I recently blogged regarding a company going into administration and mentioned that although initially when I used to visit, there was a lot of handmade silver jewellery I had found it lacking of late, despite seeing adverts on Google for them selling handmade silver jewellery. So I thought I'd discuss the concept of handmade silver jewellery.
First of all I'll start off with what I deem to be handmade silver jewelley - an item that is completely made by hand. However, other people's definititions of handmade silver jewellery are radically different. If a person has any input into a piece of jewellery which is silver, then this seems to be described as handmade silver jewellery. Having given a talk on silversmithing about a month ago, I researched some websites which did just this. I found one which sold contemporary handmade silver jewellery from Mexico. The pendant was machine made (cast from a mold), the bail was machine made and I can only presume that someone in Mexico had squeezed the bail through the jump ring at the top of the pendant to enable it to be described as handmade. It was a butterfly pendant in silver measuring 2cm x 3cm and cost £26 excluding the chain, plus postage. The purchaser would believe that they've bought an item of jewellery which has been made by hand and for the price it would seem to be a good buy. However, when you consider how cheap silver is in Mexico being one of the largest exporters of silver and how cheap it is to mass produce cast items of jewellery such as this, then is the buyer getting a good deal? The answer definitely has to be a resounding 'NO'. To my mind they are being hoodwinked!
Before I became a silversmith, I was bought a gift of a 'handmade silver ring' and I loved it, it was extremely expensive and I thought, a 'one off'. Only to discover later when I became a silversmith, understood hallmarking and how to make silver jewellery myself, that it was machine made and imported and the person giving me the gift had been totally ripped off. There could not have been any element of 'handmade' in this ring -so the trader was most definitely breaking trades description.
But whilst there is no accurate definition of handmade silver jewellery, then ANY item which has had any input from a human hand, no matter how miniscule can be described as handmade.
So where does this leave the buyer? I think that these leaves the buyer in a very difficult situation because unless they ask the retailer to describe how the item has been made, then they really are not afforded any protection from people selling handmade silver jewellery.