When you step into the fine jewelry world it can seem overwhelming and easy to get lost, so here at SÈVE, we thought it would be beneficial to help pass on our knowledge and help our community become more educated so they can make more thoughtful and conscious consumer choices.
TYPES OF JEWELRY
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF JEWELRY?
The main categories of jewelry are costume/fashion jewelry, demi-fine, fine, and high jewelry. These four categories can be confusing when you enter into the jewelry world. To understand the difference between them, let's explore the definition of each one:
WHAT IS COSTUME/FASHION JEWELRY:
Fashion jewelry is made of non-precious metals and imitations of real gemstones making it a more affordable range of jewelry. Often you will see the use of less-precious materials such as glass, rhinestones, leather, crystals, fabrics, and more. Unlike costume jewelry, fashion jewelry offers pieces that aims to be in line with the latest seasonal trends.
WHAT IS DEMI-FINE JEWELRY:
‘Demi-fine’ is an emerging jewelry category that nestles between fine jewelry and fashion/costume jewelry. Demi-fine jewelry is made from semi-precious metals and stones; allowing it to exist as an affordable version of fine jewelry. ‘Demi’, means ‘half’ in French, refering to the mix of materials used, such as base metals like brass or copper which sit below a layer of gold. This is different to fine or high jewelry which exclusively uses fine materials and solid gold. Most techniques used within the creation of demi-fine jewelry are:
Gold plated jewelry; In this instance a very light layer of gold is placed on top of a base metal such as brass, nickel or stainless steel. Gold plated jewelry doesn’t require any minimum karat weight or thickness, making it much less expensive than gold vermeil.
Gold vermeil jewelry; This type of jewelry uses a thick layer of gold atop a base layer of sterling silver. Gold vermeil requires a minimum thickness of 2.5 microns and the use of 10 karat or gold, or higher.
Gold filled jewelry; Contrary to the name, gold filled pieces are not actually filled with gold. These pieces have an even thicker layer of gold over a base metal (often brass). Gold filled pieces require the use of gold with a weight of at least 5%.
WHAT IS FINE JEWELRY:
Fine jewelry refers to pieces made exclusively with precious metals and precious or semi-precious natural gemstones. Unlike costume jewelry and demi-fine jewelry, every material used in fine jewelry is valuable.
Most commonly, fine jewelry pieces are crafted with 14-18 karat solid gold, platinum or other precious metals. Because fine jewelry is made entirely of solid precious metals, each piece is durable and repairable. Precious stones used in fine jewelry can range from diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires, to semi-precious stones like lapis lazuli, agate, topaz or opal.
At SÈVE we only produce fine jewelry. Each and every one of our creations are carefully made by hand and made from the highest quality stones and metals, using only 18 karat recycled gold and diamonds.
WHAT IS HIGH JEWELRY:
‘High jewelry’ or ‘Haute Joaillerie’ represents the ultimate form of creativity and craftsmanship in the jewelry industry, it is a practice that offers one-of-a-kind or very limited pieces that can cost up to millions.
Every piece of high jewlery will have been made by hand by meticulous craftsmen with exceptional skills. Only the finest quality of metals and rare gemstones are used and carved using traditional techniques. Only a few renowned brands have the skills and historical craftsmanship to create jewelry that would be considered high jewelery.
The main difference between these categories is that each practice and product are differentiated primarily by the quality of materials used and the skills it takes to create each piece.
We are so proud to produce thoughtful and high quality fine jewelry and hope to continue to inspire those who wear our pieces as well as our peers in this industry.
WHAT METALS ARE USED IN FINE JEWELRY?
Gold and platinum are the most popular metals used in fine jewelry.
Platinum is renowned for its resistance and malleability properties along with its silvery-white luster.
Gold is renowned for its density and gleaming luster. It is a soft and malleable material but has durability due to the fact that it is often blended with other metals which also creates differing shades.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT SOLID GOLD PURITY TYPES?
Because gold is such a soft metal and it is often combined with other materials to improve durability, it means there are a variety of different solid gold purity forms. Inlcuding:
9K or 9 karat gold: This mix is composed of 37.5% of gold and 62.5% of other metals, making it an alloy with the lowest pure gold content.
10K or 10 karat gold: 10 karat gold is very similar to 9K coming in with 41.7% gold content mixed with 58.3% of other metals.
14K or 14 karat gold: Made of 58.3% of pure gold, this form is often used in demi-fine jewelry thanks to its more saturated color - which is due to higher gold content.
