Shopping for jewelry is so much fun, well usually. Other times it can be daunting. There are so many options to choose from and so many places to explore. There are multiple styles of every type of jewelry such as rings, bracelets, necklaces, and watches.
On top of that, there are dozens of places to choose where you shop from like department stores, jewelry stores, or online). With all these choices available for us to make, we have to start with finding out what we want.
Realistically speaking, there is no real answer to the question of which is better as it is purely personal, it really does depend on what you are looking for and the type of person you are or who you are gifting it to.
I think sometimes the biggest question that surfaces when shopping for jewelry is how do we decide on what we want? Do we want something handmade or something manufactured, what is the difference, which one is better: handmade or manufactured or are they equally amazing?
Let’s explore the difference between the two types of jewelry so that we can decide what type we want to purchase and what occasions we may need it for and where can we buy them?
Handmade and Manufactured Jewelry Defined
Handmade jewelry is jewelry that is put together and formed by hand. It is jewelry made by hand, of course. Making something by hand may involve the use of some tools, like a drill, files or some other tools, but as long as it is maneuvered by hand, it is considered handmade.
Manufactured jewelry is done on a larger scale. This type of jewelry is made in factories with larger, more industrial machines. There is some human handling into the machines, but the machines do all the major work.
Check out this five minute video on how gold chains are made. It’s kind of amazing how the process works and how so little can make so many pieces!
Handmade Jewelry Pros and Cons
- It is made with love. Most people making jewelry by hand are making it because they really enjoy doing it.
- It is one of a kind. Handmade pieces are more customized because they are made specifically for the buyer.
- The maker is super creative. The person designing and creating their jewelry gets to express more creativity. They have more options to do what they want for a customer because either the customer wanted it or something amazing came to mind.
- Handmade jewelry can be more sentimental or personal. There is just something wonderful about giving or receiving something handmade. More thought is put into it making it feel so special.
- Handpiece jewelry can be pricey. This type of jewelry unfortunately can be more expensive because there are more factors. The maker has to purchase supplies and then charge for their time. They need to be able to make a profit support themselves (just like you do).
- The person making jewelry has to be reliable. If you can not count on the person getting it, you may get it late or it could be something you didn’t even pay for. (Check those Google reviews people! Or get recommendations from your friends!)
- Turn over time may be longer. Making something by hand takes time. Some items can be made and shipped quickly, but sometimes they can’t. You are at the mercy of the maker.
- Even though so much goes into making a piece of jewelry by hand, one concern is that because they are made by hand, the jewelry is more delicate. A gem may fall off or it could break more easily.
Manufactured Jewelry Pros and Cons
- The cost to purchase manufactured jewelry can be more budget friendly. They make multiple pieces at one time so they are able to sell items for less than someone making something handmade.
- The time it takes for manufactured jewelry to be produced is also less. Being able to use industrial type machines helps them not only produce more items for less but it also helps them make things faster.
- You also don’t have to rely on one specific person to make your jewelry. They are going to continue to make jewelry regularly, whether you buy it or not because it’s purchased by the masses.
- Manufactured jewelry can be more durable. These pieces are sold in stores so they have to meet certain standards to be sold there.
- Unfortunately, manufactured jewelry isn’t as quiet as artistic as handmade. Creating something by hand allows the maker to take their time and perfect the details. Machines don’t really care about details, they just produce.
- Machines also don’t offer as much creativity. Yes, machine made pieces are beautiful (and yes well designed) but often they lack a uniqueness in what they’re producing. A machine can only create and make what it is made to do.
- While this jewelry tends to be more durable, stone settings can be questionable. Machines assume all stones are shaped the same so sometimes when they are placed in the setting, they may be loose (making it easy to fall out).
Dressing for the Occasion: Perfection or Personalization
Life is comprised of special moments and events. Sometimes we are dressing up to celebrate these moments and other times we may be in need of a symbol to represent a meaningful moment. For example, wedding and engagement rings are usually more formal and elegant pieces of jewelry. It may be easier and more cost effective to buy a manufactured piece (most people do). There’s a large variety readily available in stores all over.
