Fashion Jewelry vs. Jewelry Collection: “Why” the WAY you design sets the tone for your brand

Author: Tracy Matthews

Have you ever thought about the way you design your jewelry collection?

While there is no Right or Wrong method, the way you design sets the tone for your entire brand. During a coaching session with one of my designers the other day, something interesting came up. We are working on her collection and expanding it. She is an amazing designer and like many of us (myself included) has a gagillion design ideas that she is just ready to roll with. It’s not even just in the jewelry industry. If you have ever watched Project Runway or Fashion Star you have watched a different kind of designer implement their ideas with a vision that is aligned with their overall brand image. You have also probably observed the reverse, something poorly executed that leaves the audience wondering: Where the EFF did that come from?

Fenton Collection

As a designer just starting out, I approached designing my collection like a fashion designer would. Designing mini-collections around a bigger central look. My collection was cohesive but as a trained metal-smith, continuing on with my collection of “beaded” jewelry started to become boring and limiting. I decided to branch out. I had always considered myself to be a designer of a jewelry collection. I designed pieces that merchandised well together, had a signature look and were more personal in nature rather than trend driven.

During my transition, I made a huge mistake.

In a moment of Tourettes, I forgot what type of designer I was and started to allow what was popular in “trend” dictate what I was doing as a Jewelry Collection Designer. I was trying to be a Fashion Jewelry Designer.

What happened next kind of sucked.

It was about year 4 in my business and my sales hit a little bump. My new collection wasn’t received well. I was super bummed because my business had been booming and growing up until that point. I was forced to take a mini-step back and ask myself “WHY?” The Why in this case was completely related to the fact that I had stepped away from who I knew I was as a designer.

Cathy Waterman Collection

When you look at a really identifiable jewelry collection like, Cathy Waterman, you immediately know the piece is hers. She has a signature look and her pieces are merchandised in an overall collection. The “look” has stayed consistent over the years even though she has introduced so many other styles into her brand. My good friend, Melissa Joy Manning, is another great example of a designer who designed beautiful jewelry collections.

Dannijo Collection

So what is the difference between what I call Fashion Jewelry and a Jewelry Collection? Take a look at the up and coming designer, Dannijo. The pieces in the collection are amazing! They are statement, fashion and trend driven. Over the season, while there is a bit of a signature look, the collection will most likely continue changing with the mood. Fenton and Fallon is another great representation of a Fashion Jeweler who stays on trend in a cohesive way. The there are companies like nOir who continue to change their look every season.

nOir Collection

So, Ask yourself, what type of designer are you? Remember that each time you go to create, you should have a purpose and all the rest will fall into place.

Action Step:

1. Curate a list of the top 5 jewelry brands you would like to emulate (this does not mean copy). 2. Note what they do really well and why you love it. 3. Look for similarities in why you are attracted to those brands. 4. Now take a look at how you are designing and create in alignment with who you want to be,

Tweet this:

Jewelry Collection or Fashion Accessories why you need to choose your path: via @Flourish_Thrive

Share Your Experience

Have you ever struggled with your identity as a jewelry designer? Leave us a comment to tell us what path you chose and why. Or, if you are still in the identity crisis stage, share in the comments which path you are leaning towards.


  1. Peggy Li Creations Handmade Jewelry on August 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Great post! I struggle with creating a cohesive collection. I love so many different styles and I love learning new techniques that often take me in different design directions. I also never saw myself entering the design/fashion business, so while I love making jewelry, it’s not something I ever saw myself doing. I think the way I happened into this biz has influenced how I approach my collections. I’m still searching to resolve this, or perhaps find a way to embrace this eclectic approach and turn it into a business strength.

  2. Lyn Foley on August 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    I am definitely on the Jewelry Collection Side. I do give a nod to fashion by keeping up with the trends like Panetone colors, but do my best not to stray from my own “look.” I am currently struggling with designing a new website and new USP or tagline to better reflect my brand. Here is my newly revised tagline: Lyn Foley – Artisty in Glass Jewelry

  3. magic on August 25, 2012 at 2:59 am

    I just required some information and was searching on Google for it. I visited each page that came on first page and didn’t got any relevant result then I thought to check out the second one and got your blog. This is what I wanted!

