Handmade Vs Mass Produced Rings
Deciding on whether to buy a handmade engagement ring or a handmade wedding ring is an important question and this buyers guide aims to help you come to the right conclusion by giving open and accurate facts about handmade engagement rings vs mass produced engagement rings.
For some people a handmade ring is not the appropriate route and for others it is. There is no “one size fits all”. Some people are driven by cost and others are driven by individuality and bespoke design. For some it does not matter the process of creation on the end product, whilst for others they want to know that their ring has been toiled over with hammer and files at hand.
Because different things matter to different people, we feel this buyers guide is a valuable tool to explore handmade vs mass produced so you can make your own mind up about what is right for you.
The reasons for choosing a handmade ring over a mass produced one?
If you want full control over your design, or wish to have a design made just for you, then having a handmade piece crafted by a skilled artisan is a great way forward. Mass produced pieces are restricted to the product lines on offer and if you can’t find a design you love, that is where your journey ends. But in the world of handmade, that can be a place where the journey starts.
If you buy a mass produced piece, you will have no control or input over the provenance of gold in the ring. If you choose a handmade piece you are more likely to have an influence on the provenance of the gold e.g. perhaps you can use gold from within your own family, or if you are working with Jacquline & Edward we can even add river gold from a particular region of the UK or beyond. Some people working with us even choose to have their ring made from sure alluvial river gold, for example to create a pure Welsh gold engagement ring.
Whilst more and more mass produced jewellery are engaging with the ethical market, many are capturing marketing buzz words to keep on trend above actually seeking out and walking the walk of being truly ethical. What do terms like “responsibly sourced” actually mean? You could consider yourself “responsibly sourcing a diamond” because it complies with the Kimberly Process, but then there are no environmental nor socio-economic considerations during the acquisition of that diamond for it to be Kimberly Certified. Are they still an ethical jewellery company, is it really an ethical diamond? You are more likely to have a greater variety of ethical stances across different small artisans who are also more likely to engage, should you wish, in an ethical discussion to find and often align with your own personal ethical stance on life. But be careful because some companies tout lab grown diamonds only, or only use fair trade gold, but the ethical debate is significantly more complex than a one size fits all so never be bulldozed by a company into their ethical stance, which may or may not be motivated by ethical reasons.
SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESSES
Working in handmade products is a great way to support small and often family owned businesses. We can tell you from experience, an experience you may share yourself, running a small business where you are everything from the maker, the designer, the finance department, the photographer, the marketer, the copywriter, the business analyst and all the other hats you have to wear to make the wheels turn is not a small undertaking. Buying from a small business is often rewarded with personalised customer service and communication, great attention to detail and a level of care and attention which is hard to find on the high street.
Handmade should never equate to poor workmanship. A handmade ring by a skilled artisan should be every bit, if not better than a piece from a high end commercial retailer and you should expect nothing else. Sadly there are artisans out there who use handmade as an opportunity to sell poorly crafted jewellery. Set your standards high.
If you are dealing with an artisan, you are likely to be dealing with someone who is passionate about their work. Their business is not simply about profit margins and selling in bulk, it is about creation, care, attention to detail and keeping alive the skills of days gone by. They have chosen to follow this path in life because they love it and if they are at all like us, they will be thrilled for you to be joining them on a little it of that journey.
Makers of handmade rings will inevitably know more about their products than retailers of mass produced jewellery. They are knowledgeable about not only the information available on the hallmark and price tag, but, depending on the degree of handmade your artisan applies, they will have in depth knowledge of the composition of the gold alloy, it’s working properties, the construction methods and detail of the piece. They will even know which hammer to use to get the final texture, or the grade of polish used to create the final finish and how it will wear over time and much more.
Whether you are having a one of a kind design made, or you are choosing a favourite design from a handmade artisans website, your piece will inevitably be unique. No two rings can ever be completely the same because they are not made from a mould, they are made individually using the strikes of a hammer and the strokes of a file…. these actions alone, whilst similar from piece to piece are never exactly the same.