18K or 18 karat gold: Consisting of 75% pure gold and only 25% of other metals, this form is prized for its warm tones. It appears to be the best compromise between purity and practicality, making it the most classic gold karat.
22K or 22 karat gold: Almost entirely pure, 22 karat gold is composed of 91.6% of pure gold making it much softer than others dure to its high purity, characterized by a darker yellow color.
24K or 24 karat gold: Recognizable due to its deep yellow color and defined as the purest form of gold, this form is incredibly malleable making it unsuitable if to be used on its own as a piece of jewelry.
At SÈVE, like our peers at the Place Vendôme, we choose to use only 18K purity gold because it is the most suitable shape for high jewelry creations.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN KARAT AND CARAT?
Both karat and carat are a form of measurement in the jewelry industry, but what’s being measured is very different. Karat refers to gold and is used to describe the ratio of gold to alloy metals, whereas carat is a measurement used to describe the weight of diamonds and other precious gemstones.
HOW DO WE OBTAIN DIFFERENT COLORS OF GOLD?
Gold in its natural form is yellow. To obtain a variety of different shades, gold must be combined with other metals in order to create colors including rose gold, white gold and more.
White gold: A combination of gold and another metal such as nickel, silver, or palladium - which has a layer of rhodium coating – a silver metal addition to gold adds a shinier color and more durability.
Yellow gold: Although gold is yellow in its original form, it is combined with metals such as copper or silver to obtain a softer and warmer yellow color.
Pink or rose gold: Made using a mix of pure gold with alloys including copper and silver which gives a reddish-rose color.
WHAT IS A DIAMOND?
Diamonds are made of 99% carbon and are formed under specific high temperature and pressure conditions that are found at a deep range beneath the earth’s surface.
Diamond is known as being the hardest stone, and can only be scratched when in contact with another diamond. They rank as a 10 on the Mohs Scale which is a scale that references mineral hardness from 1-10.
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING DIAMONDS?
A universal method is used to determine and define the quality of a diamond. This method is known as the 4 Cs - standing for Colour, Clarity, Carat and Cut. This method was developed by the Gemological
Institute of America (GIA) in 1953, and to this day is a measure to evaluate a stone’s beauty and value.
Cut: The cut of a diamond refers to how well-proportioned the dimensions of a diamond are, and how these facets are positioned to create sparkle and brilliance. This will determine how the diamond interacts with light.
Color: Interestingly, the diamond color evaluation is based on the absence of color. The less color a diamond has, the better the quality. The Gemological Institute of America has developed a color-grading scale for diamonds which is now an industry standard. The scale begins with the letter D (colorless), and continues with increasing presence of color to the letter Z (light yellow or brown).
GHIJ: Near Colorless
KLM: Faint Yellow
NOPQR: Very Light Yellow
STUVWXYZ: Light Yellow
At SÈVE, we only work with F/G diamonds.
Clarity: Diamond clarity is the assessment of any blemishes or inclusions to the stone. Blemishes refer to the surface flaws, while inclusions refer to any internal defects. The GIA Diamond Clarity Scale has 6 categories, which is divided into 11 specific grades:
FL: These diamonds are Flawless.
IF: These diamonds are Internally Flawless.
VVS1 VVS2: These diamonds (1 and 2) are Very, Very Slightly Included.
VS1 VS2: These diamonds (1 and 2) are Very Slightly Included.
SI1 SI2: These diamonds (1 and 2) are Slightly Included.
I1 I2 I3: These diamonds (1, 2 and 3) are Imperfect.
At SÈVE, we use diamonds with a VS clarity, which means our diamonds include very slight inclusions that are invisible to the naked eye and can typically only be seen under bright lighting and with 10x magnification.
Carat: This refers to a diamond's weight. A carat is equal to 20 milligrams, so a 5-carat stone will weigh 1 gram. It is important to note that two diamonds of equal carat weight can have very different values depending on the other three factors of the diamond 4Cs: Color, Clarity, and Cut. An improperly cut diamond may incur added weight and incur a reduction in brilliance, therefore with a lower overall value.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A NATURAL DIAMOND AND A SYNTHETIC DIAMOND?
Natural diamonds originate from the Earth and were created by nature billions of years ago when the planet was under very specific conditions with a high temperature and high pressure. Laboratory diamonds, on the other hand, are artificially created in a laboratory which reproduces the same temperature and pressure conditions. Although these diamonds are visually and chemically identical, a main difference is diamond rarity - as laboratory-produced diamonds can be recreated in unlimited quantities, unlike natural diamonds.
At SÈVE, we only use natural diamonds considering them as unique wonders. All of our diamonds are ethically sourced, respecting the standards of The Kimberly process.
