The 5 Jewelry Categories You Need to Know

What are the differences? And how exactly do you distinguish among them?

A few rare gemstone pieces from my custom collection of fine jewelry (the middle light pink stone is actually a Morganite ring set in 18k white gold... a big one 😏). Contact Eva for more information on these stones or ring.


Fashion jewelry, designer and costume jewelry..., fine or high jewelry 🤯! You've probably seen these terms before, kinda know what they mean, but not really. And wondered what really defines each category? Then this post is for you.

Let's dive in...

Fashion Jewelry 

Often referred to as costume jewelry, fashion jewelry is frequently made of fake gems or cheaper real gems, plastic beads and base metals like copper and brass. Though the names are used interchangeably, costume jewelry actually dates back to the 1930s while fashion jewelry is a more recent term first used in the 1980s. They both look fashionable from a distance but won't last. Another note-worthy difference is that fashion jewelry can be more trendy while costume jewelry is a bit more timeless... so if you're looking for something to make a bold statement at a low cost, fashion jewelry will do the trick.

Roxanne Assoulin's Alphabet Soup enamel bracelet from Net-A-Porter

Designer Jewelry 

Some designers actually make low-quality fashion jewelry with a higher price tag simply because of the association with their brand name. However, most brands do produce high-quality pieces with genuine gemstones and precious metals. Become an educated consumer before shopping for your next piece and learn the differences between real and fake gemstones so you can confidently shop for your next jewelry piece. 

Cartier LOVE Bracelet

Demi-Fine Jewelry 

The difference in quality between fashion jewelry and fine jewelry is so great that many enthusiasts believe in a middle tier called semi-fine or 'demi-fine' jewelry. The most common designer jewelry brands will often fall into this semi-fine group and they possess aspects of both fashion and fine jewelry.

​Read this great article by Business of Fashion for more details.

The author notes that the recent growing trend among women in their 20s and 30s to opt for semi-fine jewelry is more about accessorizing and self-gifting than making a significant purchase. While before it was more about the "it-handbag" or "statement-shoe", the trend has now shifted to semi-luxury jewelry.

Something I've noticed as well! When doing market research, some ladies told me that while in their 20s and 30s, they loved to pick up jewelry in H&M or J. Crew because of the fashion statement they would make wearing it, they later actually became a bit annoyed with these pieces (!) and wanted something of higher quality that lasted longer. But where to go?

The step from H&M costume jewelry to rubies and sapphires is quite big - not only financially but also in the perceived conservative style that unfortunately surrounds fine-quality stones like red rubies and blue sapphires. H&M jewelry or fashion jewelry is cool, trendy, fashion-forward. Rubies and blue sapphires remind of Queen Elizabeth and state dinners. Not quite the feeling you want to step into when getting ready for your Friday night dinner in town.

This is where semi-fine jewelry can step in, allowing younger women to get used to a higher price-point and quality, while developing their taste and preference for when they're ready for fine jewelry. And that's why I also love to make fine jewelry more accessible by showing that there are other colored stones out there: high-quality yes, a higher price-point yes, but also lasting for generations and coming in stunning fashion-forward colors, such as mint green, glamorous grey, hot pink, lavender blue or juicy yellow...

Fine Jewelry

When you move up to the world of fine jewelry, you'll discover pieces made of solid gold, precious metals and rare, natural gemstones. Common stones may also be found in fine jewelry but will normally be higher in carat count and quality and should also be natural. The higher price point of these collections is well worth it due to the value that will be retained over generations with proper care and storage. 

Fine jewelry is a beautiful way to elevate your jewelry collection for special occasions or as an investment. Most of us stop here. Many forget you can still go one step higher...

Fine Jewelry vs. High Jewelry

High Jewelry

The ultimate category of high jewelry (or "haute joaillerie" for the fashion lovers out there 😎) is reserved for the tailor-made or one-of-a-kind pieces which mostly come from world famous jewelry houses. Just as what "haute couture" is to "prêt-à-porter", high jewelry is to fine jewelry. For instance, like the brands of Prada, Chanel or Chloé... which are not cheap brands, but they are still regarded ready-to-wear and they can be seen as the fashion equivalent of fine jewelry. 

There are only a few jewelry brands in the world who even have the skills and historical craftsmanship to make this type of jewelry. A few names are Christian Dior Haute Joaillerie, Louis Vuitton Haute Joaillerie, Chaumet, Bulgari, Chopard or Harry Winston. 

And don't forget that most of these brands also have a fine jewelry line (which is what you see mostly in their stores). Their high jewelry collections are often hidden away because of the rarity of the stones and intricate designs which means they might only have 1 or very few pieces... Perhaps a few cities in the world have some high jewelry pieces publicly displayed and mostly, these pieces make an appearance on the red carpet for which they may be specifically designed. They are pieces of art. And like art, the skill level and longevity of the designer is also a contributing factor to what makes a piece considered high. The beautiful French brand, Chaumet, for instance, was founded in 1780 with pieces especially created for the wife of Napoleon, the empress Josephine. 1780! Amazing...

To sum it up, a fine jewelry piece is a sound and mostly steep investment for any jewelry collection. 

When shopping fine jewelry, you will find only high quality metals and gemstones and you will take home a piece that will hold value over many generations.

If you're looking for the rarest and most exclusive jewelry pieces in the business, you can give Monsieur Chaumet a call 😉 or you can set up a private consultation with me to explore fine jewelry and high quality gemstones for your next custom piece here

Thanks to my time living in Bangkok, I was able to build relationships with some of the world's best gem dealers which gave me rare access to gemstones which are usually reserved only for high jewelry houses. We've done the hard work so you don't have to!

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