Baroque pearls and gold with sporty sweatshirts why not? Jewels that won’t see a gala anytime soon have been pulled out of treasure chests to be worn at online yoga with friends, at dinner parties with chef-designed takeout meals at home, at solitary times while you recharge your mental batteries.
Shopping behavior in a pandemic has been interesting to watch. Along with the rise of athleisure (have you heard of Lululemon’s stock price hitting an all-time high?), jewelry is an unexpected favorite. Local jewelry designers continue to receive orders for custom fine jewelry, including a bespoke 20-carat hexagonal green emerald ring. Across the world, Peter Webster of New York-based Roberto Coin sent a 120-carat diamond necklace, priced at $1.5 million, for a client’s 25th birthday gift .
This is also true outside the high jewelry segment. Not everyone can drop a million and a half for a little bling, so direct-to-consumer retailers allow everyone to throw in a little gold for every day – just because.
“Even though everything seems to be on ‘pause’ due to the pandemic, special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and graduations don’t stop for anyone,” says Penny Pairs Creative Director Camille Jimenez. “We see a lot of people wearing Penny Pairs to make them feel special on these occasions, even if it just means staying home. People are buying more jewelry now, especially earrings, because it’s a way to “dress up” Zoom and FaceTime calls. Some customers also buy them as gifts to send to their loved ones from afar.
Penny Pairs is a local brand that offers affordable jewelry for a new generation of wearers. They use gold vermeil, 925 silver coated with a thick layer of gold (they use 18k gold for all vermeil pieces); 925 silver, which is 92.5% pure silver (the remaining 7.5% is copper) and is the world standard for sterling silver; cubic zirconia, an affordable and durable alternative to diamonds; and ethically grown freshwater pearls found in Asia.
What is the difference between gold filled, gold plated and gold vermeil? Gold filled is constructed in two or three layers, legally required to contain five percent or 1/20 gold by weight, over a metal core (usually jeweler’s brass) and bonded to one or both surfaces of the core with heat and pressure. This also makes it the most expensive of the three. Meanwhile, gold plating (sometimes called “dipped gold”) has a thin layer of gold on a metal core (also usually brass) that does not have a measurable proportion of the metal core’s total weight, estimated to be 0 .05% or less of the metal. In my experience, gold plating wears off quickly exposing the brass product. If you bought a piece because you liked its design, that’s disappointing.
Gold plating should not be confused with vermeil gold. The latter is a thicker level of gold plating over sterling silver rather than a base metal. To truly qualify as vermeil, the plating must be at least 2.5 microns thick and always on sterling silver. It is more affordable than gold filled and more valuable than gold plated. This also makes it hypoallergenic and tarnish free.
Penny Pair gold vermeil coins use 925 silver coated with a thick layer of 18k gold. Penny Pairs gold vermeil pieces start at 749 pesos for a pair of bendable and reshape earrings and go up to 2,599 pesos for a paperclip chain necklace with a baroque pearl pendant.
“We started Penny Pairs because we felt the Philippines lacked a benchmark for ‘everyday quality’ jewelry. The prices of similar materials in mall retail stores could triple our prices. We wanted also make it easily accessible to everyone, that’s why we made it an e-commerce store and offer free shipping,” says Camille. She and Managing Director and Operations Theo Sandico founded the brand in November 2018. After his studies at Ateneo, Camille studied at the International Academy of Fashion in Paris and briefly worked in public relations while Theo pursued his activities.
Apart from cost and quality, the brand has quickly gained popularity for its looks. Its minimalist designs resonate not only with younger men and women, but also with those who appreciate the trendy arm/neck party look and like to stack their earrings and rings. Their ear cuffs allow you to try out the trendy “stacked ear” look without having to commit to getting additional piercings. Penny Pairs releases three to five products each week. “As we want to reduce waste, we only make small quantities of jewellery, and if there is a demand, that’s the only time we produce more,” says Camille.
This is why Penny Pairs is a brand to keep. Camille has tips for making it last, even keeping it clean and sanitized after wearing it: “Soak a soft cloth in soap and water and use it to gently wipe your jewelry, then rinse the soap from the cloth. and, finally, wipe it off. Try not to wash the jewelry directly or be too rough as this may strip the metal or scratch it.
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Follow Penny Pairs on Instagram @pennypairs. Shop at www.pennypairs.com.