Fine, Bridge, Costume and Fashion: 4 Types of Jewelry to Make, Market, Sell and Enjoy

by Barbara van Look, Content Development Group, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

''Your local source for fine jewelry.''

''We offer bridge jewelry on commission.''

''It's only costume jewelry.''

''Hey, my fashion jewelry is a whole minute out of style!''

You hear the terms thrown around a lot, in the jewelry-making world, but not a lot of clarity about just what they mean and how they differ from each other.

So what are the differences among fine jewelry, bridge jewelry, costume jewelry and fashion jewelry?

Fine vs. Bridge vs. Costume vs. Fashion

We'll start with some definitions, along with common materials or techniques involved, and include examples from the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads® website for each category as a quick visual aid.
  • Fine Jewelry
    Fine jewelry is created to last for generations, designed to be or become heirloom pieces. Fine jewelry is made of the most expensive categories of materials--usually fine precious gemstones such as diamond or sapphire with platinum or karat gold (and sometimes including fine silver).

    The 14Kt yellow gold earstuds (featured to the right) are set with diamonds, making them an ideal representative for the fine jewelry category. A fine jewelry component would be the 14Kt yellow gold clasp, set with sapphire and diamonds (featured to the right). Some traditional birthstones (diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire) meet the fine jewelry definition.

    See our Create Compliments® Collection for more examples.
  • Bridge Jewelry
    Bridge jewelry is manufactured to the same quality and standards as fine jewelry, only it's made with less expensive materials. This level of jewelry ''bridges'' the gap between costume/fashion jewelry and the fine jewelry world, offering heirloom-worthy style without such a high materials cost. Bridge jewelry tends to be made using fine silver (including silver clays), sterling silver and ''vermeil'' (a gold electroplated silver) with semiprecious gems such as amethyst, garnet, cultured pearl, marcasite, mother-of-pearl shell, etc.

    The sterling silver bracelet (featured below) features marcasite, black agate and mother-of-pearl shell, making it an ideal representative for the bridge jewelry category. A bridge jewelry component would be the sterling silver clasp (featured below), set with faceted peridot. Some of the new high-tech metals (such as niobium and titanium) meet these quality standards. Many traditional birthstones (garnet, amethyst, peridot, topaz and more) meet the bridge jewelry definition.

    See our Create Compliments® Collection for more examples.
Design Idea D867 Earrings Fine Jewelry

Bridge Jewelry Design Idea F83H Necklace and Earring Set
  • Costume Jewelry
    Costume jewelry (often used interchangeably with fashion jewelry) is made using a range of materials and techniques--hence the confusion. It is almost always manufactured using metal components embellished by another material. This type of jewelry can be set with popular yet inexpensive stones such as jaspers and agates, studded with high-quality rhinestone chatons and imitation gems molded in resins, or colored with enamels and epoxies.

    The necklace (featured below) features colorful enamel work, making it an ideal representative for the costume jewelry category. A costume jewelry component would be the enamel and marcasite ladybug clasp (featured below). Well-made components such as Dione® beads meet the costume jewelry definition.

    See our Everyday Jewelry™, Avant-Garde Jewelry Collection™ and Classic Collections for more examples.
    To further complicate the issue, the term ''costume jewelry'' is increasingly limited to vintage or retro jewelry styles from the 1920s through 1960s. This jewelry category is highly collectible, including such popular brand names as Coro, Eisenberg, Boucher, Haro and more. Some earlier pieces are created using sterling silver and rock crystal, with later works made of pewter and set with Austrian crystal rhinestones.
  • Fashion Jewelry
    Fashion jewelry (often used interchangeably with costume jewelry) is made using a wide range of inexpensive materials and techniques. Fashion jewelry is, essentiallly, jewelry which does not meet the standards or definitions of the other categories. Fashion jewelry can include beads, plated metals, leather, textiles and more.

    The steampunk-inspired necklace (featured below) features a working watch pendant, making it an ideal representative for the fashion jewelry category. A fashion jewelry component would be the copper clasp featured below. Components such as Almost Instant Jewelry®, TierraCast® and JBB Findings meet the fashion jewelry definition.

    See our Boho Star Bracelets, Impact™ Bracelets and Impulse Bracelets under the Just for Fun collection for more examples.
Design Idea B87W Necklace Fashion Jewelry

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