Handmade jewelry designed by a professional is a work of art. Each piece tells the story of the designer’s creative mind. So, what should you look for when investing in a timeless piece to add to your collection? Many only look at the design, but the type and quality of materials used, along with the variety of designs available, are just as important. Design. Quality. Variety. Beauty. That’s what you’re looking for in your search for handmade jewelry in Austin and beyond.
If you’ve found a one-of-a-kind piece you like and want to know if what the artist is selling is high-quality, this guide shares a few tips to help you know what to look for in the perfect handmade jewelry.
Handmade Jewelry in Austin
From indie musicians to aspiring actors, Austin, Texas is home to creatives of all kinds, including handmade jewelry designers. In fact, one of our favorite post-brunch activities is to boutique and studio hop in order to discover new, local designers.
After a design catches your eye and draws you in, we recommend that you spend time taking a close look at the type and quality of materials used to create the piece.
What Materials Are Used
The materials used are perhaps the most crucial element of handmade jewelry. The materials can mean the difference between something that lasts a few months or a lifetime.
There are various materials used to make handmade jewelry, including gold, silver, pearls, acrylic, resin, and plastic, to name a few. Of course, there are plenty of other options, too. If there's an idea for it, there's likely a jewelry piece already made of it.
Here are a few tips on specific materials:
People have used gold to make jewelry for thousands of years. It is one of the finest metals employed by designers and is the traditional choice for wedding bands. Thanks to its inability to tarnish and its resistance to most acids, gold is known to last a long time.
That said, pure 24k gold is expensive and very soft and easy to scratch, so it is rarely used for jewelry. Instead, pure gold is typically alloyed with copper, silver, brass, or nickel to produce 10k, 14k, or 18k gold, which are more rigid materials that are also less expensive.
Additionally, there are two other terms to know when discussing gold jewelry: gold-filled and gold-plated. We'll cover more on these momentarily.
Like gold, silver is another favorite for fine jewelry, and artisans have used it throughout history. Also, similar to gold, silver is very soft in its pure form. As such, it is often mixed with copper or zinc to form sterling silver.
While sterling silver is more durable and significantly stronger than pure silver, it is more susceptible to tarnishing, so it needs to be cleaned regularly to maintain its gleam.
Pearls are formed by oysters; they’re the result of a natural defense by the mollusks when an irritant enters their shell. It doesn't sound like the type of thing you would use to make jewelry, but pearls are one of the most popular and traditional materials used in handmade jewelry. They are beautiful, strong, and timeless. They are also relatively affordable, as pearls are easily farmed.
Acrylic, Resin, and Plastic
Acrylic beads are often a starting point for beginner handmade jewelry designers. Acrylic jewelry is typically made from skin-friendly plastic that is lightweight, affordable, and comfortable.
Resin is versatile because it is poured in molds and can form any shape. Resin is lightweight, durable, and flexible. Pendants and earrings are popular forms of resin jewelry.
Plastic jewelry is more often used for wholesale or costume jewelry. If you are looking for high-quality, long-lasting pieces, stay away from plastic.
Gold-Filled vs. Gold-Plated
As promised, we have some alternatives to solid gold handmade jewelry in Austin.
Imagine you are shopping online and you find a beautiful gold necklace. You are reading the description, and it says “gold-filled.” What does that really mean? Then, you find a similar-looking necklace for a lot cheaper, but it says “gold-plated.” Is there a difference?
Yes, there’s a big difference between the two. While gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry are both less expensive alternatives to solid gold, one is significantly lower quality.
First, we'll cover gold-plated jewelry. With gold-plating, a base metal, such as brass or copper, is used to create the jewelry piece, and then a thin layer of gold is applied to the outer layer. Unfortunately, gold-plating can scratch and wear off quite easily to expose the brass or copper base, which then tarnishes quickly
Additionally, that thin layer does not make up any quantifiable percentage of the jewelry's weight. Gold-plated jewelry has so little gold that it doesn't even have gold value.
The takeaway: Don't expect gold-plated jewelry to last a lifetime.
Gold-filled jewelry is more expensive than gold-plated, but with that extra cost, you’re paying for increaseddurability and longevity.
Gold-filled jewelry is created when two to three layers of solid gold are bonded with other metals, like silver or steel. Gold-filled does not tarnish, rub off, or turn colors, unlike its gold-plated counterpart.
If you are searching for high-quality, long-lasting handmade gold jewelry in Austin, start with gold-filled pieces.
Design is another significant element when examining handmade jewelry. You want something unique and versatile that reflects your distinct personality and style.
While some handmade jewelry pieces are intricate, imaginative, and detailed, others are basic by design. Typically, an artisan will pick one path with their collections to define their brand’s aesthetic.
Handmade jewelers also use various techniques, which are dictated by style, materials, and design. For instance, artisans working with metals might use casting, cutting, soldering, or hammering, depending on the design.
You may also find that handmade jewelry designs are often exclusive and limited. It can make a piece feel extra special when you know you’re unlikely to bump into someone wearing the same necklace, bracelet, or earrings.
Speaking of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, when looking for the perfect handmade jewelry in Austin, you’ll want to seek out a studio or company that offers a wide variety of options.
For example, a strong designer knows that not everyone shopping for earrings wants to buy studs; they know that climbers, hoops, and threaders are also favorites. In addition, many jewelers will create unified collections that include a design that sits across multiple categories.
When you find a designer you love and trust to make high quality pieces, having a wide variety of pieces to choose from means you’ll want to go back, again and again, to continue adding to your collection.
Invest in the Perfect Handmade Jewelry in Austin
Handmade jewelry has a soul, representing the designer’s love for their craft. It is an excellent option whether you are looking for a new pair of earrings for work, a statement piece for a special occasion, or a family heirloom to pass on to the next generation. While quality handmade jewelry may be a bit more expensive than the mass-produced pieces you find on Amazon, you’ll rest easy knowing that handmade jewelry typically lasts a very long time without tarnishing or breaking.
Thankfully, finding beautiful handmade jewelry in Austin is a simple task. The Liz James studio has been snuggled in the hills of Westlake, just a few minutes outside of downtown Austin, for more than ten years. Whether you purchase in-store or online, you’ll receive top-notch customer service and care.Stop by anytime as we love getting to know the beautiful individuals who will wear and love our designs.