However, not every event is formal and not every piece of jewelry has to be a symbol for a special occasion. Handmade jewelry has the capability to be more personalized. You could actually design a piece and have a jewelry maker create it for you. What I love about handmade jewelry is that you could absolutely spend tons of money for a fancy statement piece or you can keep it less costly and get something cute and stylish.(Plus I love supporting my friends’ businesses!)
Jewelry Decisions: Uniqueness or Brand
Handmade jewelry is all about being made specifically for one person. When you order a piece through someone who is going to make it by hand, they are going to work with you and only you on what you want. It does not matter what your neighbor Jill finds pretty (unless it’s for her) because that jewelry maker is making that piece of jewelry the way you requested it.
They do pay attention to trends and styles and what’s popular (they do have to keep their business current so it’s successful). The jewelry maker may offer tips and advice, however when you are getting something made, they are making it to your specifications and requests. If you want a gold band ring with a diamond center and the diamond to be surrounded by a row of sapphires, then that’s what they will make for you.
Whatever it is, it is one hundred percent unique to you or the person you are gifting it to. It’s one of a kind and very special.
On the flip side, manufactured jewelry is elegant and also beautiful. Many of the major jewelry brands are manufactured jewelry. Though, nowadays it is possible to get stuff personalized. You can get engravings and pick what kind of stone and color you want, the jewelry is just made by machinery instead of one specific person. These are ready and available to buy this second and you can pick it up from the store front or get it shipped straight to your home (though I recommend picking it up in the store).
Some people associate these expensive name brands with status. We all love custom handmade pieces, but a lot of people want jewelry from a specific store or company because of the prestige that name has created. Jewelry stores, just like any other store or brand, have built reputations (good and bad). These reputations are what have people flocking to their shelves.
In our society we have a desire and tendency to want to show off and flaunt what we have. So when you purchase that manufactured jewelry, you get the name with it. Just like with other things, there are brands you want to brag about and some you do not. Let’s be real though, who doesn’t want to say they have a diamond pendant from Tiffany’s? I personally would not turn that down!
Making a Purchase Decision
Now that we have looked at differences between handmade and manufactured jewelry we can look at the reasons we would use to make our decision. At the end of the day, both are beautiful and both can be meaningful. One is not really better than the other, it really all depends on what you are needing the piece or pieces of jewelry for.
Jewelry can be a gift to someone else or to yourself (treat yourself sometimes!). Picking a piece of jewelry may depend on the event that’s happening, so definitely take that into consideration before deciding.
Do you want something handmade just for you jewelry or manufactured that many will own? That is the main question and one you must answer yourself.
Reasons to Buy Handmade
If you decide to go the handmade route, you are employing someone who really enjoys making jewelry. They will work to make you what you are looking for. So, hurray for supporting small local businesses!
What kind of shopper are you? Do plan and take your time? Are you ready before or by a deadline? If you are the type that plans and prepares, handmade jewelry is a great option. You get to help create something and you will order it with the amount of time needed to make it. You cannot rush the maker if you want something unique!
Handmade jewelry is an amazing gift option because every thought and design feature is made for the receiver. I know I have mentioned it, but there is just something so special about getting a gift from someone and it’s handmade. I feel that handmade anything comes from the heart.
Handmade jewelry really holds value and something utterly special, not only did you help a local (or even not so local) business, you helped create something that no other person will ever own the exact same thing. Typically small business jewelers create each and every piece with a special mark, charm or some other type of uniqueness so that YOU as the buyer know that there will never be another made like it, and that is seriously special.
Reasons to Buy Manufactured
Now while supporting small businesses is absolutely amazing, when you purchase manufactured jewelry, you are helping to keep large factories and companies employ multiple people. We want everyone to be able to make a living right?
Manufactured jewelry is also most often more durable. That means it is built to last, to stand the test of time. When you get married, you want your wedding ring to last for decades (if not longer). Your friendship bracelets with your best friend should be as strong as your friendship and last forever.
