The phrase handmade jewelry carries the connotation of an artisan creating high quality, unique design, with personal attention to technique and supplies. There are many sellers labeling their products as handmade. Beaded jewelry is a good example.You can find it on personal websites, Etsy, Amazon, Ebay, in stores, craft shows, etc.
Is all of this jewelry made by an artisan? Probably not. Since beading has become a popular pastime, many inexperienced crafters have started selling their products. Other sources, often in China, are factories where workers mass produce.
What is the quality of this jewelry? Amateurs may be talented, but experience is important. In addition to construction techniques, it affects choice of materials. I have found many items to avoid, such as: flexible wire that kinks when it bends, fake gemstones, mislabeled gemstones, magnetic clasps with magnets that are stronger than the glue that holds them, sterling silver findings that bend and don’t hold their shape, silk thread that stretches over time. It is also important to know which materials are worth a higher cost. Since mass produced jewelry is often sold at lower prices, cheap low quality materials may be used.
Personal attention is difficult in a factory situation. Repetition results in boredom and loss of attention to detail. The quality of the construction depends on quality control procedures of the company.
Are the designs unique? I recently found the same handmade necklace in a department store, a boutique, numerous Etsy shops, Amazon, and a Chinese wholesale website. Since the jewelry sold in chain stores or large discount websites is mass produced, it will not be one of a kind.
True creative talent in designing jewelry requires the ability to combine the artistic with the practical, designs for wearing with a variety of clothes, designs for people with different tastes from conservative to trendy.
Although jewelry may be made by hand, it is not always worthy of the connotation associated with the term handmade jewelry.