Thursday, October 21, 2010


buy my love
Photo "Buy My Love" by Plzy

Have you ever noticed that there seem to be many different interpretations of the word jewelry? In fact- not only are there interpretations, there are knock-down drag out fights about it! They say It's only jewelry if it's forged- AND it must be entirely made by hand- that includes clasps, headpins and chains, so don't even think about it Betty Beader!

Seriously people- come on. Webster's says jewelry is:

jewels; especially : objects of precious metal often set with gems and worn for personal adornment

Please note that it doesn't say it has to be precious metal, and set with jewels. It just says especially. As in, other ways are just as valid. So if Miss Betty Beader makes jewelry from fishing line, silver tone charms, and wool beads- more power to her!

Is there a difference between that piece and something I may make with forged 18k gold and diamonds? Well of course. They are two entirely different skill sets, and are created for entirely different audiences. But they are both jewelry, and Betty and I can both be termed jewelry makers.

Can we both be called jewelers? Um. Back to Webster's, which says a jeweler is:

1 : one who makes or repairs jewelry
2 : one who deals in jewelry, precious stones, watches, and usually silverware and china

Seems like yes, doesn't it? Here's where public opinion comes into play. Public opinion says "No". Ask ten people what they say a jeweler is and 8 out of ten will say someone who makes jewelry out of precious metals set with gemstones. The other two are more jewelry creators, and they work in beads, so their definition is a bit more elastic. Something like, "Something that you can wear that's hand made, usually out if metal, but not an article of clothing." But even these people, when given the chance to choose, will point to something with precious metals and gemstones as "real jewelry".

So you see the problem. Most people won't consider beads or unusual materials as something a "jeweler" will use. In fact, I've talked to groups of jewelry makers, and invariably we all talk about what we're making, like craftspeople do, right? Except when it's my turn, they all go a little bit quiet, and someone will say "Oh, you're a real jeweler." Every. Single. Time.

Even jewelry makers don't agree on what jewelry and jewelers are!

Now I'm not saying that what Betty Beader and I make are the same, or that they're classified the same way. Or even that they should be classified the same way. But it bothers me that what seems like the majority of beaders seem to think that what they make is somehow not "real". Each and every one of us is making something. Something amazing to our sense of beauty. What could be lesser about that?!

In point of fact, I don't introduce myself as a jeweler. I think the term is misleading, worn out, and overused. I'm an Art Metalsmith who specializes in Jewelry. Period. Now that's a little long, for ordinary conversation, so I usually say I'm a Metalsmith. Which is a term that is hardly ever used, so when they look askance at me, I can say I forge silver and gold with gemstone accents. Usually this is enforced by pointing to whatever piece I'm wearing that day. This gives them a very clear idea about who I am and what I do- as well as NOT enforcing the jeweler stereotype.

Which can only be good.

Now, even though I know I'm standing on the edge of a precipice here- what do you guys think? Am I right? What do these terms mean to you?

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