Just wondering, having looked at a lot of Art jewellery and yes some
of it is well made and sometimes it can be worn. Sometimes the Artist
statements don't sound like a Cool Aid acid test. Google that young
But so much of it is not even of apprentice level construction. I am
not talking about people learning. But gallery exhibitors etc.
I wonder if the average Art jeweller was given specific parameters
to work with could they do it? Say set a 7 mm round faceted stone in
a bezel setting ring size say P. In 18 kt. Say 4 mm by 2 mm half
round shank. Bezel wall.7 mm thick. Tube setting.
Now this is a very basic design and second (maybe first) year
Would the solder joins be minimal? No wider than a hair. In 18 kt
should be invisible.
Would the stone be squared and level? Does the stone sit well on the
bezel seat? Seat needs to be cut.
Would the tubes fit perfectly, no gaps?
Would the inner bezel tube be brightly polished?
Would the join of the shank to the bezel be crisp and clean?
Would the ring be round?
Would the base of the bezel match the curve of the shank?
Would the bezel be right down on the stone? .7 mm needs to be hammer
Would the inner edge of the bezel be bright cut or burnished?
Depends on final design required.
Would the top edge of the bezel be even?
Would it be polished so when louped there would be no marks at all
on the ring? This is 18 kt.
Would the fineness mark be clearly stamped?
Would the inside edge of the shank be filed to make the ring slide
on easily and no sharp edge?
Would the bottom of the bezel be smooth? Finally is it size P?
Probably there could be more questions asked about quality.
If you can't do this very simple ring and you exhibit in galleries
then best to stay with "It's supposed to look like that." AKA can't
actually make classic or quality jewellery. Mastering these basic
skills is hard work and takes time. But if you can do this then like
the original abstract artists who mastered the classic skills, you
can extend design parameters and make quality. I made 500 of these
rings before they were trade quality. Six months of very hard work.
Sold all the rings I made as the public were not well educated here
in Australia 25 years ago. I needed the money and they were rock
bottom prices. They were well polished and better than the cheap
Too many rush through training and practise and so never get to
trade quality. In my old age it takes me an hour and a half to two
hours to make one of these in sterling. In 18 kt I take 3 hours. Why
longer in 18 kt? Stone is serious dollars so everything is done
wonder what others think?
all the best
LOVE this post, Richard.
I like parameters and checklists. Very helpful. You are so awesome to
post such helpful things!
in my post on Art jewellery forgot to pose the question.
"Is the bezel in the centre of the shank?" I have a really neat 150
cm ruler that on one side has 0 in the middle and cms and mms
graduating outward. Put 0 on middle of shank and look at bezel to see
even both sides. Can't remember where I got it. Tool suppliers I
all the best
Living here in Madison WI I see way too much "Art" Jewelry. Most of
it is pretty bad. I had to spend a couple of weeks going back and
forth visiting afamily member in the hospital earlier this year
(He's fine now). In one ofthe display cases outside of the gift shop
was some jewelry by some of thegraduates of the Jewelry Metals
program at the local University. My wife would grab my arm and
hustle me past every night because it made my blood boil!
One silver and pearl pendant was priced at over $100.00 usd and was
so poorly made it should have never been displayed. 1. Lets not talk
about the file marks left after polishing (Which was hap-hazard at
best). 2. When forging silver wire, you should not use a hammer that
has the face all scarred up. 3. Sterling work hardens so when you
bend the forged parts back and forth, it will leave waves that are
visible and should be removed so both sides look the same. 4.
Proportion and ratio's. Enough said.5. When you rivet the two silver
parts to the pearl, remember the rivet ends should both be peened
and then cleaned up. NOT one end peened and the other end left as is
when it bends over because you used too long a wire.
I have seen work by high school students that looked better. If they
were working with me, I would give them an "A" for the effort and
then had them take it apart and we would make a list of what needed
to be done to make it better. And then they would remake it until
they understood how to doevery manufacturing process with the same
attention to detail so it would fly off of the shelf. But "Art" is
about your message, it has nothing to do with "Quality" or
"Workmanship". Or so I am told quite often.
Gerald A. Livings
I am struggling with the concept of "art jewelry" and the derision
that it has received recently on orchid. I have worked in precious
metal for forty years, I am self taught and have no formal training,
other than that which my father gave me. I have been able to make a
good living as a teacher and school administrator and, as a result,
have never had to rely on my jewelry work to make my living. When I
retired five years ago and became a full time whatever I am, I had to
figure out what that is. I decided that I am a precious metal and
lapidary artist. I know that I am not a crafter nor a bead stringer.
