Face-off: Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Jet Set Jade vs. Sally Hansen Lustre Shine Scarab vs. Illamasqua Viridian vs. Wet n Wild Wild Shine Caribbean Frost

Apparently I have a thing for frosty metallic teal because I looked at my stash and found four polishes that I thought were similar enough in the bottle to compare. I may even have a few others in a similar color, but these four were the most similar.

From right to left: Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Jet Set Jade, Sally Hansen Lustre Shine Scarab, Illamasqua Viridian, and Wet n Wild Wild Shine Caribbean Frost. Yeah, I know the lighting’s a bit uneven, so it’s hard to compare the bottle colors, but they look reasonably similar in person.

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Swatched in the same order from left (index) to right (pinky – oops, those are water droplets on my pinky nail), under indirect sunlight:

And, in direct sunlight, to better show the shimmer:

As you can see, they’re all jewel-toned blue greens with a metallic frosty shimmer, but none of them are exact dupes of each other. Jet Set Jade and Viridian are surprisingly close, though. I definitely didn’t expect that from the bottles.

Jet Set Jade has a much stronger scattered shimmer effect and a subtle dichroic effect where it sometimes flashes deep blue. Jet Set Jade looks a little more yellow-toned than Viridian in my second photo, and it looks slightly bluer in the first because of the color shift, but the differences are mild enough that it’s hard to tell unless you’re looking for it. I’ll be honest: the brush sucked – the fatness of it doesn’t bother me, but it was unevenly cut and had all these stray hairs everywhere that made it really hard to apply. Ugh. Still, I bought it on clearance for $1.29 (the original price was $4.99), so I can’t complain. I did one coat in these photos, but two coats adds depth to the shimmer.

Viridian is more of a straight-up metallic, a stunning malachite/emerald/peacock green that’s just slightly less saturated (grayer) than Jet Set Jade, and it’s an amazing one coater with no visible brushstrokes. The photos show just one coat. It was the first Illamasqua color that caught my eye, and it came with Glitterati in a holiday set that was on sale at Sephora for $19. I think Illamasqua varnishes are typically $17 each, so it’s a huge price difference from the Jet Set Jade. Viridian was originally released in Illamasqua’s Art of Darkness fall/winter 2010 collection.

Scarab doesn’t have as much of the dichroic blue shift you see in the bottle, but it looks overall bluer than the other polishes. I also used one coat of this in the photos, though it’s a little sheer from certain angles. Application on this one was a little streaky, but not too bad. It’s kind of a surprisingly pricey polish, supposedly because it uses “real silver particles”, per their marketing blurb – the regular retail price is $7.99 at CVS for a slightly smaller than standard bottle (0.33 fl. oz.), though you can easily get coupons that will knock off a few bucks.

Meanwhile, Caribbean Frost is the most yellow-leaning/greenest of the bunch and always reminds me of Christmas, for some reason. This is the only polish of the four that I felt definitely needed two coats (as shown in the photos). No problems applying this one, though to warn you, the brushes in this polish aren’t always the same, apparently. I know this because I had to return my first bottle because the brush was like my Jet Set Jade one: a fat one with stray hairs everywhere, but worse to the point that it was unusable. I exchanged it for my current bottle and, lo and behold, it had a normal skinny brush that works perfectly. Odd. Anyway, this polish is $1.99 at CVS, and I think I got it in a buy one get one free deal for about $1.

So there you have it. Four jewel-toned teals and no exact duplicates (to a lacquer connoisseur, anyway), but Jet Set Jade and Viridian are kind of close.

BaubleBar November 2013 Mystery Makeover

Earlier this month, I picked up BaubleBar‘s November Mystery Makeover ($40), which includes their Crystal Dahlia Strand in antique gold, gold, or silver, as well as two mystery pieces. The items together are advertised to have a value of up to $74. I used a 20%-off secret savings code they sent me a while back and was able to nab this for $32.

I chose the silver set, and here’s what I got.

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The Crystal Dahlia Strand ($32) is super sparkly and makes rainbows in the right light. It looks generally well made for its price point – but one of the gems popped off almost as soon as I handled it (gently). Nothing a little E-6000 or epoxy can’t fix, though, so I’m not going to bother BaubleBar about a replacement this time. I might just shoot them an e-mail to let them know what happened, in case it’s a quality control problem.

Close-up in indoor lighting:

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In direct sunlight to show the full sparkle of this necklace, as well as the gem boo-boo (top left-ish)  that needs some glue:

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My two bonus items were two matching bracelets, a silver tear bangle (similar to a rose version currently available for $28) and a stretch bracelet not currently available on the site. It’s somewhat similar to other gem bracelets going for $34 to $36 on the site right now, so I’ll set that as my estimate for full retail price. As usual, these are relatively good-quality costume jewelry, and they’re comparable to the type of accessories you can get at these prices. The tear bangle arrived with a little bald spot in the metal plating, and the gems aren’t all set perfectly, but it’s acceptable and not noticeable unless you look closely. The stretch bracelet has no noticeable flaws.