Manufactured jewelry is great for many reasons one major reason is that the buyer has no real idea of what they want so they go the simple route and grab whatever is popular at the time or whatever is on sale. While there is nothing wrong with that by any means! If gifting the jewelry you want it to say I really thought of you, not I kind of thought of you when I bought this.
Let’s Go Shopping
I don’t know about you but I love to go shopping! There are many places to shop for both handmade and manufactured. So where do we go? Where do we find handmade and manufactured jewelry?
Shopping for Handmade
Depending on how fancy you want to get, you could make the jewelry yourself! There are tons of tutorials available online to use, Pinterest is an amazing resource as well and on YouTube (like mine over on Crafting Unedited). But if making jewelry is not your thing (not everyone is crafty and not everyone enjoys it, I get it), there are jewelry makers everywhere. Most people know someone that can make it or knows someone that knows someone.
If by chance you do not know or cannot find someone to make your jewelry, Etsy is an amazing option. You can search for something specific (even by price range if that’s a factor for you). If you find a shop or someone’s style you like, you can message them directly to see if they can make what you need or want.
We can’t forget about Amazon. Amazon has tons of handmade options as well. These aren’t as customizable as what you can find on Etsy, but you can search through items people have already made and posted online to sell. There are some beautiful pieces available.
Believe it or not, you can also find handmade jewelry in small local shops. If you check out small businesses, especially in touristy areas, you might be able to find some. (Florida is full of these shops in the beachy areas!)
Another great option to find handmade items (not just jewelry) is a local craft fair! Most craft fairs are either free or super inexpensive to get into and they have plenty of options for jewelry, home items, food and more. Craft fairs are a lot of fun! Some even give back to the community, making it even better!
Shopping for Manufactured
Manufactured jewelry is definitely more readily available. You can get stuff at so many different store fronts. Wal-Mart and Target both have jewelry counters. They have costume jewelry and real jewelry (all manufactured). Then you can also check out the major department stores like Kohl’s, Macy’s, JCPenny and Dillards. All of these places are going to have things available for purchase immediately that you can leave the store with.
Jewelry stores are another source to buy jewelry (duh). They have the most variety and most options because it’s their specialty. You can most likely walk out of the store with a brand new piece of jewelry the same day you walk in.
What I love about jewelry stores, is they do a lot of the work there. They can do the cleaning and often sizing there so it doesn’t have to be shipped out. For example, Jared does most of their repairs in house. This is great because if you buy something from here, they will maintain it. You can bring it back for regular cleaning and inspections. When life gets in the way, they’ll repair it. Since it’s their jewelry they are the experts in all those things.
Of course, the internet is another source. You can purchase manufactured jewelry online as well as in stores. If you order online from a store that has a store from (like JCPenny or Jared or Kay) you can have it delivered straight to your doorstep or to the store and you can pick it up at your convenience. Personally, I’d probably pick it up. Having jewelry shipped to my house makes me nervous about damages or being stolen.
Our go to place for all the things, Amazon (again), is plentiful with manufactured jewelry options as well. Anything ordered on Amazon is of course delivered to your front door so keep your eyes peeled! Don’t want package thieves stealing your new piece of jewelry.
Now You Know What to Do
We have learned so much about handmade and manufactured jewelry. There is something for everyone and for every occasion. If there is something you want, I guarantee you can find it. And if you can’t buy it already made, there is someone out there that you can commission to do it.
Have fun with your jewelry buying, whether it is for yourself or someone else. Don’t be afraid to get something handmade for a special gift, it can be so meaningful and special. Or enjoy flaunting your new bracelet from your favorite jewelry store.
Either way, appreciate and love what you have. Every piece of jewelry you own comes with a story. Cherish those and just keep enjoying them. Have a good time during your shopping experience!
Be sure to check out some other nifty functional craft ideas through our other posts here on Craft-ILY as well as checking out some videos on DIY and How To’s over on YouTube. Look for “Crafting Unedited” to see!