Buying fine jewelry online can be overwhelming. By learning the right vocabulary, you can make better choices and long-lasting investments.
Since the appearance of social media, online jewelry stores have thrived. Thanks to Instagram, browsing for jewelry online became a curated experience, where, once you clicked on one brand, similar ones are promptly suggested. In an era where every online brand claims that they cut the middleman to sell fine jewelry and gemstones at an affordable price, the supply and information available can be overwhelming.
A basic grasp on names and charts can minimize the risk of disappointing purchases or, worse, full-on scams.
Let’s talk about gold.
Gold is expensive, there’s no way around it. To make prices more accessible, and to cut corners, jewelry brands always resorted to coating cheaper base metal in gold. There is nothing inherently “wrong” with that, but knowledge is power when it comes to investing (or impulse-buying) a piece of jewelry. The most common type of gold plating consists of plating brass or nickel with gold, which is a cheap alternative to solid gold but is both prone to tarnishing and can cause allergic reactions. Vermeil, touted by several DTC jewelry brands as the solution that promises both high quality and accessible pricing, consists of coating sterling silver with a thicker layer of gold (by US standards, said layer must be at least 2.5 microns thick). Vermeil, however, is prone to tarnishing too, and does not react well with water.
Then there’s what’s known as gold-filled, obtained through a process of mechanical bonding that melts a thicker layer of gold onto the base metal. It needs to be 5% gold by weight to be categorized as such. Yet, much like others, it will eventually discolor and tarnish.
So what is, in fact, “solid gold”? Unlike its gold-plated counterparts, is not subject to tarnishing and discoloration. That said, the name does not mean that it’s 100% pure gold. In fact, when in its purest form (24k), gold is too soft to be used in jewelry: it easily scratches, warps, and bends. For that purpose, it has to be bound to alloys. The most commonly available versions of solid gold are 9k (9 part gold, 15 alloys) 10k (10 gold, 14 alloys); 14k (14 gold, 10 alloys) and 18k (18 gold, 6 alloys).
At Italic, we use 14k gold: of all the solid-gold options, it’s the one that combines the beauty of the metal with durability: the 10 alloys make it quite sturdy, and reliable for everyday wear. What’s more, it’s also less expensive than 18k gold.
Choose your favorite gold.
Did you know that purest gold (24k) looks almost orange?
The hues we typically see gold in are actually alloys of gold and other metals, whose purity is indicated by carats. Combining gold with other metals allows it to be less soft and it also tampers down its orange hue, making it more suitable for everyday wear.
The most common colored golds are yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold. Specifically, white gold contains gold and nickel, silver, or palladium; rose gold consists of gold, copper, and a small percentage of silver. What we call “yellow gold” contains gold, and then silver and copper in equal percentage.
Colored gold is subject to fashions and fads: while the 1980s were all about yellow gold, the early 2000s saw a preponderance of white gold, while rose gold, thanks to the color trend known as “Millennial Pink,” was very popular in the last decade.
Ultimately, personal skin tone and accompanying gemstones determine what gold works best for you—garnet, for instance, pairs better with yellow gold, while sapphires and rubies look great with white gold. Quite predictably, diamonds work with all shades of gold. At Italic, for now, we offer our styles in white and yellow gold, which we deem the most versatile and the most fad-resistant.
Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend: Get to know them.
The human brain is naturally attracted to everything that sparkles or shines—apparently, we subconsciously associate it with water. Yet, not all sparkle is created equal, and with diamonds, the Gemological Institute of America established a scale using six main grades to define the clarity of a diamond: FL, IF, VVS, VS, SI and I. FL means Flawless, and indicates diamonds that don’t have flaws that can be viewed under 10x magnification; IF stands for Internally Flawless; VVS means Very Very Slightly Included; VS means Very Slightly Included; SI indicates that the diamond is “slightly included.” I, the lowest category, denotes visible inclusions, which, however, also means a significant price drop.
At Italic, we use SI 3 clarity for our smaller stones: while that’s not the type of diamond with the most clarity, it makes a great statement on smaller cuts and on sparklers especially considering that other contemporary jewelry brands may resort to gray or semi-precious stones (cubic zirconia) for smaller spaces. What’s more, we refuse to cut corners on diamonds in our design: our Huggie Pavé diamond hoop has diamonds all the way around, while most brands will only put stones (diamonds, emeralds, opals, or others) on the front half); our Diamond Pavé bar earring has a row of pavé diamonds on all of its three sides.
When in doubt about a style, go with something classic
There’s maximalist jewelry, there’s minimalist jewelry, there’s art jewelry, that’s basically a sculpture you can wear, there’s whimsical, dainty jewelry, and there’s antique jewelry. Much like clothing, jewelry is subject to trends, and we’re not afraid to say that the best way to make your first “investment” jewelry purchases is by opting for timeless, modern classics. A statement necklace or a flower-shaped chandelier earring might be trendy, but if you’re looking towards building your jewel box, focusing on high-quality stones and timeless designs allows you to start collecting what will, in time, become heirlooms.
At Italic, we partnered with a workshop whose leading artisan previously worked for Cartier and Van Cleef and Arpels, and our designs are classic, understated, timeless and yet quintessentially modern. What’s more, we sell our earrings in singles: you can mix and match, you can create your own set and, most important, you won’t have to get stuck with a pair when all you wanted was a single. The days when wearing jewelry was subject to rules is long gone. After all, the beauty of jewelry lies in the myriads of possibilities it offers to the wearer.