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Living it Up in Fine Jewelry
While not a basic human necessity (except in the sense that art may be), jewelry is something most people enjoy having and having access to. Without it, we may feel bare, especially in situations of significance; marriages, parties, and rites of passage come to mind. Few indeed are those among us who haven't occasionally felt the urge to look our best, to decorate what nature has given us with something pretty that's manmade. Not only that, it gives us a chance to strut our stuff and show off our wealth in physical form. That's what jewelry is all about.
There are two general classifications of jewelry: fashion, and fine. Fashion jewelry is by far the largest category, consisting as it does of any jewelry whose sole purpose is fun, inexpensive ornamentation. It can be made of anything from wood to plastic, and is characterized by bright colors and, often, by its ostentation. Fine jewelry, on the other hand, tends to be a bit more elegant and restrained, if only because it's crafted from the finest and most expensive of materials.
What are little jewels made of, made of?
Two things distinguish fine jewelry: its material of manufacture, and the exquisite care that goes into making it. The materials used are always somewhat rare to very rare: precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum; precious stones like diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires; and semi-precious stones like topaz, amber, tanzanite, and amethyst. Since these materials are expensive, the cost of fine jewelry tends to be quite high.
Given the high value of fine jewelry, artisans tend to take great care while creating and working with it. Although metals may be forgiving, gemstones are not -- you can't melt down and recast a diamond if you cut it wrong (yet, anyway). Not only is a good deal of time spent on it, but also material is not wasted if it can be avoided. The results, in most cases, are fine little masterpieces of the jeweler's art. This, too, can add greatly to their value, especially if they come from the hands of a recognized master -- a Stradivarius of jewelry, so to speak.
Will it hold its value?
In most cases, the value of fine jewelry either remains stable or grows considerably, depending upon the workmanship expressed and the scarcity of its constituent materials. This begs the question of whether jewelry made from items like gold, silver, and gemstones would be considered fine jewelry if the constituent materials were no longer rare. Much to the consternation of most jewelers, this might soon be the case for diamonds -- high quality, colored artificial diamonds can be made in two-carat sizes within a few days.
Once upon a time, aluminum was rare and difficult to produce; as such, it was used for art objects. Now it's relatively cheap, and while aluminum jewelry does exist, it's usually considered cheap and tawdry. If we find a cheap way to manufacture gold and cheap diamonds become as common as sand, obviously these items will still maintain their considerable industrial value; but will they loose their sparkle as elements of fine jewelry? It seems unlikely than any diamond could ever come to be even remotely inexpensive, but technology marches on -- so only time will tell.