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Siam Cubic- Crystal Necklace
Fashion jewellery has been taken to new extremes by high-end catwalk designers who charge a fortune for base metals and crystals. Lorna Goodyer asks why consumers will pay so much for so little David Jones is a pretty swanky place, and its flagship store in Melbourne is the height of sophistication for well-heeled locals looking for a bit of luxury retail therapy. Needless to say, the accessories department reads like a who’s who of international designers, with labels like Jimmy Choo and Miu Miu fighting it out against Christian Louboutin’s famous killer heels.
The jewellery counters are no less impressive in their label adulation, with names like Gucci and Emporio Armani taking centre stage. Yet unlike in the fashion department, where superior tailoring and materials are de rigueur on the designer rails, couture brands seem to prefer base metals and precious metal plating when it comes to their jewellery collections. If a Chanel jacket is the fashion equivalent of a diamond ring in terms of quality, isn’t it odd that a piece of Chanel jewellery is the equivalent of, say, a Sports Girl blazer?
In Australia, consumers are swooping on these so-called designer jewellery pieces with an enthusiasm that seems recently lacking in the fine jewellery store. Those in the jewellery industry might be forgiven for asking what the attraction is – after all, the pricing of this designer jewellery is eerily similar to what one might have to shell out for a piece of jewellery using precious metals and precious gems, yet the ‘designer’ materials are nowhere near as superior.
Take luxury e-tailer Net-a-Porter’s jewellery department (which ships to Australia), for example. A plexiglass crystal necklace from Miu Miu will set you back £250 ($380), while shoppers can snap up a “gold-tone” and crystal Lanvin cuff for £451 ($684). Why is it these brands can get away with charging so much, I hear you ask?
In David Jones, the assistant on the jewellery counter of the Bourke Street Mall store one weekday evening is a proficient sales person. She has a competent sales manner and is eager to help, yet ask her which pieces in her jewellery cabinet are made of gold and sterling silver and her sales pitch falters. She doesn’t know. The only brand she knows for sure is Gucci, which has both a high-end 18ct gold jewellery offering that stretches into thousands of dollars, as well as a more reasonably priced fashion jewellery collection made of silver and base metals, which sells for hundreds of dollars. David Jones stocks the high-end collection. The fact that this department store sales assistant doesn’t know what materials are used in these designer jewellery lines suggests a potentially worrying shift in consumer attitudes to jewellery.