Friday, July 29, 2011

Defining Jewelry

Defining jewelry is something that came up unexpectedly in the middle of a discussion on shipping in the artisan community.  This discussion came about due to the shipping restrictions involved in shipping jewelry international.  The argument was that if packages were marked costume jewelry and didn't contain diamonds rubies, gold or sterling silver the restrictions didn't apply because the items were not considered "fine" jewelry.  This sent me on a search to define jewelry, which isn't as easy as it sounds.  Jewelry or Jewellry or Jewelery depeding on where you live or what source you learned to spell it has a long and rich history in the human race of varying designs.

According to what I found jewelry is defined as any object worn for personal adornment.  Manifesting itself in the form of rings, bracelet, head pieces, necklaces, tie tacks or cuff links.  There is also no indication anywhere that I can find that the definition of jewelry is limited to what is now referred to in the United States as fine jewelry.

Types of jewelry in history were affected by location, cultural tradition, and availability of materials.  While we do not have the same restrictions to availability today of materials, we do still have the denoting of class by types of jewelry worn.  

Through out history there are examples of jewelry and loose gemstones being utilized as currency.  However, there is a misnomer portrayed by Hollywood that these only include pieces created with diamonds, emeralds, rubies and such.   Gemstones such as tiger's eye, lapis lazuli, garnets, and amethyst have been shown to play predominant roles throughout history both as adornment and currency.

Styles didn't come into play until the 1930's near as I can find in my research.  In America the phrase "Costume Jewelry" was coined in the 1930's.   Costume jewelry is defined as being designed to wear with current fashion trends and set to outdate itself.  Made out of false materials, such as plastic and synthetic stones  and designed to be a disposable item only to be worn with one specific type of outfit.

"Fine Jewelry" in the United States is considered to be jewelry that would be a keepsake, investment or a collectible.  There is a general assumption that fine jewelry is real gold, sterling silver, rubies, diamonds, and the such.  I could find no solid information that this is a valid classification.

"Art Jewelry" which came about in the 19th century with the revolutionizing of jewelry designs by Rene Lalique implemented emphasis on imagination in design over expense of materials without sacrificing quality.  Today you can find  art jewelry sold in regular jewelry stores, it is no longer a niche market.  It was helped to the forefront in the 1960's and 1970's when the German Government decided to back and support modern jewelry designers.  And a new market was born.

Which brings us to that which is nearest and dearest to us here at Entwined Vines Jewelry, the designation handmade jewelry.  According to what I could find here in the United States the FTC guidelines require that the work be made solely by hand guidance or power.  Beyond that it can be created from any material that can be or would be considered jewelry.  Each item we make is our design and created and completed by hand. 

However, beyond the FTC guidelines I could find no other categorization for Artistic Handmade Jewelry.  What this tells me is that artisan's like us have a unique niche in the market, we are making our mark in history and with time will have a unique classification in history.  It is exciting to be doing something we love that is going to be a footnote in history.

All I know for sure though is that each piece of jewelry is personal to both the creator and the eventual owner of each piece we design and create.  Nothing we make can be considered costume jewelry and eventually each piece will find its way into the hands of the person it was meant for.

What is your take on it?  Do you think that the classification of jewelry matters?  Or have we finally reached a point in society where it is more important to wear what is personal and appeals to us?


scarletleonard said...

Very interesting.

I've heard no end if terms for classifying jewellery. And being on the other side of the pond some terms mean different things.

Art jewellery is more the high fashion type those things that no-one would actually wear but is very intricate and beautiful.
Costume jewellery is very much the same.
Artisan jewellery is jewellery made by a skilled artisan.
Handmade jewellery is seen as a few people buying a few bits to make costume jewellery.
Fine jewellery is fine silver and 24kt gold with specialist cut gemstones.

Yet no matter how you classify jewellery someone is always going to have a different view.

Entwined Vines Jewelry said...

Nice to hear from the other side of the pond. You broke it down even further which is interesting.

You are absolutely correct in that everyone is going to have a differnce of opinion. Which is good it keeps life interesting.