I am also not a bench jeweler and never would like to be one. While
the skill level is intense for a bench jeweler, and I have many of
those skills, the work environment just doesn't interest me. I do not
work to strict industry dimensions, standards and work processes, yet
I make pieces that are well made, well designed, thoughtful and well
engineered, and pieces that are made to be worn safely and with
pride. The only word that I could accept that describes what I do is
"artist". To me the term "artist" implies a creative process applied
within the constraints of a particular medium or craft. While the
term "artist" lacks the strict parameters of a bench jeweler, it does
not exclude the ability to create new and exciting pieces which, for
me, have to be well made and include the quality that the typical
bench jeweler would apply to any piece that comes across his or her
bench. I recently was asked to consign some of my more traditional
pieces to an upscale shop just outside of New York City. The owner,
who is also a fairly accomplished artist, appreciated my level of
skill and the detail and care that I bring to my work (these are her
words). After several months it became clear that my work would not
move in her shop. When asked why, the answer I got was that it was
too well finished. The market apparently wanted pieces that looked
"rugged" "masculine" and "unfinished". I told her that I could apply
a rugged, masculine, unfinished look, but only after finishing my
work the way that I have learned to finish it and that doesn't make
sense to me. I have been many things in my life, most of which I am
very proud to have been. Towards the top of the list after, husband,
father, and teacher, is artist and then jeweler. As an artist, I will
always try to make jewelry that is well made and not just what can be
sold to a particular market at a particular time. Orchid always
causes me to think, question and learn. I am in awe of the work that
many of you do regardless of what you call yourself. Thanks. Rob
I am a product of the academic jewelry group, having done the usual
BFA and MFA in metals. However, I was taught to get a good finish on
metaland make sure I do a proper job. However, I suspect a lot of my
undergrad classmates simply didn't want to go all the way to a
finished piece, so they would sandblast their pieces, dip in M22 (a
black patina) waxit, and show at critiques. I was so tired of seeing
all black metalwork that it has taken me over 20 years to get around
to patining my work. One funny aspect is that my work was too
finished and people were askingme to please do the hammer marks.
They were paying me to hammer my work. Now, I just planish all my
work and leave the planished marks. However, I do it carefully, and
I do not like sloppy hammering which I see too often everywhere.
Planishing and forging are skills that takes yearsto develop that
I roll my eyes at the work I see in Metalsmith magazine, in the
books ofart jewelry out there. Guess some of us who care are the
I do not work to strict industry dimensions, standards and work
processes, yet I make pieces that are well made, well designed,
thoughtful and well engineered, and pieces that are made to be worn
safely and with pride. The only word that I could accept that
describes what I do is "artist". To me the term "artist" implies a
creative process applied within the constraints of a particular
medium or craft.
think you are living in the past with this, your work is of the
highest quality. And your designs are wearable. This is not what the
"Art Jewellery" discussion is about. Today your above paragraph is
irrelevant. How sad, because once it was very true.
Check out Rob's site if you want to see jewellery that is so far
beyond today's average "Art Jeweller" they should hide in shame.
All the best
Hi Gerald and others
I would give them an "A" for the effort and then had them take it
apart and we would make a list of what needed to be done to make it
better. And then they would remake it until they understood how to
doevery manufacturing process with the same attention to detail so
it would fly off of the shelf.
I was told this a couple of times at school, you learn to do it the
But "Art" is about your message, it has nothing to do with
"Quality" or "Workmanship". Or so I am told quite often.
yes just an excuse for poor training. Wonder what Lalique and others
of his level would say about this "Art Jewellery"?
At my son's high school graduation diner there was a display of
students' work one was a jewellery display with some bead work.
How sad so badly made it was just rubbish. A case of the emperor has
no clothes. But some teacher had ticked all the boxes and so the
student passed. Why did he not tell the girl it was just rubbish and
make her do it properly. I know the kid and she could have done a
At one school I worked at I was supposed to teach jewellery the next
year, I had 15 years in the trade. The class went to an Art teacher
who had done a weekend course in blacksmith. The kids showed me
there work and I told them how bad it was, not happy kids.
The principal had "a little chat to me" I told him straight up the
Art teacher had broken ever OH&S rule and had the kids make nothing
Showed him some of my work and said the kids could be doing this,
but you played politics with the Art department. See you later, moved
Had a good look at the industrial arts syllabus last week they start
metal work with "Art Metals" would not have a clue.
Then move on to jewellery. Want to pack 2 years of training in 200
hours. LOL. No wonder the trade is dying.