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That comes out to an estimated total of $66 to $68 full retail value. I wouldn’t pay that for these items by a long shot, but just judging based on the items’ quality on their own, I think they’re worth the $32 I shelled out.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts on my old blog, my experience with BaubleBar’s overall quality has been mixed, and I’ve received jewelry with missing gems or, like this one, with gems that fall out shortly after I take it out of the box, with only gentle handling. On one hand, I think stuff you pay for should come in one piece and stay that way with reasonable use, and you shouldn’t settle for things falling apart. On the other hand, I usually grab this stuff for a pretty good price, and the fixes are usually pretty easy. When problems have been more serious, it’s been super easy to talk to customer service and get it taken care of.

Honestly, I think what’s kept me coming back is the great customer service. For instance, with this box, It was nice of them to mail me a $10 off $30+ code just because the order took them a bit longer than usual to ship (I ordered on 11/13, and it was shipped six days later, instead of the usual one to two days or so). I think that’s important in a business, and as long as I have good experiences with them, and their average quality is at least on par with what I’d expect from similar merchants or at a similar price point, I guess I won’t mind gluing a couple gems now and then.

UPDATE 11/24/13: Whoa, fast! Customer service already got back to me after I reported the issue this morning; they said they’ll be looking into it and appreciated the feedback. It’s apparently the first time they’ve heard of this problem with that necklace. Is it just my bad luck? If you guys order from BaubleBar and encounter any mishaps, I hope you’ll report them, too. Anyway, I’ve already gone ahead and epoxied that stray gem back in place (I love five-minute clear epoxy), and it looks good as new. :]

Essie Cashmere Bathrobe & Hors d’Oeuvres

Essie Cashmere Bathrobe, from Essie’s fall collection this year, two coats. It’s a dark cool-toned gray with subtle fine silver shimmer. I have a lot of grays because I love them, but the barely-there wink of silver in this one sets it apart. The formula is so smooth and easy to control – I was able to do this while struggling with the hunger shakes, if that tells you anything! I had some balding on the first coat, but it’s evenly opaque in two. Dries pretty fast, too. I’m a fan.

I added two coats of Essie Hors d’Oeuvres on the ring finger. It’s from this winter’s new Encrusted Treasures collection, and it’s a clear base packed with silvery gold micro glitter and larger round and hex silver glitters. Reminds me of bubbly champagne. The formula’s a little watery, especially for a glitter, so I had some accidental pooling on the side of the nail that you can see in the photo (oops), but it’s not bad to work with once you know its consistency. In fact, the glitter’s dense enough that the usual dab technique wasn’t really necessary. It also dries almost smooth, especially for a glitter, even without top coat. This polish makes me think of New Year’s or Christmas tinsel. Fun!

I’m so happy Essie’s making more interesting polishes these days. I used to pass them up a lot because other brands had sparklier polishes that caught my eye first, but Encrusted Treasures surprised me when I saw them at Ulta a couple weeks ago. Textured polishes and complex glitters from Essie? Awesome.

P.S. I hear Maybelline Color Show has some new “brocade” glitters in a similar vein to Hors d’Oeuvres and the Sephora Formula X Sparklers that look pretty sweet. I think I’m going to go hunt those down next!

Zoya Jem, Channing, and Kerry

I tried out a bunch of Zoyas this past week, and they were all awesome in different ways.

Index & pinky: Zoya Jem, from Zoya’s fall 2011 Smoke & Mirrors collection, a deep, slightly warm-toned purple with a fine magenta shimmer that sometimes subtly flashes gold. I have no idea if it’s named after the 80s cartoon character, but if so, it’s very apropos. Zoya says “[t]his shade has it all; bold color, vampy drama, bright sparkle and a glam rock persona,” and it’s totally true. Beautiful jewel-toned color, and it’s almost a one-coater. I used two coats for added dimension with the layered flecks, but it was just about opaque in one. I bought this for $4.99 on clearance at Ulta – totally worth it.

Middle: Zoya Channing, from Zoya’s fall 2013 Satins & Cashmeres collection, on the Satins side. It’s a stunning, fiery rose-toned copper shimmer. It’s got that rosy base like OPI Jinx (though the polish itself, color and texture, are completely different) that sets it apart from other coppery burnt oranges I have. It’s not very easy to see in my photo, but it gives the polish an almost coral glow when the light hits it. Great, smooth formula, too. This is two coats.

