When most people think of the Swarovski, they think of things like figurines, glassware, chandeliers, red carpet dresses, and great costume jewelry. But, once you enter the world of jewelry making, people come face to face with another great option…Swarovski Elements! What are Swarovski Elements? According to their website, they are “the premium brand for the finest crystals manufactured by Swarovski.” This includes a huge variety of shapes, sizes, colors and finishes. There’s a joke amongst beaders that we’re all part magpie because of our attraction to sparkly things…and Swarovski’s crystals definitely have that effect on people.
However, there are also other types of crystals on the market that range from high-quality Czech crystals made by Preciosa to the sparkly but less well-made crystals coming out of China. As a consumer in the marketplace, it’s important to know that you’re spending your hard-earned money on the real deal. The brand name does make a difference in the price you’ll be paying, so it definitely benefits you to know what is what.
How DO you know if your supplier is selling you the real deal? Fire Mountain Gems has a great article about this topic and goes into some detail about some great things to look for when buying Swarovskis. One point that I’ve always heard from other beaders is that Swarovskis aren’t sold strung, so beads that are strung are likely NOT Swarovskis…or else someone has been putting in a lot of unnecessary time and effort. But, when you are buying online, what can you look for? Your best bet to insure the items you are purchasing are genuine is to make sure they are from a valid Swarovski distributor.
What does that mean to buyers on Tophatter? If you have concerns, the best thing to do is to ask the seller where they get their Swarovskis from. Swarovski’s website contains a list of their “Recommended Stores” around the world. That doesn’t mean that other shops are not valid Swarovski retailers…it just means that the shops listed “offer expert advice, a comprehensive service, a wide range of the latest Swarovski Elements and information about the most recent trends.” They often have great deals on their products, and I was pleased to see my favorite online Swarovski retailer on the list.
But, besides checking out Distributors to be sure they’re the real deal, an educated buyer is the best defense against impostors! What does the Create Your Style have to educate buyers? As an example, the link to the Xilion crystal, known to most as the Swarovski bicone. This is a great resource to see if you really CAN get a Xilion crystal (article #5328) in a specific color and a specific finish and a specific size. So, let’s say I wanted Palace Green Opal in a size 2.5mm. I can go to this site and check out whether or not that bead even exists. And, to my dismay, I would see that it’s only offered in a 3mm. Play with this link - you can click on other bead shapes to learn more about them and see what sizes and colors are available. There is also a link to a color chart - that way you can check on whether or not “sky blue” truly is a Swarovski color (please note, it’s not).
My final tip about Swarovskis is ASK. If someone is selling something that you’re not sure about, ask them about it. And Google it (or whatever search engine you prefer). There is such a thing as a custom coating for a Swarovski bead. That is when a wholesaler will buy the beads from Swarovski and apply an aftermarket finish to the beads. They can be quite spectacular and fun to work with…and sometimes hard to find, but you can find out almost anything when searching the internet these days. One place to find some examples of custom coats (or aftermarket finishes) is Bello Modo. Note that this is not an endorsement of the shop over any other - I linked it because they have special sections for their aftermarket finish beads.
Please check out these links and enjoy the sparkle! And feel free to contact me if you have any questions!
Starting tomorrow, Thursday May 31, we’re replacing the fee structure in Artisan Jewelry auctions. We will charge a flat fee of $2.50 for every item in the auction & no percentage commission for sales. The flat fee will apply if your item goes up on the block either by being advanced from standby or if you preschedule into the auction. If your item doesn’t advance from standby, there is no fee.
1. We want to promote higher prices for sellers, particularly in this category. A flat fee rewards the best items. If your item sells for more than $25, you will only owe the $2.50 fee, so the higher price you sell for, the less percentage commission you will owe.
2. The fee should reduce the demand for the few prescheduled slots available, thereby making it easier for those sellers that want a spot to pay for one. Anyone can still post in standby for free where they will only owe the flat fee if the item advances.
