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Fine Jewelry, Bridge Jewelry, Costume Jewelry, Art Jewelry (The genres of jewelry?)

Hello all! I’m having a discussion with my business partner about the genres of jewelry. Together we own what we call a “fine jewelry shop” where everything is hand fabbed and made of precious metals (sterling, gold, platinum.)

However, I know there are some jewelers out there who do not consider sterling “fine.” Yet others out there consider well designed plated pieces “fine.”

Do you consider plated pieces fine? Can fine jewelry be made of base metals? Does bridge jewelry include entry-level solid gold or does that lie in fine? Where do these categories start and end for you?

I know everyone has a different opinion on this and I’d love to hear yours. Thanks!

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This is one of those endlessly debatable questions.
The French quite sensibly have two different words for precious jewelry “bijouterie” and “joiallerie.”
Bijouterie is used to describe pieces that are precious because of their design, beauty, or materials. Joaillerie describes pieces that are precious because of the stones that they are made of. Both are translated in English as “jewellery.”
A piece of jewelry made of copper, plastic and rusty nails can be a “bijou” but not a “joyau.”


Interesting topic, @alexasuess, although reaching conclusions may be difficult (as @Elliot_Nesterman has pointed out).

I am no expert in the French jewelry market, but in the Spanish market there are two words used to describe personal adornment in the shape of jewelry: “bisutería” (that you would call “costume jewelry”) and “joyería” (fine jewelry); the term “alta joyería” (high jewelry") is also of common use (I think that this may be considered a convention throughout Europe).

Fine jewelry has been traditionally made of precious materials (this is precisely the reason for hallmarking): silver, gold, platinum (considering the permitted karatage for each country). On the opposite, [custome] jewelry is not made of precious materials (this is where plated base metals are of common use, for example); historically speaking, custom jewelry imitated fine jewelry (but it was much more affordable, which was the pursued objective).

The value of the so called contemporary jewelry pieces, theoretically, has nothing to do with its materials. In fact, the creators of contemporary jewelry have actively tried to avoid traditional precious materials for a long time. With reference to what might be considered “art”… well, that’s a different debate.

The way I see it, the difference between fine, bridge, and high jewelry depends on price ranges (that are defined by materials, craftmanship, brand, etc.). You may also add “demi-fine” jewelry to this list:

In any case, the boundaries have been becoming more and more blurred and you can easily find now branded costume jewelry that is much more expensive than non-branded fine jewelry, for example. In addition, it should be taken into consideration that the concept of “precious material” changes depending on culture and historical period (jade has been more valuable than diamonds in Asia, feathers of some bird species have been more valuable than gold in some Mesoamerican areas, etc.).

Just my two cents :slight_smile:

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