?Marco Polo Designs has created an upscale, modern American glass jewelry collection, expanding old-world glass traditions to a new and unique level.?
Al Roberge, Grand Wailea 5-Star Hotel, Maui.
General Questions About Our Jewelry
Q: Where is your jewelry made?
A: Marco Polo Designs jewelry is all hand crafted in our studio in Troutdale, (just outside Portland), Oregon, USA. The custom Marco Polo Designs exclusive lampwork beads that make our jewelry so special are made for us by our world-class glass artisan partners in Venice and Murano, Italy.
Q: Where do you get your jewelry designs?
A: We do all of the designs for our exclusive lampwork beads. As Lead Designer, owner Claude Cruz sets the design vision for each new collection, with participation by co-owner Penny Cruz. (Founder Jane Barthelemy designed Marco Polo Designs? original named collections, during her 17 years or so at the helm.) We follow fashion and color trends for upcoming fashion seasons, to ensure that our designs will fit the upcoming fashion trends.
Claude and Penny go on design trips to Venice and Murano, Italy twice a year. During that time, they do multiple bead prototyping passes with our half-dozen or so leading glassworking families. We then have our artisans send small quantities of our bead samples to our studio in Portland, Oregon, where we spend several weeks integrating the beads into our jewelry-level designs. Our expert jewelry-makers help Claude develop the design of the supporting beads and crystals, and our production manager provides her jewelry-production perspective. Finally, Penny gets the pleasure of ?test driving? the new design for an extended period, to ensure comfort, durability and wearability.
Q: What materials do you use in your jewelry?
A: Most of our major handmade beads are our own exclusive designs, made of Murano Moretti glass and American dichroic glass. In addition, we use Swarovski crystals, freshwater pearls, precious gemstones, semi-precious gemstones, Bohemian and Japanese glass, faux pearls, and a variety of other materials. We string these on very strong yet supple 49-strand nylon-coated stainless-steel jeweler?s cable, which is the preferred cable for professional designers who demand premium strength, softness, and flexibility. In our necklaces we cover this cable with very fine twisted sterling silver or gold vermeil tubular ?heishi? beads, giving our pieces their unique, shimmery ?liquid silver? look. Our findings are made of sterling silver or gold vermeil, to ensure that our jewelry is of fine-jeweler quality.
Q: How many beads do you really have?
A: OK, we confess. We really love beads! We have almost two tons of glass beads and metal findings of all kinds! We store the beads on 8-foot high metal wire shelves along the 'wall of beads'. We are continuously creating new beads and unique handcrafted jewelry designs, for your pleasure and enjoyment!
Q: What is heishi?
A: Our necklaces are strung on tiny tubes of sterling silver called heishi, also known as ?liquid silver?. To our knowledge, Marco Polo Designs is one of only a handful of jewelry vendors who use this small sterling heishi, which is very difficult and time-consuming to string. (Others commonly use much larger and coarser silver-plated copper-core heishi, which simply can?t rival the sparkle, suppleness or quality of our fine heishi.) We coat the sterling silver heishi with a non-toxic anti-tarnishing sealer to prevent oxidation. Our gold vermeil heishi is pure sterling silver, custom plated with 24k gold to a very thick 100 micro inches (100 millionths of an inch), in a nickel free, hypoallergenic bath. Our heishi is then bathed in a non-toxic sealer.
Q: What precious metals do you use in your jewelry?
A: We use sterling silver heishi and 24k gold plated heishi for necklaces. Our standard French ear wires are sterling silver or 14k gold-filled. Allergy reactions are extremely rare. Our chain is pure sterling silver best quality chain, or gold vermeil, which is 24k gold plating over the same sterling silver chain. Clasps on 18" necklaces, bracelet toggles, and multi-strand caps are 24k gold plated Bali silver, plated with fine silver by our own plater to a thickness of 100 micro inches, and then covered with an added non-toxic anti-tarnish treatment. The necklace clasp extender chain is a high quality sterling silver chain, or Hamilton gold plated sterling silver chain. Clasps on 34" necklaces are pewter, plated with silver or 24k gold, made in the USA and plated by our vendor.
Q: What is gold vermeil?
A: Gold vermeil is 24k gold plated over sterling silver. Our gold vermeil heishi and our clasps are pure sterling silver bathed in 24k gold. We ask our plater to overlay the sterling silver with 24k gold 100 micro inches thick, resulting in a tarnish-free, hypo-allergenic, nickel free and highly wear-resistant finish.
Q: What are 14k gold filled ear wires?
A: 14K gold filled wire is a professional jeweler's grade wire. It will not tarnish, crack, chip, peel, or discolor your skin. Allergic reactions are extremely rare. Under normal circumstances it will last a lifetime. Gold filled wire is not plated. It is a tube of solid 14K gold that is filled with jeweler's brass. There is 100 times more gold in gold filled than in gold plate wire. The cost of gold filled wire fluctuates with the daily gold market on the stock exchange.