Of course, if you expect your item will sell for less than $25, the flat fee will still be $2.50, so will be more than 10% - you should consider that when creating your listing and setting your minimum bid.
Whether in the live auction rooms or in the user-run Facebook groups, there have been many cases of the Tophatter community submitting great ideas that turn into new product features. We’ve also seen sellers and buyers share tips, communicate, learn and help each other.
Our community-powered support site will complement our in-house customer support. We hope it will become a place for users to submit questions, ideas, concerns and praise about Tophatter. We also hope users can share information with each other. We’ll keep the community abreast of changes on the platform through this channel and will participate actively in the discussion to answer user questions.
We hope that most of the discussions that take place on Facebook will instead occur on this forum where it will be easier for us to monitor and respond to concerns. As usual, let us know what you think!
We’re rolling out a new feature late this afternoon (Monday), that will allow sellers to pre-schedule lots for sale into Standby in an auction when the pre-scheduled slots for that auction are full.
A few seller-oriented details below:
- Prescheduling into standby will count towards your scheduling capability just as normal prescheduling. For example, if you can currently have 3 lots prescheduled, that includes both normal prescheduled AND standby together. Think about it as a ‘PREscheduling limit’
- You can still add to standby in an auction starting when the room opens. Lots added during the auction DO NOT count against the scheduling limitations described above.
- Everything else with standby will work exactly the same. Standby may re-open throughout an auction, and standby lots don’t count towards your statistics if they aren’t advanced out through an opening bid.
PS - we really don’t like the term ‘Standby’ and are working on something different. Stay tuned!
You can now create your own private auction on Tophatter. If you’re interested in doing this, please email us as we have to explain a few things and activate your account manually.
There are some important things to consider when creating your own auction:
1. Plan ahead. Bringing buyers into an auction is critical for the auction’s success so we suggest you plan ahead. Auctions can be scheduled between 3 and 30 days in the future. Let your customers, friends & fans know about your auction through email, facebook, twitter, pinterest & word of mouth. We provide lots of information on the ‘Promote’ action for your auction that will help you drive RSVPs up.
2. Lot limits: You shouldn’t list more lots than there is demand for in your auction. You can list as few items as you like in the auction, but cannot list more than 20 without RSVPs and the overall number you can list will depend on how many people have RSVPed.
3. Private auctions tab. In order for a private auction to appear on the main Tophatter page here, it must have at least 10 RSVPs.
4. Scheduling. Each private auction has a single owner, but that owner can invite anyone to schedule into it. The owner will have to approve each lot before it gets scheduled. There is currently no standby in private auctions.
5. Statistics. Private auctions do not currently affect your scheduling statistics.
We hope sellers enjoy the new private auction feature and we look forward to seeing it in action!
To understand what is Steampunk, you must know that there’s a clear distinction between what is in fact a Steampunk item, what is Steampunk-inspired and what isn’t Steampunk at all.
The idea of Steampunk comes from the Victorian Era (the late 19th century) and, for American folk, the Industrial Revolution. At this time, only light bulbs were electrical; much machinery relied upon steam power, such as locomotives or the textiles industry. At this time many people believed they were at their finest, and so, with luxuries come dreams. Steampunk is the result of Victorian predictions of the future.
Steampunk looks at today’s world as if it was theoretically placed during this era, when steam and clockwork, not electricity, found their way into society. Air travel would be via air ships (like dirigibles) and everything would be powered by windup or clockworks and steam.
Steampunk design emphasizes a balance between the form and function. They should look like they work: the gears and mechanisms should fit in with one another. However, there are exceptions to this such as the Octopus in reference to Jules Verne (inspired however), and a few other things. It should also be noted that fabric pertaining to Steampunk is, for the most part, leather, but that does not mean selling leather under ‘Steampunk’ is allowed. You could also see materials such as twine; most color palettes associated with Steampunk are antique bronze, brass or copper.
Already made items such as pocket watches with open windows and watch parts just glued to things are not Steampunk – there must be some sort of functionality. Steampunk is also well represented in films and television.
