When I first started out making my own jewelry I tried my hand at many different types of beads, stringing material and findings.
I soon realized that there was a big difference between the various crystal beads especially. Cheap beads could be very nice at the beginning but lost some of their beautiful shine after some time.
I found the Swarovski beads to be very stable and keep their brilliance over a very long time.
Some of the beading materials, findings etc., are also of very varying quality and it takes some time to find what is good and what is not.
Gold is very expensive and therefore seldom used in fashion jewelry other than as gold plate.
Some gold plated findings lose their colour very fast, and jewelry depending on the gold colour therefore doesn’t look nice after a few months.
I found that the plating quality differs quite a bit and double gold plating on silver lasted much longer than the more simple plated findings. More expensive, yes, but well worth it.
Nickel alloy last long but can cause skin irritation and therefore should be avoided in jewelry, or parts of jewelry, touching the skin.
Many countries are still using nickel in an alloy with gold to make “white gold” and this can cause skin irritation.
Many European countries doesn’t use nickel in jewelry any longer and mix gold with other metals that are less allergenic.
Rhodium plating a bit darker colour than nickel but does not have the problems of skin irritation.
There are a lot of rhodium plated findings on the market, of varying quality but most of the time a good choice.
Some pewter findings can also be a good choice depending on what project you are doing.
The material is relatively cheap but is quite soft and therefore easy to scratch.
Pewter is very easy to clean, mild soap and water and a soft cloth is recommended.
The popularity seems to be growing.
Silver is relatively expensive and tarnish easily when exposed to air or water containing ozone or hydrogen sulphide. The most common discolouring can be easily removed with dilute hydrochloric acid.
Sterling silver is an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper and is stamped with “925”.
Other grades of silver alloy also exists but I believe the “925” silver is most commonly used for jewelry.
Quality will most often be reflected by the price of an item.
Plating is often made with a very thin layer of the plating material in order to make it cheaper and there are also large variations with regards to the quality of the plating process.
Double plating is preferable but this will cost more as more plating material is set off on the plated metal.
Double plating is generally achieved by letting the plating process go on for a longer time and thereby giving the plated material a thicker layer of let’s say gold.
It is very often a question of price vs. quality and this is very often hidden from customers who may find two similar-looking items that have a big price difference and therefore often will go for the cheapest one and be disappointed later on.
I have chosen to use material and parts that have shown to be of fairly good quality but, at the same time, may not be the most expensive.
For crystals and pearls I use Swarovski in more than 90% of my work, besides freshwater pearls and some polished crystal products.
Whenever it fits and/or I can find it, I am using rhodium plated findings.
The main reason why I seldom use very low grade materials and parts is that the work involved in making a piece of beaded jewelry takes about the same time whatever quality of parts you are using, so, why waste time producing something that doesn’t last?