Q: What ear wires do you offer?
A: We provide French wires as our standard wire, since they are light and convenient. A disadvantage is that they can sometimes fall out and can be lost. We recommend you give a little pinch to your earring wires when you put them on, and take care when you wear a scarf or high collar. To help prevent earring loss, Marco Polo Designs also ships plastic ear nuts with all of our direct retail sales, as well as with our shipments to our retailers.
We also offer ear posts. This is a popular style with a small ball and post that runs straight through the pierced ear and is secured with a nut on the back of the ear. These are 14k gold filled, they offer a compromise between security and safety, and they provide a nice covering for the ear hole.
We offer 14k gold filled lever backs as the most secure ear wire style for fine jewelry. They are not always convenient to store or display, because they do not fit on a jewelry card.
We offer clips for non-pierced ears. Our clips have a screw to adjust the ear pressure, to insure many hours of comfortable wearing for any size lobe. However, clips are less secure than other wire types.
Q: Will my jewelry look exactly as pictured?
A: We try to maintain consistency in quality as pictured. The nature of handcrafted glass jewelry is to have some subtle variations in color, size, and shape. These small differences are your proof that an artisan was truly "hands-on" in creating your unique piece. Just like snowflakes, every handcrafted glass jewelry piece is a little bit different.
Marco Polo Designs also continually strives to improve our designs and quality. To this end, we occasionally make subtle changes in some pieces, as we deem appropriate. On rare occasions, long-term unavailability of specific beads forces us to substitute another compatible bead in a design. None of these differences materially alter the look of the jewelry that you order, relative to our product photos.
Q: Does your collection change?
A: Yes. Our collection is always changing. Most of our standard Venetian art glass designs are always available. We are continually inventing new and hopefully even more beautiful designs, typically developing 3 or more new designs during each of our bi-annual design trips to Italy. If the new pieces are popular, we keep them in the line. If not, we discontinue them or redesign them into something better. Occasionally we may temporarily run out of a favorite design, but we do our utmost to quickly return such items to stock.
Please let us know of what you?d like to see in our collection. While we do not do custom designs, we will certainly take your good ideas and desires into consideration as we design new jewelry.
Questions About Art Glass and Italian Glass
Q: How is glass made?
A: Glass is an amazing molten liquid mixture of natural elements from the earth, mostly melted quartz sand grains. Different elements in the mixture give it color. Glass occurs naturally, such as in volcanoes, when molten materials from the earth's core come to the surface and cool. Obsidian is an example of natural volcanic glass. In the glass making process, molten glass is poured into sheets or rods, and allowed to cool for cutting and distribution.
Q: How are lampwork glass beads made?
A: Lampwork glass beads are made one at a time over an open flame that resembles a large and powerful Bunsen burner. A skilled bead maker melts a rod of glass and wraps a bit of molten glass around a hollow copper tube. Many of our dichroic glass art beads are made with a core (the ?anima? or ?soul? of the bead) wrapped in 24k gold, white gold or sterling silver foil. Pieces of shimmering dichroic glass can be melted around the core, to give the beads an internal glow. There may be several overlaid layers or colors of glass rods used to create a particular effect in molten glass. The bead maker must take care to work at a constant temperature over the flame, or the bead will crack. After the last layer or surface treatment is complete, the bead is slowly cooled or ?annealed?, to relieve internal stresses and prevent cracking. Finally, the beads are immersed in an acid bath, to dissolve the copper-tube workpiece and leave a hole through which the bead can be strung.
We use a myriad of ancient and modern techniques to make our exclusive beads. Marco Polo Designs pioneered the use of dichroic material in Italian lampwork beads, and we also originated numerous other techniques such as the use of embedded metal mesh. We are continuously developing innovative new glass-making methods.
Q: What is dichroic glass?
A: Glittering, reflective and brightly colored, dichroic glass matrial was developed by the aerospace industry--- even though dichroic glass has existed since the fourth century. An extremely thin layer of metal (gold, silver, titanium, chromium, aluminum, zirconium or magnesium) is flash-evaporated onto a flat glass surface, under near-vacuum conditions. The coated glass is then kiln-fired in a vacuum, at extremely high temperatures. The resulting metal film coating is so thin that it causes optical ?thin-film? diffraction effects, resulting in the production of specific vivid colors--- predominantly two distinct well-defined colors. (This is the origin of the term ?dichroic?: ?di? for ?two, and ?chroic? referring to ?color?). Dichroic glass is cut into small pieces and layered into molten glass beads and pendants.
Q: How can I recognize quality lamp work glass?
