In a world where consumers are consciously making more and more ethical and environmentally friendly choices in jewellery, unique handmade jewellery is thriving. Join us in discovering all about it, why it's worth the investment, the eco-friendly alternative to factory made and how brands like Aquila are changing the industry one piece at a time...
What is handmade jewellery?
Made one piece at a time, handmade jewellery is designed by hand, under the care of a skilled jewellery artisan, using raw metal and tools. It is then finished using traditional regional or cultural design techniques according to jewelrydesigns.com. All of this is done without molds or prefabricated parts. There is no set timescale per piece but experience will tell the artisan how long it should take.
How can you tell handmade jewellery from factory made?
There are a number of ways to tell if jewellery is factory made or handmade.
Check for a hallmark or stamp
If a piece is handmade it will have a hallmark or stamp. A hallmark is a necessary UK Government stamp on all precious metal items to verify the item’s purity. For example, Aquila’s sterling silver jewellery has a 925 stamp (the sterling standard) on its pieces displaying that each item is 92.5% silver and 7.5% an additional metal (copper). It is an official mark of quality.
A mass produced piece of jewellery may not have such a stamp because the quality of metals and type of metals used are not always verified. For more about what stamps on jewellery mean, have a read about our post breaking down the subject.
Quality of metal (and lifespan)
Handmade jewellery will generally last much longer than factory made due to the quality of the metal. Additionally, all the hours it took the artisan to craft the piece will result in an item that stands the test of time. The artisan usually chooses the precious metals they use too.
Artisan jewellery is created using high quality metals such as Aquila’s 925 sterling silver and 9ct gold vermeil. Both are highly durable. If you aren’t sure what vermeil means, we’ve summarised it here for you.
Oppositely, mass produced items made by machines use lower quality metal and are not only more likely to break but are more likely to tarnish, leaving that infamous green mark on your finger. They also commonly react with sensitive skin causing an allergic reaction due to metal reactants like nickel being used in the alloy.
It’s also true that factory made jewellery usually operates on quotas that ensure the fastest speed of manufacturing. If there is a quicker way to make the jewellery that means cutting costs then that route will be taken - not always resulting in the best outcome for the wearer.
Imperfect vs perfect
All handmade jewellery is imperfect because it is made by hand and however skilled the artisan, it is impossible to create identical marks on each item. However, that is what many people love about this type of jewellery!
The piece you wear is bespoke to the wearer in many ways. Take for example our Agonda gold hammered bracelet. Hammered by hand, every indentation is different in depth, size and placement across all of the products and range.
People who follow fashion and trends love the polished, honed look of the jewellery for sale in the shops with its uniform appearance. It may be that they have seen their favourite celebrity or fashion-forward friend wearing the same item and want it for themselves. This leaves no room for imperfection in each item, they must be manufactured identically.
Thickness of the precious metal
Along the same lines as the quality of metal, the thickness of the ‘plating’ of gold or silver jewellery differs greatly between handmade and mass-produced. You might find a gold ring from a highstreet shop is ‘gold plated’ when in fact it is gold painted from a non-gold source or the plating is so thin (0.25 microns or less when the standard is 2 microns) that it rubs off soon after wear.
Handmade gold jewellery makes sure its unique qualities shine by choosing thick gold vermeil, like for example, our Tenayuca gold ring. Each gold vermeil item from Aquila is 2 micron gold thickness with this piece no different. Treat hand crafted jewellery with care and attention and avoid interaction with harsh chemicals and they will look like the day you bought them for many years to come! Follow our cleaning guide for more information.
For all the reasons above the price point for unique handmade jewellery is higher than factory made items and is a giveaway as to its quality. It’s been said many times because it is true - you get what you pay for.
What are the handmade techniques Aquila uses?
Here are a couple of the traditional hand crafted techniques our artisans use with our jewellery so you can see how special they are.
Indonesia is famed for its unrivaled natural beauty, beaches, gorgeous weather and skilled craftsmanship. The workmanship of jewellery in Indonesia is of the highest quality and most unique detail according to jewellery blog elf925.com. They are famed for their care for detail and emphasis on symmetry in their jewellery pieces. Often their artisans’ creations feature intricate filigree or Jawan techniques.
Some Aquila pieces like the Brighton ring or the Ubud collection display Jawan work. The technique itself involves very small, spherical balls of precious metal hand-soldered into a unique pattern, with their shiny appearance forming a contrast to a black oxidised backing, states Tribal Hollywood men’s jewellery.
Hammered jewellery may be familiar to you as it is a popular technique that artisans use in both silver and gold jewellery. Our Agonda collection has been handmade in Indonesia, with each piece having a unique set of hammered indentations. Our skilled artisans hand hammer each piece of precious metal using a chasing hammer and an anvil giving a delicate texture to each piece.
Why is it important to buy unique handmade jewellery?
Keep the romance alive
There is a certain romance about carefully crafted raw materials put together by hand. The jewellery piece you buy has had hours of work and design put into it, much like artwork in a gallery. It also has a sentimentality about it with the time and labour that it takes to perfect each item. That’s why handmade jewellery makes the perfect gift for special occasions like Christmas.
You can help the environment
There is a high chance that most handmade jewellery is far more ecologically friendly than factory produced jewellery because the process involves far less energy, saving greenhouse gas emissions and pollution especially if the precious metal is recycled. The same applies for ethically-sourced materials. The good news is many jewellers are investing in the planet and things are shifting a little; Aquila too, has a recycled silver pledge we’d love to share with you.
Support the economy in poorer countries
We are proud to work with the finest silversmiths and goldsmiths we know. Our gold pieces are made in India and our sterling silver and mixed metal pieces are made in Indonesia. We know the artisans well, have met them in person, know the settings in which they work, are in regular contact with them and admire their work as skilled professionals.
It is important to us that we continue to bring them work through our designs even after the pandemic has struck and form a strong bond and loyalty to contributing to their economy as we benefit from their craft.
Invest in independent entrepreneurs
Aquila Jewellery is based in Brighton, perhaps one of the most independent and entrepreneurial cities in the UK! Local and independent shops and brands thrive here because there is a shared entrepreneurial spirit and a love of the local. It is a city that is liberal, accepting of new ideas, accepting of all people and it is actively responsible for the environment. Brighton is Aquila Jewellery’s proud home.
Buying handmade jewellery invests in the entrepreneurial spirit of those that believe in their products and want to share their passion with others. They dare to be different, have a unique point of view and oftentimes have an inspirational story behind them. By buying handmade jewellery you are encouraging and allowing independent creativity in a world full of cookie-cut shapes where uniform is standard.
All in all…
Buying handmade jewellery is an investment in money, time, beauty and individuality. It often is a more ecological and ethical purchase and certainly one of quality, which avoids a throwaway mentality. It supports skilled communities all over the world and their centuries-old techniques. There are so many benefits to buying handmade things, so let’s celebrate the beauty of the imperfect.