Jul 5, 2010

Searching for Quality Jewelry Components

While repairing jewelry pieces for a few friends, I've been thinking about my own designs and the quality of the components that I use.  When I first started making jewelry, I had a hard time distinguishing good components from the not so good ones.  Just looking at jewelry findings and beads is not the best way to distinguish good quality.  Also price is not always a good indicator.

A friend's bracelet she purchased from another designer had faux pearls.  The pearl coating had started flaking off the beads.  She paid good money for this bracelet and was disappointed that the quality did not match the price.  She asked if I could replace these beads for her.  I did some research and found that many faux pearls as well as real can be damaged from perfumes or other chemicals.  They can also be scratched by sharp objects.  I replaced these pearls with Swarovski faux pearls.  I've found that Swarovski makes a very durable faux pearl.

I've learned early in my jewelry making journey, to test my components.  I always purchase a few before investing in a significant amount, and I run my beads and components through a series of tests. 

Strength tests:  I usually test the weakest point of my beads and findings by applying tension or pressure on these points.  The following lobster clasps broke after tension was applied.  They failed the test.  Similar clasps held up to the same tension.  I had to throw out the ones that failed.  On toggle clasps, I always check the soldered joints by trying to bend them.  If they fail, they go in the trash.

Dye tests:  Some gemstones are dyed to enhance the color.  If I suspect ones that I have purchased are dyed, I will set them in the sun for a week and compare the exposed side to the side that was lying toward the counter.  If I see significant fading, out they go.

Scratch tests:  I also do a few scratch tests.  If beads tend to scratch easily, I will use them in earrings or necklaces that do not get a lot of abuse over using them in rings or bracelets.  Know your gemstones and the Moh's hardness scale to help you in deciding which beads to use for each design.

Just starting out, I couldn't afford to make jewelry that fell apart.  Although I can not always know how well something will hold up in a design, I can reduce that chance by testing my components before I use them.  I also ask my buyers to contact me if they ever have problems with anything.  I will replace faulty components.

I've set up a buyer's guide to jewelry making, "Best Jewelry Making Suppliers, Bloggers and Tutorials".