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Sparkling Hair Accessories: Handmade Accessories

Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 2002

Both look beautiful in hair left loose or worn in an updo. Handcrafted accessories tend to be of higher quality than those that are mass-produced. Headbands and tiaras that are made by hand should not feel heavy when you wear them and should conform to the shape of your head.

Cast pieces (which are made by pouring liquid metal into a mold) can feel weightier. Even so, you may prefer the look of a cast accessory, as some are reminiscent of an earlier era when jewelry was often made using molds.

Above all, the piece should feel comfortable. If it is hand wired, the wires should be neatly wrapped and finished. And nothing should poke you or catch in your hair when you try it on.

The best accessories are sterling silver, or silver- or rhodium-plate (a highly reflective silvery-white metal), and are coated with an anti-tarnish agent. Any yellowing or darkening of the metal indicates that it has begun to tarnish, a process that is virtually impossible to reverse on highly decorative pieces.

Many designs use genuine crystals, which are cut from leaded glass. They should shine brightly and be free of chips; inferior crystals may break when handled. Real pearls should have some imperfections such as slight ridges or bumps -- a completely uniform pearl is probably glass or plastic.

If you're admiring a handmade piece but it's not quite perfect, you might ask at the shop whether the designer can change some details -- perhaps you would like colored crystals instead of clear, for example. Many will be happy to accommodate you, or you can have modifications done by a jeweler so you end up with exactly what you want -- after all, a bride shouldn't have anything less.

Above, this headpiece of crystals and opals, hand set in sterling silver by Thomas Knoell, gives the decorative effect of a tiara without the height.

Below, crystals and freshwater pearls form Fenaroli's intricate headpiece; a comb holds this tiara, with white and silver beads and pearl accents, by Headpieces by Toni, in place.

Hand-placed crystals in a filigree setting suggest leafy vines in Deborah Moreland's tiara.

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