Tronex tooling is considered top-of-the-line in quality and durability. It is also a significant step up in price. This tooling is for the person who is making jewelry for a living, or who is frustrated with the results of using the less expensive craft tooling. Their catalog for Jewelry Makers is full of many explanations and helps with choosing which product is right for you. Their industrial catalog is much more exhaustive and complex; for example, in cutters they have a number of very specific types and the differences are illustrated here: Tronex Cutter Selection Guide
Lindstrom is another quality brand that was the top choice for jewelry makers for many years. They were once made with a box joint, but have since switched to a lap joint, and insist that their testing confirms this re-engineered joint proves itself to be longest lasting. They offer a tool sharpening service, which really helps to extend that cutting edge for years. Their tools are available in both standard and ergo handles. Replacement springs are available for both style handles.
When you purchase a high quality tool, there are some guidelines for their permanence in your toolbox.
Craft tooling comes in a number of different material, quality, and price grades. We generally recommend a box-joint craft tool, as they represent a very decent quality and great value - usually less than $10 per tool. Picking a box joint construction will automatically avoid the top three frustrations with cheap lap joint tooling: cutters not lining up, round-nose pliers twisting, and loose tools that don't produce repeatable results. A box joint tool is also usually made out of a steel that is a step up in quality, and usually goes through a more thorough quality control process, so your odds of getting a bad one out of the box are much lower.
There is a place for those $1.99 tools. They are great for classroom or birthday party use, or taking with you when you are sharing during an event or party - places where the tools may be misused or where you might not get them back.