Ring: Zoya Kerry, from Zoya’s spring 2013 Irresistible collection, a sparkly, sunny yellow-gold foil/glass fleck. I’m not the absolute expert on categorizing polish finishes, and though Zoya describes this as a foil, Kerry strikes me as having a bit more of a glass fleck texture than a straight-up foil. It’s super shiny and takes well to glitter toppers, too. Two coats in the photo.

I also wore Channing on my thumb, though it’s not pictured here.

These polishes are about what I’ve come to expect from Zoya. I just love how Zoya shimmers have great depth and seem to glow when hit by the light. They don’t last super long on me, though; generally, Zoyas will chip significantly after about 3 days or so on me, whereas a typical Julep or Orly is more likely to last 5-7 days with the same base and top coats.

BaubleBar Mademoiselle Necklace & Mystery Gift

In celebration of Halloween, BaubleBar had a Mystery Gift offer where using the code TREAT would snag you an mystery bonus item (up to a $36 value) with a purchase of $40 or more.

I had an unfortunate experience with BaubleBar with last month’s Mystery Makeover because the Corsage Strand arrived broken, and the replacement I exchanged it for also arrived broken. 😦 That was pretty sad, but BaubleBar’s customer service is great, and they not only completely refunded my money but promised to throw in something extra the next time I made an order. This order was it!

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I ordered the black Mademoiselle Necklace ($42 regularly, currently on sale for $28 as a “Monthly Must” this month), essentially as a replacement for the black Corsage Strand that I had really wished worked out because it’s similar enough that it’ll fill that void of disappointment for now. I just love black jewelry, and this one seems sturdier than the Corsage Strand, thank goodness. I miss the contrast from the gray gems on the Corsage Strand, but the oversized hematite-colored chain links give this one an edgier, bolder look that I like, too. The small rainbow gems are a nice touch. It’s too bad I missed this month’s sale price, but I’m still satisfied with my purchase.

Just as a note,  the site says it’s made of metal and glass, but I’m maybe 90% sure the gems are actually acrylic, not glass. The Mademoiselle Necklace is a little on the higher end of what I’ve bought from BaubleBar before – it’s nicer costume jewelry. Maybe not all the gems are perfectly seated in their settings, and some of the gems have visible casting artifacts, but it’s not all that noticeable unless you’re looking closely. I don’t find those small flaws critical in this type of casual jewelry, and it’s otherwise sturdy, interesting, and plenty sparkly for my purposes, e.g., wearing to work and everyday fun.

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As for the extras, I’m not sure which one’s the Mystery Gift and which one is the extra they gave me to make up for my last order, but they’re both stretch bracelets and roughly interchangeable. I dug around the site trying to look up what items they were, but they don’t appear available for sale right now, though I know I’ve seen them before. One is a red and gold jeweled stretch, and the other is a silver spike stretch with pave accents. As far as I can tell, both are cast metal with acrylic gems, and the stretchy material is that clear kind of plastic elastic. Both are easy to wear with various types of outfits and well made, so I’m happy with them. From what I can tell, similar bracelets on the site go for about $22-38 regular and $18-20 on sale.

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Overall, my customer service experience with BaubleBar has been 100% positive so far, and I feel reassured of the general quality of their items (decent costume jewelry that can be worn in a professional setting), even after that one less fortunate experience. Since then, I’ve also ordered one other necklace (the Fireball Pendant in black & hematite) without any problems, and I received tons of compliments when I wore it today. With the free shipping, frequent rotating deals, and interesting pieces, I’m sure I’ll be back as I expand my collection.

Zoya Neeka & Maria Luisa

Two coats Zoya Neeka on each nail, plus one coat Zoya Maria Luisa on the middle and ring fingers.

Neeka is a lovely dark, cool-toned smoky gray-purple with a speckling of subtle gold shimmer. It’s from Zoya’s Smoke & Mirrors collection from fall 2011, on the Mirrors side. Zoya describes it as “[a] greyed amethyst with subtle red duochrome shimmer and bright gold glitter accents,” but I have a hard time seeing the red duochrome, myself. Still, it’s a really lovely color, and I’m glad I picked it up for about half price at another nail blogger’s polish sale! It’s pretty opaque and almost provides full coverage in one coat, but I used two to cover up a few slightly bald spots.

Maria Luisa is from Zoya’s fall collection (Cashmeres & Satins) this year, on the Satins side, and is a somewhat irregularly shaped, slightly translucent, cool-toned gold flake/glitter in a clear base. (Zoya describes it as a “gold cellophane accent topper,” which is pretty accurate.) I threw it on top because I love the color opposites combination of gold and purple, and I think it’s a topper that could go well with tons of colors and finishes.

Both polishes were super easy to apply and dried quickly. I’d recommend both polishes, if you like the colors!