A: Look for beauty, clear transparency and brilliant colors in the glass. Not cloudy or muddled. Be wary of poor quality Venetian art glass, which often has white powder around the hole, poor transparency, marred surface, cracks or faded colors. Fine workmanship can be seen by examining the hole of the bead, which should be small and clean with no white powder, raw edges or cracks. Look for a smooth glass surface like water, with no pockmarks or stampings. Look for complexity and creativity in the glass colored layers.
Q: How do I know that my art glass is from Murano or Venice?
A: Unfortunately, this is an increasingly relevant question, which many buyers of glass jewelry fail to ask. In recent years, there has been a strong incursion of cheap non-Italian glass, sometimes sold as ?genuine? Murano glass. Jewelry and bead designs can be pirated--- a sufficiently large concern that many Venetian glass vendors prohibit photography of their store or show windows. This imitation ?Murano? glass has nowhere near the quality or beauty of the genuine article.
Marco Polo Designs warrants that our primary beads are of Murano or Venetian origin, and we include a certificate of authenticity with the pieces we sell. We pride ourselves in designing the finest such beads in the world, rendered exclusively for us by our master glass-worker partners. We document our bi-annual design trips to Venice, sharing our adventures and progress via the Marco Polo Designs blog on our website. We?ll be glad to answer any questions you may have regarding the origins of our glass--- though for privacy and competitive reasons, we cannot share the specifics of our Italian glass-working relationships.
Caring For Your Marco Polo Designs Jewelry
Q: How should I wear my glass art jewelry?
A: Your jewelry should be the last thing you put on. Please avoid applying hairspray or perfume while wearing your handmade jewelry and keep it away from chemicals or cosmetics that can discolor or damage your jewelry. Keep your jewelry stored far from humidity or air pollution.
Q: How should I clean my sterling silver jewelry?
A: Sterling Silver tarnishes from the interaction of silver with sulfides in the air. First the tarnish takes on a golden hue, and eventually it turns black. This is a natural process.
To clean Sterling Silver jewelry, we recommend that you use a particular immersion bath as described below, to access hard-to-reach tarnish between beads. The recommended solution does not leave residues in and around beads. We do NOT recommend using other cleaning solutions, which often do leave residues.
Fill an aluminum pie-pan with very hot (but not boiling) water. Alternatively, use a glass pie-pan that has been lined with aluminum foil. Note that stainless steel pans won?t work; they must be made of aluminum. Put about a tablespoonful of common baking soda into the water, and stir to dissolve it well. Then, simply immerse your jewelry, taking care to cover all silver components of the jewelry.
An electrolytic reaction will occur, removing the tarnish (sulfide) from the silver, and replating bright metallic silver onto the beads. Slight bubbling may occur while this is happening; this is of no concern. The reaction may be complete almost immediately, or it may take a half-hour or more. Check the jewelry to see when it has been adequately cleaned. Bubbling will cease when the reaction is complete. At that point, remove your jewelry from the bath, rinse it thoroughly in clear water, and dry it well. (Residual moisture can promote re-tarnishing.)
We do NOT recommend cleaning your sterling silver jewelry with a jewelry cleaning cloth, such as a Sunshine Cloth. To help discourage tarnish, Marco Polo Designs has its jewelry components custom-coated with a thin transparent anti-tarnish finish. Cleaning cloths can remove that finish, promoting subsequent tarnish.
Q: How should I clean my gold vermeil jewelry?
A: Marco Polo Designs gold vermeil jewelry uses a heavy plating of 24k gold over sterling silver. The cleaning process for vermeil is different from that for sterling silver. In particular, extra care needs to be taken to avoid creating wear spots through the gold layer. (Our heavy plating is thick enough that such wear should not occur in the course of normal wearing of our jewelry.)
As for our sterling silver jewelry, we do NOT recommend cleaning your sterling silver jewelry with a jewelry cleaning cloth, such as a Sunshine Cloth. The mild abrasiveness of such cloths can remove gold plating.
Vermeil can be washed with a warm mild detergent solution, followed by rinsing in clear water and thorough drying. No other cleaning should be necessary.
Q: How should I store my glass art jewelry?
A: To keep your silver jewelry bright and shiny as long as possible, keep your Marco Polo Designs pieces in airtight plastic bags, with the black anti-tarnish tabs that should have accompanied the jewelry when you purchased it. Ideally, the plastic bags should be zip-seal, and made from polyethylene--- not PVC, which can promote tarnish. It is important to minimize ongoing exposure of the jewelry to pollutant- and moisture-containing air. Also avoid storing your jewelry in a humid environment, or in bright light. Dry cleaned jewelry thoroughly before sealing it in its storage bag.
Marco Polo Designs ships jewelry to our retailers in plastic bags that contain anti-tarnish tabs. We also ship all of our online retail orders in bags with anti-tarnish tabs. However, some retailers may choose to repackage the jewelry before displaying it for sale. If you receive your jewelry without an anti-tarnish tab, we encourage you to request one from your retailer.