WHAT DOES SUSTAINABILITY MEAN IN THE FINE JEWELRY INDUSTRY?
Sustainability in the fine jewelry industry refers to practices that are environmentally responsible, economically viable, and socially just. This includes the sourcing of raw materials, the production process itself, and the treatment of workers.
Key practices include using recycled metals and responsibly sourced gems, reducing waste and emissions during production, and ensuring fair labour practices.
The ultimate goal is to create jewelry that has a positive impact on the environment as well as society; whilst also being of the highest quality.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUSTAINABLE AND ETHICAL JEWELRY?
Sustainable jewelry refers to jewelry that is made using environmentally friendly and socially responsible practices, such as using recycled materials, reducing waste, and avoiding harmful chemicals. It also refers to the longevity and durability of the product, ensuring that it can be worn and enjoyed for a long time.
Ethical jewelry, on the other hand, refers to jewelry that is made under fair labour conditions without the exploitation of workers and through a practice that does not violate any basic human rights. This also includes paying fair wages, providing safe working conditions, and avoiding the use of conflict minerals.
In short, sustainable jewelry is focused on the environmental impact, whilst ethical jewelry is focused on the social impact. Ideally, jewelry should be both sustainable and ethical to truly embody what responsible production really means.
HOW CAN WE TELL IF A BRAND IS AUTHENTICALLY ETHICAL AND SUSTAINABLE?
There is no universal list of elements that would make a brand truly ethical and sustainable, but we believe the
following elements should be considered:
Transparency: Brands should be transparent about their supply chain, their materials, and their production processes.
Conflict-free diamonds and gemstones: Brands should ensure that their diamonds and gemstones are not sourced from conflict zones or contribute to any sort of abuse concerning human rights.
Recycled materials: Brands should use recycled materials where possible to reduce waste and environmental impact.
Fair labour practices: Brands should ensure that their workers are paid fair wages, are able to work in safe conditions, and are not subjected to exploitation or human trafficking.
Environmental responsibility: Brands should take the steps needed to minimize their environmental impact, such as reducing energy usage and waste, and using sustainable packaging.
Certifications: Brands should have certifications that verify its ethical and sustainable practices, such as connections with the Responsible Jewellery Council, Kimberly Process, Fairmined, and Fairtrade certifications.
At SÈVE, we only use 18-karat recycled gold certified COC (Chain-Of-Custody) and ethically sourced natural diamonds, adhering to The Kimberly Process. Our creations are entirely handmade in Paris, in a workshop member of the Responsible Jewellery Council.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN SUSTAINABLE AND ETHICAL CERTIFICATIONS?
There are several certifications for ethical and sustainable fine jewelry, some of the most notable ones include:
The Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC): This certification verifies that a company's jewelry supply chain is ethically and sustainably managed.
Fairmined: This certification guarantees that any gold used in jewelry production has been mined under fair and responsible conditions, including environmental protection, safe working conditions, and fair wages for miners.
Fairtrade: This certification ensures that gold and other precious metals used in jewelry production are sourced from responsible and sustainable suppliers that meet fair trade principles and standards.
The Kimberley Process: This international certification scheme aims to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream diamond market.
Recycled Gold: This certification verifies that any gold used in jewelry production has been responsibly recycled, reducing the environmental impact of gold mining.
Each of these certifications has its own set of standards, and some are more widely recognized and respected than others. It's important to research and consider these certifications when purchasing fine jewelry to ensure that your purchase aligns with your own values.
WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
We should care about sustainable and ethical jewelry for many reasons, such as:
Environmental impact: The jewelry industry is known for having an impact on the environment. This includes the mining of precious metals and gems, which can result in toxic waste and the destruction of habitats. Sustainable and ethical jewelry is made from materials that have been sourced in a responsible manner, reducing the overall environmental impact of the jewelry production process.
Social responsibility: The jewelry industry has a history of exploitation and abuse of its workers, particularly those in mines and workshops where precious metals and gems are processed. Sustainable and ethical jewelry is made by brands that prioritize fair wages, safe working conditions, and respect for workers' rights.
Consumer Awareness: By purchasing sustainable and ethical jewelry, consumers are taking an active role in promoting responsible practices within the jewelry industry. This can help to create a demand for more environmentally friendly and socially responsible products, driving change and promoting sustainability.
Overall, sustainable and ethical jewelry is important because it prioritizes environmental responsibility, fair labour practices and consumer awareness, making it a responsible and ethical choice for consumers and promoting positive change in the jewelry industry.