The cost of jewelry varies considerably and there is no easy answer to the question what makes jewelry expensive.
This blog goes through some of the different reasons as to why the cost of jewelry differs. In subsequent blogs, we will discuss each individual reason for it.
Metals along with stones contribute significantly to the cost of a piece. There are two ways to look at the metals- “pure” metals, “composition” metals, and “plating”. “Pure metals” are the cost for the metal alone. For example, 24 Karat gold (24K) is pure gold. At that point, one is paying the market cost for the gold.
A “composition metal” means that the original metal is mixed with other metals in to make a blended composition. Examples of this would be 18 Karat gold (18K), 14 Karat gold (14K), or 10 Karat gold (10K). In this case, gold is taken and mixed with other metals such as silver, copper, brass, nickel, etc. These would be less expensive than the “pure metal”. The reason this is done is to reduce the cost of jewelry, but to also give it different material properties that usually allow it to last longer.
“Plating” metal is typically coating just the outside of the metal with a thin layer of an expensive metal (typically gold) to give it the illusion of more expensive jewelry, but the base materials are usually cheap. For example, brass is commonly used as a base material, and is plated or coated with a layer of 14K gold. This significantly reduces the cost, but it can wear off over time.
(Click here to reference a Chart of Metals.)
The size, shape, and type of stone significantly affects the price of a piece of jewelry.
The bigger the stone, the more expensive the piece of jewelry will be. It is seen all the time with diamonds- the bigger the stone, the bigger the price tag.
The more common the shape (ex. round stones), the less expensive it will be. More complicated shapes are typically harder to cut, so they typically have bigger price tags. For mined stones, a lot of it also depends on how easy it is to cut a stone into a shape without breaking it.
Type of Stone
The type of stone also plays a big role in the cost of a piece of jewelry. There are two parts to it—they actual type of stone (rubies, emeralds, sapphires, garnets, etc) as well as how it was created (mined, lab grown, or imitation). The rarer the type of stone (rubies/emeralds), the more expensive it will be. As for how it was obtained, mined will always be the most expensive method, followed by lab grown. A warning for imitation—an imitation stone might not be a stone at all. Imitation is just something that looks like something else, and in some cases, that means it might be a piece of glass.
(Click here to reference a Chart of Stones.)
The method of producing a piece and where it was produced also have a significant factor in how expensive jewelry is. Jewelry that is mass produced with molds over sea (China/India) will be cheaper than jewelry produced by hand in the US.
In certain instances, (Tiffany, Cartier, Van Cleff and Arpels), one is paying a high price tag for the brand name of the jewelry. These jewelry brands have become iconic over time and as such, their brands sell for premium prices.
The combination of all these factors typically determine the price of jewelry. As a result, it is harder to predict what the cost would be without understanding many of these principles. If you are interested in learning more, we are always willing to explain any of this further—just reach out to us!