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What is Fine Jewellery?

28 February 2022 3 min read

Not all jewellery is made equal. 

You have your high street costume jewellery, your demi-fine mid range jewellery, and of course your high end fine jewellery. So, what’s the difference?

We take a look at the different options when it comes to choosing jewellery, explaining what makes jewellery ‘fine’, ‘demi-fine’ or ‘costume’.

Fine Jewellery

There’s been some debate amongst jewellers as to what exactly constitutes ‘fine jewellery’. But, it’s generally accepted that fine jewellery is jewellery made using precious metals and genuine gemstones. 

Fine jewellery is extremely durable, thanks to the high quality materials used. It will last a lifetime and can be passed down from generation to generation, while retaining its value. 

A common misconception, when it comes to fine jewellery, is that it can only be worn for special occasions. And while we think marking a special occasion with a special piece of jewellery is wonderful, we also love that fine jewellery can be worn every single day. Because the materials used are such high quality, it won’t tarnish over time and with daily wear. It can even be worn while showering, sleeping and working out. 

Unlike other kinds of jewellery, fine jewelley requires minimal maintenance and, if it gets damaged or needs resizing, a skilled jeweller can easily repair or alter it, without impacting its integrity.

Fashion Jewellery

Fashion jewellery or ‘costume jewellery’ comes in at the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s inexpensive and won’t last particularly long. Fashion jewellery is typically made using non-precious metals (or other materials) and simulated gemstones (such as glass or crystal). 

Gold plated jewellery is considered ‘fashion jewellery’, as it uses base metals such as copper, brass or aluminium, with a thin layer of gold applied on top. The gold layer will eventually wear off and the piece will need replating. Cheaper costume jewellery is prone to easy breakage and, due to the materials used, often can’t be fixed as they can’t withstand heat. 

Most costume jewellery sadly ends up being thrown away, contributing to the 350,000 tonnes of fast fashion sent to UK landfills each year.

Demi-Fine Jewellery

Demi-fine jewellery sits squarely in between fine jewellery and fashion jewellery. Also known as semi-fine jewellery, the market for these types of pieces is growing as people want something that will last longer, but with a lower price tag. 

Unlike fine jewellery, which uses solid precious metals, demi-fine pieces use techniques such as gold vermeil (pronounced vehr-may) and, in some cases, gold fill. Vermeil is similar to gold plating, but instead of copper, brass or aluminium, it uses sterling silver as a base metal. The gold layer is also thicker, making pieces more durable. The use of these materials makes demi-fine jewellery better for those with sensitive skin that reacts when in contact with cheaper metals. 

If you purchase a piece of demi-fine jewellery, take care to avoid wearing it while sleeping, showering or exercising. Also, don’t let it come into contact with perfumes and lotions containing chemicals that could tarnish it.

Demi-fine jewellery is popular for its understated and minimalist aesthetic. It costs less than fine jewellery, but is better quality than costume jewellery, making it a solid choice for those who want quality pieces but can’t afford the more high end offerings*. 

Simply put, demi-fine jewellery will last longer than fashion jewellery. But it won’t last forever. With proper care, a piece of demi-fine jewellery can be worn daily. But it isn’t something you’ll be passing down to your kids. 

*If you want to invest in a piece of fine jewellery, but are put off by the price, jewellery made with lab-grown gemstones is often less expensive than pieces containing earth mined stones. This is despite the fact that lab-grown gemstones such as diamonds are ‘real’ and have the same chemical, physical and optical properties as mined gems. They also have the added bonus of being completely ethically sourced, unlike mined stones which come with a host of ethical concerns.

At illi, all our jewellery is made with 100% solid recycled precious metals and genuine lab-grown gemstones. Our vision is to create and share beautiful, sustainable fine jewellery that will be loved and cherished for a lifetime. Shop our range of ethical fine jewellery today.