A Handmade Tale – What’s the difference between hand made and handcrafted?

Last summer I was in a jewelry store waiting to get my ears pierced. I started browsing the various jewelry cases, and came across a small collection of handmade silver jewelry. I zoomed in on a pair of delicate, silver, crescent moon earrings, elegant in their simplicity.

Although solo jewelry designers tend to charge more for their items, and their collections are smaller in general, I didn’t mind shelling out more money for these earrings. They were one of a kind.

Many of us are continuing to move away from fast fashion and support sustainable and ethical clothing retailers in Canada and on the web. I like the idea of buying something crafted by the hands of a jeweler or designer.

I also like the terms handmade and handcrafted. But then it got me thinking, what’s the difference?

Here’s the clearest distinction, as defined by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission:

Federal Trade Commission definition:

23.3Misuse of the terms “hand-made,” “hand-polished,” etc.

(a) It is unfair or deceptive to represent, directly or by implication, that any industry product is hand-made or hand-wrought unless the entire shaping and forming of such product from raw materials and its finishing and decoration were accomplished by hand labor and manually-controlled methods which permit the maker to control and vary the construction, shape, design, and finish of each part of each individual product.

  • Handcrafted – Any item that uses hand labor during the production process. If you string together beads on a necklace, you’ve handcrafted a piece of jewelry.
  • Handmade – This is the construction of an item, by hand, using raw materials. In this example you would make the beads yourself, and then string them together to make a necklace.

A stunning example of handmade luxury items are the haute couture gowns by Chanel. Gowns are beaded, feathered and stitched by hand.

Etsy is a good example of a site featuring handmade jewelry and garments from independent designers.

Handmade items are more expensive, but because of the personal attention to detail, they are made with better quality and last longer. Also, you know exactly who is making your clothes and jewelry.

Whether it’s handcrafted or handmade, supporting vendors that use sustainable methods and ethical labor practices is another way we can be conscious consumers.

What’s the last handmade item you purchased? What are your thoughts on the #whomademyclothes movement in retail? Share your thoughts below.


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