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New Video! Jewellery Quality Common Nomenclatures Explained

Have you ever wondered about the differences between costume, fashion, commercial, and fine quality jewellery? How about the different gem quality classifications?

In this helpful video, Skyjems’ David Saad discusses various levels of quality for both jewellery and gems to help friends and fans better understand the differences between them.

Continue reading this summary, or scroll to the bottom to go straight to the video!

David starts by listing the six main categories, or levels, of quality:

  1. Paste or Costume Quality
  2. Fashion Quality 
  3. Commercial Quality 
  4. Fine Quality 
  5. Gem or Gemmy Quality
  6. Museum or Museum-Grade Quality

He then goes on to break down each level in greater detail:

1. Paste/Costume Quality

This is the type of jewellery you will often see in department stores, often as “impulse items” in the checkout line. These items are usually made of plastic or metal, and feature rocks or glass that are not gemstones. While this is not his “thing”, David stresses that there is nothing wrong with costume jewellery.

“Humans have been adorning themselves with jewellery throughout history, and everyone deserves to do it regardless of quality level or price point,” he explained off-camera.

In the video, David also mentions that some antique or vintage costume jewellery pieces can actually sell for a lot of money.

2. Fashion Quality

Fashion quality jewellery is typically found in shops like People’s in Canada or Zales in the United States, and are usually made with natural gems and metals–likely silver or 10k gold. The price point here can start at around $15 or $20 for a small piece, ranging upward into the thousands for higher end fashion jewellery.

3. Commercial Quality

David explains that he actually hates the word “commercial” used to describe this quality level because in his opinion, the term sounds cheaper than what it actually represents.

“This is an industry term that we use to describe jewellery that is mostly accessible to most people,” he says. “This is the bulk of the jewellery that you’re going to find in most independent jewellery stores in Canada and the US.”

Commercial quality jewellery is typically made from natural gems and metals from the noble group–most likely gold, silver, or platinum.

He goes on to stress that it is important to note that gemstones in particular can actually move within the quality levels. For example, commercial quality Colombian emeralds that sold at wholesale prices of $800 or $1,000 20 years ago might now be considered fine quality and sell at wholesale prices of $3-4,000.

Further, some fashion quality gems might now be considered commercial quality.

“These might have been gems that, 20 years ago, were selling for a couple hundred dollars a carat, and now are selling for north of a thousand dollars a carat,” David says.

4. Fine Quality

These are the “cream of the crop” semi-precious gems like amethyst or garnet that are typically found in local independent jewellers’ showcases. Pricing starts roughly around $2,000 or $2,500.

“The sky is truly the limit with what we would describe (as fine),” David says. “If you were to go to Tiffany, Tiffany is fine jewellery.” 

He also adds that they absolutely also have costume quality and fashion quality as well, noting that a lot of Tiffany and Co.’s silver is fashion jewellery.

“It’s beautiful and it’s well-made, but it’s still fashion jewellery. It’s not a fine piece, not a piece we think of as being passed on for generations.”

Jewellery made with fine quality gemstones might be set in silver, but is usually set in 14k gold or platinum.

5. Gem, or Gemmy Quality

This classification applies to gems only; finished jewellery is not considered in this category.

“Say a gem is “gemmy”. It’s referring to one of the finest quality examples of that species,” David says.

He notes that price is not as important here, compared to the quality of the stone. For example, a gemmy emerald will likely still have some eye-visible inclusions, whereas a gemmy amethyst will not have any.

We hope this helps to shed some light on what these quality terms mean! As always, please never hesitate to contact us if you have a question about any of the gemstones in our vast catalog.

Watch the video here:


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