The differences between a handmade and a mass produced ring
Handmade Engagement Rings are:
- Made individually, often requiring multiple parts to be made individually first, such as the wire for claws or the sheet for a gallery setting;
- Made 100% by hand from scratch;
- Not created using a machine or other method of mass production;
- Not cast and then “hand finished” or cast and stone set / finished by hand;
- Typically more expensive than their mass produced counterparts… but, not by as much as you think!
Mass Produced Engagement Rings are:
- Made using bulk casting methods;
- Made in large numbers at the same time;
- Made using the assistance of moulds, duplicate waxes, large furnaces and vacuum chambers;
- Identical to other mass produced rings of the same design;
- Normally ready to ship or buy over the counter the same day;
- Typically cheaper than their handmade counterparts.
What questions should you ask when buying or enquiring about a handmade engagement ring?
If the artisan you are thinking about is anything like us, their website is a work in progress. They may not have all the information available on their website to help you make the decision of whether to take the plunge. Here are a few key questions to ask in relation to handmade.
- Is my piece cast and then hand finished or is it fully handmade?
- Do you make your own gold sheet, or draw your own wire?
If they buy sheet and wire, then your “handmade” piece can simply be a D shaped length of wire bent around into a circle, soldered together and placed in a tumbler for 15 minutes. The question is, do you consider that to be handmade?
- Where and how do you source your diamonds and other gems?
- Where do you source your metal?
- Do you outsource any of your work?
You might find that the piece is actually made elsewhere, or even outside of the UK and then only hand finished in house or the stone setting is done by a specialist stone setter.
- Will the piece I get be hallmarked?
There is a lot of terminology in the jewellery trade and often clever terminology is used by companies to sell you items under an appealing banner which might not really be what you are expecting in terms of the processes which went into creating the piece. Here is a list of terms hoping to outline there is a difference between them:
Hand finished rings
These pieces tend to be cast and then the only real hand contact with the piece is to cut the spru, file off the excess metal and polish up the piece; This can turn a 3 day complex engagement ring project into a 1 hour cleanup and setting job. Hand finished is not handmade, it is hand finished;
This refers to pieces that are made in volume using mass manufacturing techniques;
This means creating a ring which is unique to you and your ideas, albeit unless requested you are unlikely to own the design once developed. This can be done with mood boards, words, drawings or wax models depending on the maker. Bespoke design can be achieved using handmade or cast techniques in terms of turning your ideas into reality, but these rings are never mass produced;
There are different levels of handmade. The easiest, lowest skill and least time consuming is to buy pre-made elements of your engagement ring and solder them together in the workshop. Pre-cast settings can be bought from many suppliers across the industry and are not in short supply. The hardest and highest level of skill, and the most time consuming method is 100% handmade, where the ring starts as a liquid poured into an ingot and then is rolled, cut and drawn into any component parts needed before being soldered together and taken to completion. Some photographs moving through the process of a fully handmade engagement ring are available here.
At Jacqueline & Edward we have chosen to be as handmade as can be. We don’t buy wire or sheet, we don’t hand finish our pieces or call stone setting into a cast engagement ring handmade. We’d call that more like “hand assembled”, which is a bit like the difference between paint by numbers and painting freehand on canvas. We believe handmade starts with a molten bead of gold rolling around in the crucible and ends with a meticulously crafted high quality piece which has been toiled over with a high degree of skill and attention. We love handmade and wish to stay true to the expression rather than live a watered down version of it. Mass produced is as far from genuine hand made engagement rings as you can get. There is a reason that you often pay a little more for a genuine handmade engagement ring and that is because of the time and skill which has gone into making it.
There is nothing wrong with mass produced jewellery. It is ideal of people working to tighter budgets or have seen their perfect style in a shop window and love the brand they are buying from. We do however believe that buying handmade is something special and each piece will be unique because the complex actions required to make a ring can’t be identically replicated from piece to piece.
We celebrate everything about a handmade piece from the knowledge that can only be passed from a maker over to a Client to quality which can be achieved if you truly care about what you make and dedicate your life to pushing forward your skills.