Famous examples include Metropolis (2001), Vidocq (2001), A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) The Prestige (2006), The Golden Compass (2007), and Sherlock Holmes (2009).
Great examples of Steampunk items include:
Steampunk Flashdrive: notice how the gears are aligned and work well together? Truly creative.
And because we love owls on Tophatter…notice how every bit fits in with one another? …Steampunk.
You cannot tell me this isn’t cute!
Examples of Steampunk inspired work made by me, Tom Suke:
Things that are unlikely Steampunk and more likely Steampunk inspired:
Pocket watches: even if they’re open-faced where you can see the gears, it isn’t Steampunk.
Chains: can be steampunk inspired if altered.
Bottle caps: can be steampunk inspired if altered.
Keys: as themselves, they aren’t Steampunk but can be inspired.
Bits of wood: if altered or decorated can be Steampunk inspired.
Elephants: can be steampunk inspired if altered.
Remember folks, Steampunk design emphasizes a balance between the form and function of the piece. If you have any follow-up questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As of today, if a seller has four (4) or more buyers waiting for late items, they won’t be able to schedule additional lots for auction.
We understand that sometimes legitimate circumstances will delay a shipment - such as waiting for echeck payments, custom orders, unexpected supply delays, etc. That’s why we’ve set the threshold at four unique buyers (if someone is waiting for more than 1 item, they still count as 1).
Sellers should strive to ship every item on time, and we may adjust this threshold in the future. If you are affected by this change, you can regain scheduling capability by simply shipping the late orders.
As a buyer who is planning to spend a good sum on gemstone rings (this could be anywhere from $25 to over $200), it’s always a good idea to follow a few pointers to prepare before actually buying an item. Concerns that may arise when purchasing a gemstone include what your item is made of and it’s value to ensure that it’s in fact genuine. Being educated about the stones and aware of what’s on the market can prevent any unfortunate and unwanted transactions with scammers.
Here are a few important things to brush up on before your purchase. These tips can apply to buying anything online, sight unseen, or even from a craft fair, not just Tophatter:
Preparation and Communication: on Tophatter and other sites, you have time to peruse items and jot down questions beforehand. Tophatter lists items a week ahead giving you plenty of time to ask important questions to the seller. You can click on the seller’s name, then click on their website/shop or even directly contact them using the “Email Me” feature. If they don’t have a store listed or aren’t easily contacted via email, you may decide not to purchase from them. I wouldn’t! Your questions can include anything from the type of gem, to the metals used in the piece, to size or to what country the item is purchased from.
Know the Market: this would require a few minutes of research on your part - however, the time spent research is well worth it. Check out sites like eBay, Amazon, alibaba.com (a Chinese manufacture site) and more to look for that particular item or similar ones. There, you can double-check for prices, materials, value and compare until you get a pretty good idea of what you will be getting.
Basics about Gems:
Precious gems are diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and opals (pearls are also included here though they are not actually gems).
Semi precious gems are all the other ones like garnet, peridot, amethyst, citrine, etc. And the more earthy types like jaspers, turquoise, carnelians, onyx, quartz, etc.
If you are looking at a spending price of up to $200 for a ring, you can find precious gems, but they will be of lower quality. I bought a 14 inch strand of emeralds for $5 and they were pretty big. But they were dull, completely opaque, rough, cracked and needed a good tumble. They were uncut. To give you a good sense of what I mean, most likely if I started to tumble them tonight - they might be passable in about a year’s time!
You would never find a huge clear and transparent faceted emerald for that price range. It would cost 1000s of dollars. You might find some big arty stones, but they will be rough looking. Expect to pay between $20 and $40 retail, if the ring is set in silver. If set in a mystery metal or plate, expect to pay under $12 retail, though it’s really only worth a few dollars.