    Shamballa Beads

  4. Nancy Troske on August 25, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Sooooo true! I’ve detoured many times from who I am and if I look back on some of my collections uou could see I was all over the place – lurching here and lurching there – anytime I saw a new material or trend.

    I reigned myself back in to my “roots” and original training as a goldsmith. My love of ancient history is what “drives” my work and I’m back on track now and never been happier as an artist.

    It’s really tempting to want to be able to do it all but I think it is important to know who you are as an artist and not be lured away from your core passion.

  5. James from Virgins Saints And Angels Jewelry on August 26, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    You have excellent points. Jewelry making is a form of art as well. Just like in the music industry, most music bands started as indy or underground. Once a mainstream manager gets them, their writing style and music seems to change because they are just now following the trend of the industry. This is the same as in jewelry making industry. We should go back to our roots on what we really want and love to create.

  6. Dianne Logarta on August 27, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Although I am not a jewelry designer but my passion is in line with designing. And I totally get the idea of trying to make an imprint of your own self in every thing that you design. I am so sure that I would want to be the trendsetting kind of designer rather than the trend-following kind. I hope that when I finally establish my identity as a designer, I will be recognized as one who inspires rather than be the one who gets inspired. Thank you for posting this Tracy! I learned a lot from this.:)

  7. Simong Paul on January 9, 2013 at 5:44 am

    One thing I can say that nice post.I also from the jewelry industry.I really take a good lesson form your post.Mostly Action steps you describe was just awesome.

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  9. […] uniqueness, so must your collection. Here is your opportunity to really stand out as a designer and create a signature style. The designers with longevity in the jewelry business design collections that have a unique look […]

  10. Andy on May 10, 2014 at 2:46 am

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  11. Vonny on January 4, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Although I’m too new to even be able to evaluate a collection (3 months) I just wanted to compliment you both on your complete honesty when talking about your experience. When I was a teacher, I often had to deal with students and parents who expected perfection on the first try of everything. My favorite saying became, “You learn more from failure than you do from success.” While it’s not fun nor does it feel good, it is important for personal development to face challenges and overcome them. Thank you for sharing this very important lesson.

  12. Zee on January 7, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    Excellent post!

  13. Kara Hetz on February 9, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    I struggle with trying to make reproduce-able pieces that represent my core aesthetic. I am really in a questioning phase with my work right now and who I am as a designer/artist as I go through the F&T program. I miss the days of making artful pieces that I could take a long time on and enjoy the process. Now it seems there is a lot of pressure to produce more and more, which sometimes interferes with the joy of designing and creating. How to balance these things? And how to create a collection that is still “me?”

    • Janice on March 4, 2016 at 10:49 am

      I can relate Kara! I do only one of a kind and love designing sets of artful statement pieces. Even though they aren’t my big sellers they are my passion. I get conflicting messages on needing to be trendy and a fashionista I am not. I march to my own drum but the pressure to produce (especially earrings) is becoming an issue. I found myself trying to recreate what sold and that’s just not me. In all honesty one of my biggest fears is being successful and having the pressure to produce become a huge factor. My husband worries about me not enjoying the designing because of it and I agree. It really stops the creative flow in me. This post reinforces what I already knew- I’m losing the “me” factor so I’m going back to what I really like. Can I ask you why you feel you need to do reproduce-able pieces? You should read Tracy’s Creating Collections That Sell resource too. I’m hoping to implement those tips to get a real collection going.

  14. Leila on February 26, 2016 at 11:53 am

    As a novice in this calling, I am grabbing any advice I can. This was a very helpful post and makes me take another look at my designs. I am struggling to focus on one approach, and I am constantly reevaluating my skills. As I try to gain confidence in this art form, your sound advice and guidance have given me confidence to continue pursuing this path. I am taking “baby steps” and being cautious (maybe a little timid or overly cautious) as I try to find my niche. Thanks for all your guidance.
    “Red’s Folly”

  15. Jason on July 15, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    To brand your product, jewelry collection will be better, especially you have your designer’s name. Fashion jewelry is way too generic.

    • Tracy Matthews on November 18, 2016 at 10:36 am

      Thanks for your comment Jason!

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