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Dior’s Pièces Secrètes collection <b>image credit:</b> Dior Joaillerie
Dior’s Pièces Secrètes collection image credit: Dior Joaillerie

What is fine jewellery?

There's a need to know your target audience, but COLEBY NICHOLSON believes that strict definitions might lead you astray, especially when it comes to jewellery. 

I remember one of the first times I had a discussion about what is and is not jewellery. In that case, the discussion was about the definition of “fine” jewellery.

It was around seven or eight years ago when a leading and high profile Australian supplier told me that there was too much fashion jewellery in the industry and retailers were going down market.

To her, I made the following points: trade magazines usually reflect the state of the wider market and if the market was changing then she needed to accept the change and adapt, or find herself stranded, supplying product that no one was buying.

Whether we like the change is irrelevant – it’s going to happen regardless.

The second point was that it was no longer easy to differentiate between fine and fashion jewellery. There was a time when the two products were quite different, say 15 years ago.

Back then, it’s true that traditional jewellery stores rarely stocked costume jewellery as it was known, and it was actually sold by other retailers; however, consumers change, and markets and retailers (and their suppliers) evolve and adapt to meet these changes, which means product ranges change to accommodate the consumer.

Think about it – there was a time when jewellers once sold china and porcelain, tableware, glassware and even cutlery. Today, many jewellers don’t even stock clocks.

Think about it – there was a time when jewellers once sold china and porcelain, tableware, glassware and even cutlery. Today, many jewellers don’t even stock clocks.

The point I was making to my jewellery supplier friend, who had been around long enough to witness how much the market had changed and evolved over the years, was that she didn’t like what she was seeing.

She wanted the market to stand still and, presumably, for stores to keep buying her high-end diamond jewellery.

During the debate, and to further illustrate just how difficult it is to offer a clear definition of what is and is not fine jewellery, I gave the following example – I asked her in what category she would place a stainless steel ring. She said she would class it as a fashion piece because it was not made from a precious metal.

“Cool”, I said, “but what if we set a diamond into the stainless steel ring? How do you describe it now – fashion jewellery or fine jewellery?” She answered with a question: “How big is the diamond?”

After further discussion, she said if the diamond was 30 points or less, it was still fashion jewellery, but if the diamond was larger, it could be described as fine jewellery.

I’m positive there are jewellers reading this who will disagree, which just highlights the problem. These days I don’t think you can differentiate between the two.

More importantly, I have never understood why we need to be concerned about defining and differentiating between the two anyway, especially if consumers don’t make the distinction.

Consumers are simply shopping for jewellery at a range of different price points and various styles, and yet I still come across people who believe there is a need to have two classes of jewellery even though no one can define them. In some cases, it’s a topic that can even incite extreme passion and rage.

Since that first debate seven years ago, the industry has continued to evolve. Branded jewellery has taken a much stronger foothold and has become very important to many retailers, and yet most branded ranges would be correctly described as fashion jewellery.

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What is fine jewellery?


Coleby Nicholson

Former Publisher • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson launched Jeweller in 1996 and was also publisher and managing editor from 2006 to 2019. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than 20 years and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

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