Hi again! Chelsea here. Jewelry making and collecting is a multifaceted world that most people have been a part of at some point in their life. Recently I realized that I have started a small jewelry collection of handcrafted pieces from other artists, which is quite an exciting realization for a metalsmith. I realized that I have been curating, or intentionally piecing together, a small collection of handcrafted jewelry. This had me thinking about what it is that makes us want to collect pieces from artists. Is it that sparkle that jewelry always seem to have? Is it a connection to the artist? These are things that I have been considering the reasons why we collect jewelry. I even went to my Facebook friends in my quest to answer this question. You are probably thinking, “well Chelsea, what a simple question to ask. Who doesn’t enjoy a small gift?” But this question intrigues me, so we are going to get into it!
In the lifecycle of jewelry collections, artists and jewelry suppliers both have important roles. Collectors eventually curate a growing collection of jewelry deserving of recognition and metalsmiths and jewelry suppliers are at the beginning of this. These jewelry items have stories – they may be a trade between artists, were gifts from a loved one, or a treat to one’s self. These handcrafted, artisan made pieces are collected for numerous reasons and are given a story by the individual wearing the piece. Jewelry galleries often have a special role in the life of jewelry as well. We are given a glimpse into the life story of the collector.
The Jewelry Supplier’s Unique Role
Within 10 minutes of being at 3WJ today, a man came in asking about engagement ring options for his fiancee. His nervous excitement about his purchase was evident as Mollie discussed the possibilities with our curious customer. How lucky are we, as a jewelry gallery, that we were a part of such an important part of this man’s continuing story with his future partner in crime. Jewelry can be such an intimate, personal experience. I was reading an article the other day by Marketing specialist, Jim Ackerman, that talked about how jewelry stores have a special place in the world because they are able to experience purchases that are often times emotional experiences for the buyers. How true is that! Yet again, another reason why I love working in jewelry and metalsmithing.
The Most Important Player
As you read before, the artist and jewelry suppliers have unique roles in the life cycle of jewelry. The most important role however, is that of the jewelry collectors. Jewelry collectors may be gallery owners or the average person who simply enjoys handcrafted jewelry pieces, but without the individuals who appreciate handcrafted pieces, there would be no jewelry business. I have been asking friends on Facebook why and how they collect jewelry and some interesting things came up! Many people seem to collect jewelry in order to remember an event or an experience, such as traveling due to the size and practical wearability. Others seem to collect specific pieces of jewelry – earrings, brooches, statement pieces or rings. In my Facebook survey I asked friends why they collect jewelry. A friend of mine, Frida Chametz, is an Artist and Architect based out of California. She has been collecting jewelry for years and was taught by her mother how to invest in jewelry that has meaning. Frida responded to my question,
…Why specifically jewelry? Jewelry is – 1. Small, 2. Valuable, 3. Practical (because it is usable), 4. Something you would actually see and enjoy everyday – everyone loves beauty, huh?
I totally agree. I think that the practical aspect of jewelry is huge! I think that traditionally many people have often gifted jewelry to each other due to the precious materials included in it, but jewelry is quite practical as a gift because of it’s size. Because of jewelry’s wearability, it is a constant reminder of an experience or of another person. Handcrafted jewelry collector, Sarah Enwald said,
It’s an intuitive, personal response to a piece or pieces. Sometimes I find an artist I like and will go back to them. I like to find unique pieces that stand out, but also through the passage of time, become associated with me.
Finding an artist that you really like, and then going back to their work as a part of your collection is a key way to connect with makers as a collector. I think that a reason that many people collect jewelry is because it is a way to appreciate a slower way of living. “Handmade” is the way to go. One jewelry collector said that she purchases pieces that have to do with her interest in helping people, so she purchases jewelry through a Fair Trade company. A metalsmithing friend, Dew Humbert III, collects all kinds of art, but mostly collects brooches in support of other makers and to remember them. Humbert III said,
I find brooches to be extremely intriguing for their ability to be be more creative expressions of work compared to other jewelry forms. Anything can be a brooch and I’m interested in what a person does with all of that possibility.
Artists have a different perspective often times as to why they collect jewelry pieces, and this is an interesting perspective as to why a specific type of jewelry piece may be desirable over another to an artist. Dew is known for initiating trades amongst artist friends, which is another reason why many people collect jewelry.
My Thoughts on Collecting
In my collection, there are timeless pieces I have inherited, jewelry that I purchased on a whim that caught my eye, or in more recent years, more intentional purchases that I appreciate more. I often collect jewelry from artists that I have had a personal connection with or have found inspiring. Basha Harris is a local metalsmith who I went to school with and is someone who I find inspiring in how she not only works with art, but also works in the community. Harris has had a special influence on my early life as an artist, so without hesitation, I invested in pair of her sterling silver silver earrings. I have a pair of black, steel studs from artist Maia Leppo as well. Maia is an artist that I met briefly at the ZOOM Symposium in 2016 and I fell in love with the simple shapes and quirky, cool feel of the designs. My most recent jewelry investment was a pair of earrings from Laura Wood Studios. I was able to take a workshop at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts with Woods and was quite taken with not only the artist, but also the artwork. These are some of the pieces that I invested in intentionally due to the quality, love for the jewelry pieces, and appreciation of the artists. I collect because of personal relationships built with an artist, the feeling I get when wearing the piece, and the desire to support artists who inspire me as a maker.
Jewelry is Universal
In conclusion, I think that jewelry is an experience that is universally felt by many people. It is something that is personal. I do not think that there is one reason why people collect jewelry, but many. I think that jewelry is something that people collect that really does enrich our lives. It is clear through my interviews that people have different reasons for collecting – some for remembering a memory, some for the craft that they see within the artwork, others because of the personal style statements, and more. As a metalsmith working in a jewelry store, I see how fortunate we are to be a part of these experiences for many people.