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The affordable jewelry brand that people are wearing even at home

Baroque pearls and gold with sporty sweats why not? Jewelry that won’t be seeing a gala anytime soon is being taken out of the treasure boxes to be worn to online yoga with friends, to celebratory dinners with chef-designed takeout at home, to solitary moments while you recharge your mental batteries.

Shopping behavior in a pandemic has been interesting to observe. Along with the rise in athleisure (have you heard about Lululemon’s share price rising to an all-time high?), jewelry is an unexpected frontrunner. Local jewelry designers continue to receive commissions for customized fine jewelry, among them a bespoke 20-carat hexagon green emerald ring. On the other side of the world, New York-based Roberto Coin’s Peter Webster sent off a 120-carat diamond necklace, priced at $1.5 million, for a client’s 25th anniversary gift.

This is also true outside the high jewelry segment. Not everybody can drop a million and a half for some bling, so direct-to-consumer retailers are making it possible for everyone to incorporate a bit of gold for every day — just because.

Apart from the cost and quality, the brand quickly gained popularity for its minimalist design.

“Despite everything seeming like it's on 'pause' because of the pandemic, special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and graduations don't stop for anyone,” says Camille Jimenez, creative director of Penny Pairs. “We see a lot of people wearing Penny Pairs to make them feel special on these occasions, even if that means just staying home. People have been 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’s making jewelry affordable for a new generation of wearers. They use gold vermeil, 925 silver coated in a thick layer of gold (they use 18k gold for all vermeil pieces); 925 silver, which stands for 92.5 percent pure silver (the other 7.5 percent is copper) and is the worldwide standard for sterling silver; cubic zirconia, an affordable and sustainable alternative to diamonds; and cultured, ethically farmed freshwater pearls found in Asia.

Siobhan Moylan

What’s 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 core metal (usually jewelers’ brass) and bonded to one or both surfaces of the core with heat and pressure. This also makes it the most expensive out of the three. Meanwhile, gold plated (sometimes called “gold dipped”) has a thin layer of gold over a core metal (also usually brass) that does not have a measurable proportion of the core metal’s total weight, estimated to be 0.05 percent or less of the metal. In my experience, gold plating wears off quickly, exposing the brass base product. If you bought a piece because you liked its design, this is disappointing.

Gold plated is not to be confused with gold vermeil. The latter is a thicker level of gold plating over sterling silver rather than a base metal. To truly qualify as vermeil, the plating should be a minimum of 2.5 microns thick and always over sterling silver. It is more affordable than gold-filled and more valuable than gold plate. This also makes it hypoallergenic and tarnish-free.

Penny Pair’s gold vermeil pieces use 925 silver coated in a thick layer of 18k gold. Penny Pairs’ gold vermeil pieces start at P749 for a pair of reshapeable, bendable ear cuffs and go up to P2,599 for a paperclip chain necklace with a baroque pearl pendant.

“We started Penny Pairs because we thought that the Philippines was missing a go-to for 'everyday fine' jewelry. Prices of similar materials in retail stores in the malls could go for up to triple our prices. We wanted also to make it easily accessible for everyone, which is why we made it an e-commerce store and offer free shipping,” Camille explains. She and managing and operations director Theo Sandico founded the brand in November 2018. After college in Ateneo, Camille studied at the International Fashion Academy in Paris and briefly worked in PR while Theo pursued business.

Apart from the cost and quality, the brand quickly gained popularity for its look. Its minimalist designs resonate not only with younger men and women, but also those who enjoy the on-trend arm/neck party look, and like stacking up their earrings and rings. Their ear cuffs make it possible to try out the trending “stacked ear” look without having to commit to getting additional piercings Penny Pairs releases three to five products every week. “Since we want to lessen waste, we only make small quantities of jewelry, and if there is a demand that's the only time that we produce more,” Camille explains.

Danielle Daza

It’s why Penny Pairs is a brand for keeps. Camille has tips to make it last, even while keeping it clean and sanitized after you’ve been wearing it out: “Dip a soft cloth in soap and water and use that to gently wipe your jewelry, then rinse the soap out of the cloth and, finally, wipe it dry. Try not to directly wash the jewelry or be too rough as this could strip off the metal or scratch it.”

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Follow Penny Pairs on Instagram @pennypairs. Shop at

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