Is There a Difference with Local Jewelry in Austin?
You can buy jewelry anywhere, so why would you want to purchase local Austin jewelry? Is there really a difference? Should you even care?
First, let’s look at where the majority of jewelry is made. India and China export the highest dollar worth of jewelry, totaling 25% of global sales in 2019. The U.S. exported 8.5% the same year. Twelve other countries make up nearly 94% of global jewelry exports by value. One of India’s largest jewelry manufacturers says its 2,000 employees produce and export over 60 tons of jewelry each year.
While this mass-produced jewelry is easy to find and typically at an inexpensive price point, you get what you pay for - both in quality and uniqueness. It will work for a while, but there is a good chance the metal will turn, it will break, or it will be out of style within a couple of years. Commercially-made jewelry isn’t always made to last. The focus is on volume, not quality.
Why do you purchase jewelry? Does a necklace you buy at a national or global department store make you feel special, reflect your personality, and say something about you? Do you want to wear jewelry that was just part of 60 tons shipped from overseas? You aren’t generic. Why should your jewelry be?
Local Austin jewelry is anything but commercial. Wondering how it compares? We put together a list of local jewelry qualities you won’t find in a department store.
5 Differences Between Local Austin Jewelry and Mass-Produced Jewelry
Much/most of it is handmade
You may not have thought about what it means when jewelry is handmade. Sure, it was literally made by hand, but what does that process entail?
Local jewelry in Austin is first designed by an artist. Then, artisans create each piece using a variety of hand tools, an eye for detail, and a whole lot of patience. Every piece is meticulously, carved, soldered, beaded, knotted, and/or shaped one by one by an artist. The designer spends time on each piece until it is perfect, personally inspecting it for quality down to the smallest detail.
The process is unlike mass-produced jewelry that is either cranked out by a machine or by an individual whose job it is to make jewelry as quickly as possible to meet a quota. While these manufacturers likely care about the products they make, their primary focus is to fulfill massive purchase orders by a certain deadline, not on quality control.
Designs are unique
The beauty of locally-made jewelry is that an artist designed it from his/her own imagination like a piece of art. In fact, jewelry is a wearable piece of art that reflects your taste and personality - at least it should be. If constantly you see your jewelry on others or buy it from a rack in a shopping mall, how unique do you feel?
But what about a unique design that others then replicate? If a design is beloved enough, inevitably there will be copy cats who take the design and mass produce it. While often frustrating for the designer, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? But just because a piece of jewelry looks like the local jewelry from Austin doesn’t mean it was made with the same care and quality of materials.
Materials are high quality and last longer
And that brings us to materials. Here is where you will likely find the biggest difference between local Austin jewelry and commercially-made jewelry. You might expect inexpensive jewelry from a big box store would be made with cheap materials, but did you know that some of the more expensive jewelry from respected brands often use lower quality materials? Gold-plated jewelry is a great example.
In order for companies to keep their prices down to meet the needs of their primary customer base, they have to cut corners somewhere. One of the ways they do this is by blending together cheap metals to make costume pieces. You can spend a little more to get slightly better quality than costume, but even gold plated jewelry will turn a different color within a few years.
If you’re curious about why this happens, we found a simple explanation from Sciencing. They say, “Most gold rings are sold with a rhodium plated surface, according to David Vinson of Metal Art Specialties. These plates are about .25 to .5 microns thick, sometimes thinner. In comparison, a human hair is 100 to 125 microns. Though rhodium is very hard, reflective and pretty, it’s also porous. Thus, over time, particles can sift between the rhodium plating and affect the gold alloy or simply get lodged in the plate itself, causing discoloration.”
Depending on the local jeweler in Austin, they may use gold-filled instead of gold plated. Gold-filled jewelry contains an actual layer of gold that is pressure bonded to a core metal, like silver. It is approximately 100 times thicker than gold plated jewelry and will not turn colors or corrode over time. While you may spend more for gold-filled jewelry, you will never have to replace it. It will look just as shiny and new decades later as it did when you purchased it.
Local designers typically use semi-precious stones, such as turquoise, labradorite, pyrite, and a variety of pearls, instead of fabricated stones. The real stones look luxurious and expensive compared to acrylic, resin or plastic beads and stones.
Personalized customer service
When you purchase local jewelry in Austin, you are often buying it from the actual artist, building a connection and even a friendship. Local designers typically have a small staff who are dedicated to customers, even after the sale. Their goal isn’t necessarily about high-volume sales but on personally meeting and working with clients throughout their life’s journey.
For instance, they may have special offers and private events for their regular customers, make repairs, send personal thank-you notes after your purchase, and keep a jewelry “wishlist” for you to share with loved ones. You’ll likely see the same friendly faces of people who know you by name.
Each purchase supports a local artist/business
If you are like 75% of other consumers, you understand the importance of supporting local small businesses. COVID-19 exposed the vulnerability of many local businesses that depend on their local communities to keep them in business. Only time will tell who will still be here after the pandemic is over, but for those still standing, community support has never been more critical.
With or without COVID-19, when you purchase locally-made jewelry, you are keeping an Austin business alive. Local jewelry designers and merchants pour their life savings and their hearts into their businesses, they hire fellow Austin residents, and they give back to the community. Their passion for their trade is evident in their products, and there’s something special about wearing pieces of jewelry that you know were made with so much love.
A Time and a Place
Inexpensive, mass-produced jewelry may have its place, but owning quality jewelry that is unique and timeless will elevate your collection and allow you to pass on your favorites to loved ones. Better yet, buying jewelry from a local designer feels good for supporting a local business.
When you are looking at local jewelry in Austin, look at brands you can trust are using the highest-quality materials and one-of-a-kind designs. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get beautiful, quality pieces, either. Many local designers price their jewelry somewhere between what you would pay for costume jewelry and fine jewelry. Remember that you may pay a bit more for higher quality jewelry, but it will last much longer and more closely reflect your personality and taste.
Finally, you may want to start with staple pieces you can wear with anything and/or mix with other pieces to change up the look. Everyday necklaces are a good starting point, as you can wear them with any outfit, casual, professional, or dressed up. As you build your foundational pieces, you can add in statement jewelry to spice up your wardrobe.
No matter what you buy or how you wear it, handmade jewelry from a local designer makes you feel special, “grown up,” and stylish. Have fun with it and feel good about supporting local designers and businesses.