|14k rolled gold (gold fill) wire from Crafty Wrenn|
Let's face it. The economy, and the world in general, isn't what it was when I began doing business as Lee Ohio Designs in 2007. A lot of things have changed. I read a post the other day on a blog I love to read called Couture Allure Vintage about modern manufactures skimping on quality and this got me thinking about this in my own field of jewelry.
Gold & Silver
In the past five years gold prices have inflated a whopping 140%. When I look back at pieces I was creating in 2009 when gold was still under $1,000 an ounce I cringe. The cost of gold has become prohibitive in many respects. I long for the days of $700 an ounce for gold. Yes, I remember. This rise in prices cuts across all metals: fine silver and copper as well, which go into the alloys of sterling, 14k gold and 18k yellow, white or rose gold, and rolled gold (gold fill). I've had to replace solid gold in many of my designs for rolled gold (gold fill) to continue working in a cost-friendly way. However the quality and originality of my designs that are loved my clients have not faltered and if anything have only grown over the past five years.
The world of gemstones has changed a lot too. The biggest change I have noticed personally, and maybe my fellow designers can vouch, is the saturation of the market place with heated-treated quartz to mimic topaz, lab-created sapphires and topaz, and oiled or 'sprayed' stones called 'mystics.' And within those categories there are different quality levels as well. I personally feel that there is a place for these stones in the market, but it isn't necessarily in my work. What you will see in my work (and in most likely any of the gem-set jewelry you own) is stones that have gone through the industry-wide practice of heat treating. A great example heat-treating is heating and irradiating amethyst, which can become green in shade, known as prasiolite (also known as greened amethsyt). The same amethyst can be heated with a different spectrum to create citrine, or the bi-color variety of ametrine. White topaz, or colorless topaz, is irradiated and it becomes the many shades of blue we know as sky, Swiss, or London. There is a certain quality of mystic topaz, though hard to find, where the colorless variety has been treated and is of exceptional value which I have and would employ again.
What does this mean to me, to you?
Most importantly, know your stuff, and do the best you can.
There are a number of online venues that offer the wonderful opportunity for artists, designers and sellers of supplies, such as myself, to set up shop and engage in commerce. However in both cases, whether you are the buyer of supplies or the buyer of a completed piece of craft or art, the onus is on you to read carefully and do a bit of research. But sometimes, the forces are against you. I have been absolutely astonished at the lack of information in many seller listings about the materials employed. Many sellers I've seen will only discuss the gold karat content for parts of their pieces, potentially leading a customer to believe they are purchasing an entire piece created of solid gold when in truth it could be vermeil or gold fill with only parts in solid gold. Question why materials aren't listed when they could be. While others selling completed craft or supplies do not note stones that are lab created (heat treating is a common practice and an industry standard, but lab created stones should be noted in my opinion.) I am aware of suppliers on some online venues knowingly mislabeling stones for other stones (i.e. quartz for topaz) and this eventually will get passed on to the consumer.
I am a very active buyer in a few online venues for both business and my personal life, however, because of what I have seen, for my business I will only buy from very trusted sources that have earned said trust over years of established business. I have been professionally working around gemstones and jewelry since 2004 and I still find it daunting at times. I do believe that there is a place for all of these materials however one expects to get what they are paying for, and most importantly, what they are told they are buying.