In jewellery, as with so many other things, having the name of a designer attached to a piece can have a substantial influence on the price. At least, for some, this is the most obvious element when weighing up designer brands versus private label jewellery, which is jewellery that does not have the designer’s name attached.
However, it is about much more than just price.
“Private label jewellery is effectively mass produced, where with designer jewellery you are actually selling a piece of art, so whether you were to hang a piece of art on the wall or put it on your finger, that’s what it is, someone’s art,” says Susie Watson of Island Companies.
This exclusivity certainly adds to the value of the product for those who decide to opt for designer jewellery.
“People who wear designer jewellery don’t want to see it on everybody, they want that exclusivity,” says Susie.
For many, buying designer pieces starts with sunglasses, where designer labels are much more achievable than in many other lines.
“Especially in the sunglasses world it is your introductory step into buying luxury because usually the sunglasses are the most affordable part of a collection. You can’t just buy a Gucci bag randomly, but where a Gucci bag is going to cost you thousands, Gucci sunglasses will just cost you a couple of hundred dollars.
That is how some people start with buying the brands,” says Susie.
However, one of the challenges with designer jewellery is that it lacks the ostentatious branding that can be found on products like sunglasses, making the differences from private label pieces much more subtle.
“Designer jewellery is more of a personal thing, it’s not flashy, but you know. It’s knowing inside that it’s real,” says Susie.
One of the differences can be found in the quality of materials used in a piece.
“The designers use high quality of materials, whether metals or gem stones. Most of the designers when they have to choose gold they choose 18 karat gold rather than 14 karat, so the quality of the materials is normally higher,” says Kati Bonifacio of Island Companies.
Designers will often add some more embellishments with natural stones and precious metals, whereas similar looking private label pieces might opt for cost saving measures like using crystal rather than precious stones to attempt a similar appearance at a much lower price point.
In fact, some designers will take it even a step further when it comes to setting themselves apart through materials selection, whether in metal or stones.
“Some designers like Gurhan use 24 karat gold which you rarely ever see any designers using because it is very expensive and so soft that it is harder to work with, but that’s his niche. He makes it look good in that old world style,” says Susie.
The same dedication to materials can be seen with a brand like Hearts On Fire, with only the tiniest fraction of diamonds qualifying to become a Hearts On Fire diamond.
“Only one person touches the diamond, it takes 24 hours to cut it, and it is not production line,” says Kati.
This ensures a quality of product that can only be found in branded jewellery.
The quality in the materials used is also reflected in the quality of workmanship involved in creating the pieces.
“The designer jewellery is of better quality, because when you put your name to it you want a quality piece,” says Susie.
The country of manufacture can also play an important role in the pricing of designer jewellery over private label competition
“With a brand like Temple St. Clair, It’s all manufactured in Italy and it’s all in 18 karat gold. So it has in influence where the jewellery is manufactured as well,” says Kati.
In fact, she says that the quality of designer jewellery is something you can truly feel.
“You can feel the quality of the product when you touch the pieces, how they move, the detailing, you can feel that with your hands,” she says.
With the designer having more control over the entire process, more of the designer’s vision and passion is captured in designer jewellery than in private label collections.
“The designers exude so much passion about the brand. You get a feel for the person behind the brand, the artist, that you do not get with private label jewellery. The same ownership of the design isn’t there,” says Susie.
Although after-sales service is something that may spring to mind more readily when dealing with cars, it is also a consideration with jewellery, and is a field in which designer brands excel.
“With the branded jewellery you get very unique designs, and the product always has a warranty. The brand always stands behind the product, you will always be able to get it repaired and if anything goes wrong with it, you get good service,” says Kati.
Designers also tend to be the trend setters, rather than trend followers, with the latest jewellery shows showing some strongly emerging trends.
“Just coming back from Vegas, which hosts the big jewellery show in North America, you can see the emerging trends like the coloured stones and the warm colours of rose gold. A lot organic stones are also being used now, rather than using semi-precious or precious stones,” says Susie.
Of course, these trends may not remain exclusive to designer brands for long.
“Private labels often will try to copy some of the designers and try to make it less expensive. But if your budget can stretch to the designer piece, go straight for the original,” says Kati.
Fortunately, designer jewellery does not have to be out of reach. Many designers offer more entry level collections, often defined by materials selection, while not compromising on design or quality.
This allows some designers to offer a very affordable entry level into their collections. Designers like John Hardy spring to mind, where the focus on workmanship and unique design does not preclude achievable pricing on collections.
“Designers will not always be very expensive, if they have a silver collection they can be more affordable,” says Kati.
Although it has become quite ubiquitous over the years, even massively popular and accessible designer brands like Pandora still maintain the values of quality, service and trend setting design that are the hallmarks of designer jewellery.
Rebecca, another designer brand, has a diamond crusted fabric that gives a huge look for $200 to $300. They were the ones who first brought this out, but now you see other lines coming out with it as well.
The most important element of designer jewellery is that you will be able to find a designer whose design ethic reflects your personal taste and then evolve with that designer.
“It is important that you looked around and fell in love with the piece that you will enjoy it for the rest of your life,” says Kati.