and gemstones that are native to a certain area. The native materials change from region to region. In some countries a prospective buyer will find beaded jewelry, and it others jewelry pieces that are made from gemstones and fine metals.

An individual who crafts this type of jewelry is an artist, but is often referred to as an artisan. According to the dictionary an artisan is a person who is skilled in an applied art, and is also called a craftsperson. The word artisan originates from the Italian word artigiano, which means a person who is trained in arts and crafts.  All jewelry artisan crafted items are functional, decorative or both amd of high quality.

Artisan jewelry is known to have existed as far back as 7000 BCE. These first handcrafted ornaments, necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings were made of gold and copper. They were often sculpted to depict human and animal forms. Today handmade jewelry is made of metals, gemstones, beads and many other materials. Every piece of handmade jewelry looks and feels unique.

As a result of this uniqueness, custom handmade jewelry pieces can have a high price and a high monetary value. The inflated price not only reflects the individuality of each piece, but it also shows the high quality of the materials that are used to make each item. The best materials combined with the distinctive look of artisan jewelry pieces have even landed some items in museum exhibits around the world.

Artisan jewelry is not just unique, it is durable and strong. It is ideal to wear for any occasion. While each piece of artisan jewelry is a one-of-a kind piece, it is not personalized unless it is made to order. Some jewelry designers will craft a piece of custom jewelry for a special order. Special orders allow anyone to personally choose a gift for any type of person. A gift of artisan jewelry is unique, high quality and beautiful, and anyone is sure to enjoy it.

One can argue that a per­son who makes things from wire and sheet metal is also using mate­ri­als that are pre-formed since the artist did not make the wire or sheet metal from ore, so in a sense the word “hand­made” applies equally to both kinds of prod­ucts.  But I would argue that there is in fact a world of dif­fer­ence between string­ing beads–to take one example—and forg­ing a metal bracelet from sheet, because the skill sets are vastly different.

A bead stringer may pro­duce an orig­i­nal prod­uct, in the sense that the pre­cise com­bi­na­tion of beads in the design has never been seen before (not hard to accept due to the enor­mous vari­ety of beads avail­able.)  But the method, the string­ing itself, relies on a sim­ple set of oper­a­tions: putting a wire or cord through a hole in a bead and attach­ing a pur­chased find­ing (such as a clasp or pin) to fin­ish the piece.  In many cases, a piece of jew­elry pro­duced this way car­ries the label “handmade.”

By con­trast, an arti­san who forges a piece of flat metal into a sculp­tural shape must have a more com­plete knowl­edge base, such as  how metal moves when stretched or com­pacted and how dif­fer­ent metal alloys behave when heated or hammered—and must have mas­tered the tech­niques for con­trol­ling the shape of the form.  The more knowl­edge the arti­san has, the more advanced the result­ing form can be, and the process of learn­ing can be end­less.  This is why it seems ludi­crous to me to apply the word “hand­made” to both prod­ucts equally.

When eval­u­at­ing a piece of jew­elry , con­sider the skills and knowl­edge that go into its mak­ing.  Some­times it’s not easy to see, but if you look care­fully you can usu­ally detect dif­fer­ences.


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