Marco Polo Designs Policies
Q: What is your lead time to ship jewelry?
A: We pride ourselves on our quick order fulfillment, typically shipping within 2 working days for jewelry that is in stock. In the rare cases that an item needs to be made, we ship in 4 working days. That's why the 'Expected to Ship' gives you a date 4 days from your order date. But we will most likely ship it sooner!
Q: Is your jewelry guaranteed?
A: Our skilled jewelry makers take great pride in their work. We guarantee our glass art jewelry to be free of defects in materials or craftsmanship for a period of 2 years after purchase by a consumer, or it will be replaced at no charge. You?ll need to retain your receipt or other dated proof of purchase, to submit with any return. Our friendly Customer Service department will work with you to confirm the defect, and to arrange a Return Authorization (RA) number for qualifying returns. Customer Service can be reached at (503) 331-1217, or toll-free at (877) 919-1217.
Q: Does Marco Polo Designs cover breakage of my art glass jewelry?
A: We understand that glass jewelry is inherently delicate, and that dropping or striking such jewelry can result in breakage. Since Marco Polo Designs bears no responsibility for such breakage, we cannot provide a free replacement.
We want our valued customers to be able to enjoy their beautiful Marco Polo Designs jewelry as long as possible. For that reason, we offer replacement of broken jewelry, for a nominal replacement fee. Our jewelry cannot be repaired, due to how it is made for strength. Replacements consist of newly-made pieces, which may differ slightly from the broken piece. (No two handmade items are exactly identical, and our jewelry designs may be subtly improved as appropriate, at our discretion.)
Be sure to return main beads that are in good condition for credit; missing or broken main beads can be replaced at a fixed cost per bead. To obtain specific replacement costs and to request a replacement, please call Customer Service at (503) 331-1217, or toll-free at (877) 919-1217.
Q: Does Marco Polo Designs replace lost earrings?
A: Loss of a Marco Polo Designs earring is, unfortunately, an occasional occurrence. To minimize the incidence of such losses, we supply complimentary earring nuts to our retailers, and we ship earring nuts with our retail earring orders. However, that precaution is not always sufficient to prevent earring loss.
To reduce the sting of such a loss to our end-customers, MPD offers replacement earrings. Because the beads in a pair of earrings must be carefully matched, the remaining earring must be shipped back to MPD at customer expense, where it will be matched or the entire pair replaced, at MPD?s option.
To obtain specific replacement costs and to request an earring replacement, please contact MPD Customer Service at (503) 331-1217, or toll-free at (877) 919-1217. You will be given a Return Authorization (RA) number. We will ship a replacement item as soon as possible, following our receipt of the remaining earring. A nominal return shipping charge will apply.
Q: Does Marco Polo Designs warrant jewelry against silver tarnish?
A: All sterling silver eventually tarnishes. Marco Polo Designs uses sterling in the beautiful heishi ?liquid-silver? stringing and top-quality findings that make our art glass jewelry so distinctive. Thus, our jewelry is susceptible to tarnishing.
To help our customers properly care for their beautiful Marco Polo Designs jewelry, we include silver-care cards with the jewelry we ship to our retailers, as well as with our direct online retail jewelry sales.
We strongly advocate prevention of tarnishing, over sometimes-difficult correction of tarnish that has been allowed to progress. For helpful hints, see our other Q&A regarding wearing, cleaning and storage of your jewelry.
You can minimize silver tarnish by using the techniques we describe. If tarnishing occurs, you use the described cleaning method to keep your inventory in sparkling condition. In those few cases in which you are unable to resolve a tarnish problem with our jewelry, please contact your retailer for help. For jewelry purchased online directly from Marco Polo Designs, you can contact our friendly Customer Service at email@example.com, or call our toll-free number (877) 919-1217 for assistance.
Q: Can I request that Marco Polo Designs ?size? the jewelry that I purchase?
A: Due to the complex manner in which we design and produce our jewelry, we are unfortunately unable to accommodate custom jewelry designs. However, we understand that people differ in their physical dimensions.
We are able to offer a specific set of alternate lengths to which we can produce our necklaces and bracelets. Alternate lengths must be requested at the time of order, since such pieces must be produced as special orders. (Only) The alternate lengths listed below are available. Please note that items made to these alternate lengths are not returnable. Alternate lengths are available at additional cost.
Please contact your local Marco Polo Designs retailer for specifics, and to place a special order. For those who do not have access to a local Marco Polo Designs retailer, please contact our Customer Service department at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us toll-free at (877) 919-1217 for assistance.
18" necklaces: +3?, +6?
34" Necklaces: -5?, +5?, +10?
Bracelets: -1?, +1?, +2?
Cable Necklaces, Cord Pendants: Shorten to preference, or lengthen by up to 6" only in 1" steps.