Same with rubies. They are completely opaque, rocklike and inclusions (imperfections and cracks) on the surface and inside the stone. These are not expensive and you can buy larger arty ones. A strand might run you about $35. A ring with sterling would be between $15 and $30. Silver-plated rubies can be had for a few dollars retail.
Sapphires are tiny. You will not find any larger than approximately 4mm in this price range. They grow that way, and after being cut, are even smaller. Good ones are clear and navy to royal blue and expensive. Industrial grade are almost black and completely opaque. Expect to pay a dollar or two if the metal is silver tone or plated.
Diamonds, expect a chip, an industrial chip they use for drill bits. Like the size of a head of a pin.
Opals contain a lot of water which gives them their distinct fiery glow. Expect to buy a very white, opaque opal with very little fire. These can be had for a few dollars. If you see a very large, transparent one with lots of color and fire and it’s selling for a $50+, expect it to be glass.
Blue fire opals are relatively new and were discovered in 2008, so don’t be fooled if the seller is claiming it’s vintage or antique. You cannot buy a nice large opal ring. It will be a D grade and with sterling, about $15. With silver plating, a dollar would be too much!
With transparent semi precious gems you are more likely to get a better deal because these stones are less expensive, transparent and faceted (though they will most likely contain inclusions), have good color (though they might be lab enhanced which is totally fine too) and are sizeable, but there are exceptions. With sterling, expect to pay $20 to $35 for a good sized stone. With silver plate or silver tone, a few dollars.
You can find gorgeous amethyst, citrine in varying rich shades of yellow to amber, green amethyst, milky chalcedony, blue opals, etc.
The exceptions are small stones. Certain gems will rarely be found large sized. Gems like peridot, garnet and tourmaline grow naturally in small batches. So if you see a big ring, it’s glass. Expect to buy 1/4 or smaller for these types of gems.
Manmade gems can be very pretty too but their colors will be too vivid and unnatural looking.
A manmade gem making the rounds on Tophatter is mystic quartz or mystic topaz. Topaz is expensive and the “gems” are just too perfect. So, if the retail price or bid is low - these are more likely glass and coated with an AB film. Under $10 for sterling. Worthless in silver plate or tone.
And then there is a huge category of arty gemstones, like jaspers, turquoise, carnelian, onyx, etc. These are my favorite and a totally great deal. These are usually pretty rough, not faceted, and handmade, set in sterling. They are large too. You can get these for under $20.
The rings made in China, Mexico, Tibet, etc. are most likely silver plate, even though they are stamped .925. The reason being that these countries do not regulate their precious metals. You could even be getting a mystery metal filled with who knows what. So that moves us to…
Basics about Precious Metals:
Right now, 14K gold is $1643 per troy ounce and sterling silver is $31.73 per ounce. These prices fluctuate daily. So expect a retail price accordingly for rings. If you see a 14K gold ring listed for $7 on Tophatter, you can bet it’s plate or gold tone. Silver has a distinctive look to it. Very rich and whitish silver. If it is very steel colored it most likely is not sterling.
Still, it is very hard to tell precious metals from pictures. The best you can do it to buy a testing kit. A silver testing kit can be found for about $5. A gold one is a little bit more expensive.
Testing and Guarantees:
Besides testing, you can also get your jewelry appraised and examined at your jewelers - the experts. They will weigh it, and examine it with a loupe. Sometimes they charge for this service but if you’re making a purchase/investment, it’s well worth it.
If you are buying purported genuine gemstones and precious metal rings, make sure to ask the seller if it comes with a guarantee.
Or, if you plan to purchase, take a screen shot of the listing and save it in a folder. Save all communication with the seller. That way, if your ring turns out to be a fake and you have just paid $200 for it, you can contact PayPal, send them the item description and a note from your jeweler, or photo of your test, to get ask for a refund.
By all means, these are only suggestions in finding and purchasing a nice genuine ring. But, you can still find all kinds of rings on Tophatter - it’s really up to you, the buyer, to decide the quality you want and at what price point. Hope this basic guide helps! - Sharon Nieburg