Last week, Ilana, co-founder of Motley, was having a conversation with her friend Abimbola (known to her friends as OJ). OJ is a barrister, total style maven and a consummate fashion jewellery wearer. She told Ilana that our pieces looked great, but didn’t understand why they were worth buying as opposed to fashion jewellery.
So Ilana told her…
…that the metal in which you buy jewellery is really important. Fashion jewellery is normally plated on bronze and brass (known as bronze in the US). A cheap and brittle metal, it can have harsh effects on people’s skin, and rust quickly over time. The bronze is “flash plated” – meaning the gold layer is less than 0.25 microns thick; wearing over time to reveal its bronze base. You could say, gone in a flash. Motley pieces only use sterling silver as a base metal, plating with at least 2-3 microns of gold (a technique called vermeil), which creates a much more resilient layer, and hypoallergenic to boot. As silver is more expensive than brass, and the cost of the product is part based on weight, this increases the price versus fashion jewellery.
A note – we use 18 karat gold plate. However, the karat of the gold won’t impact how long your plated material lasts; it’ll just impact the colour. What your jewellery is plated on is a far more important indicator of quality and longevity. And we think jewellery should be made to last.
…that even expensive pieces of jewellery can be fashion jewellery. As consumers, we take things at cost value; if something costs more we’ve become habituated to attributing this to better quality. However, retail markups mean low-quality pieces can be heavily overpriced and brands rely on a lack of consumer knowledge to get away with it.
…that the design has a huge impact on the longevity of the product. Great design is not just about the aesthetics of a piece – though that’s important too. Fixtures and fittings, well designed, will last forever; poorly designed, and they will fall apart. Stones set will stay in place; stones glued in, as with fashion jewellery, will simply fall out.
…that really great design – for a product that looks beautiful and moves and hangs well – takes real skill. Intricate designs require complex casts to be made, which require greater skill and time, making the item more expensive. For example, the Motley x Hannah Martin Amazon Cuff and Motley x Emily Robson Cleopatra Torque Necklace use a lot of metal due to their size, and are very intricate, with fixtures and fittings and stones that need setting.
…that great design doesn’t come in or out of fashion. You can wear a truly great piece of jewellery, with a variety of outfits, in different seasons, over the years, again and again.
….that we believe the world has limited amounts of resources, and you don’t need to go through a pair of earrings every month or so. We need to change our perception of jewellery as disposable items. Well-designed jewellery will last a lifetime, carrying intense personal memories and sentiment, whilst looking phenomenal every time.
And, well – see OJ below, sporting the Motley x Hannah Martin, Hoops 2.0. Case closed.