My kids at school learn how to do it professionally. Basics sawing
filing soldering sanding and then polishing.
Nothing fancy, but guess what their jewellery sells to the public.
all the best
Richard. Thanks for your kind words regarding my work. One of my
biggest disappointments was not going to art school. I discovered
this shortcoming long after I did go to college. What I really want
is to learn how to draw or illustrate. While I have drawn all of my
life, I have never really developed it. I guess that I am an artist
who draws in metal. I know the types of pieces that you speak of
when you talk about "Art Jewelry" and I try to educate people about
the shortcomings in these pieces. It is very difficult when there is
a marketing engine running at high speed convincing them otherwise.
Luckily, I inherited a seventy year old tradition from my father of
people buying our type of jewelry. As a result, I don't want for
customers. At the age of 65 I am still driven by curiosity and the
need to learn, try new materials and tools, and to see how they
change my "art". Since I live and work in relative isolation, orchid
helps me to stay connected to our shared world. Thanks. Rob
I think, and it is just me thinking...(dangerous) Too much emphasis
is put on making "art jewelry" Not so much by those who buy, but our
While at the Appalachian center for crafts, we had a critique on our
project. Now I was not typical as a student being older. The
youngsters as I call them were all proud of their interpretation of
Not one of them would I have given a cent for. It was the typical
cerebral thought out stuff that was supposed to have greater meaning
and relate to the people in general about their life's condition.
One was a small bed frame made out of misshapen wire lengths that
had just been cut up and roughly soldered together. Around the part
that would be where a person would lie down, small bits of barb wire
were woven. It was meant to be an image of a woman in the universe.
The girl who made it was excited about it. She was going to enter it
into a competition once she attached it to a bracelet.
When my turn came around, I had made a pendant, and spent hours just
on the polishing and stone setting. No one but the girl commented on
it. She said my piece had no meaning and it looked too commercial
like it would sell. Bob Coogan the professor made the comment, "and
what is wrong with that?"
In all the art classes, we are given assignments and it is up to us
to interpret them. Some teachers want us to stretch and think beyond
the box, and want ideas rather than good work. My son and I took a
sculpture class together. The first assignment was to make a
sculpture starting with a mold from a body part. Tim used his hand. I
used my face as a mask. The teacher showed us all sorts of slides
about what I called fru fru pieces with beads, feathers and other
dood dads as adornments. At no time did she say we had to add such
things to our work. At the critique I showed my piece. I attached the
face shield like piece to a a long length of die cut steel, then to a
scrap of wood. Painted it all black, then with white paint made it
look like a domino. Others had made faces as well, and they all had
the featers and other such costume bling attached. They did not do
anything inventive, but copied the slides. They all got A's on their
projects. I got a D- for not adding feathers.
Our next project was taking four different types of wood and
creating at least a 4 foot sculpture. No slides. Since i had not
added enough to my first sculpture, I was going to make sure this
time I overwhelmed it. I used round dowels in different sizes, found
square dowel like boards, old rail road ties, a piece of a tree
The ties I cut into four and sued copper wire (2 gauge) to wrap
around it and hold it together around the tree stump, The the dowels.
I cut them into 1/4 inche pieces. I ended up with over 1200 pieces of
Each of those I drilled two holes. Then using 26 gauge copper wire,
threaded them all into long strands. These strands I attached to the
base, and made them look like long tentacles. It took over a week to
do and I worked on it for about 8 hours a day. My son just slapped
his wood together and called it burning man. He wanted to light it on
fire in the parking lot.
At the critique. I kept mine covered with a cloth until the teacher
got to me. She loved it. Went on about how wonderful the execution
was. Then she made the mistake of asking me what I called it. I had
named it hemaroid. "It was a lot of work, but in the end it was
nothing but crap." I got my A on that one.
Art is subjective. Workmanship/craftmanship should not be thrown
away in the search for art. Just my opinion.
Aggie the producer of crap.
I am struggling with the concept of "art jewelry" and the derision
that it has received recently on orchid.
Well, Rob, sounds like you're doing just fine. The thing about this
thread - again, it's not a new topic - is that there ain't no such
animal as "art jewelry".
Theterm "art jewelry" was coined basically as a derisive term in
itself sopeople can say "I'm an artist and you are not." Fact is
that jewelry is either art or it's not - all of it, that is. It's
like you, yourself, say, "I am not a bench jeweler........" Of
course you are a bench jeweler - you make jewelry and you sit at a
bench to do it. All of these things are ultimately just about ego
and vanity. If I were to say that most gallery jewelry should more
accurately be called fashion jewelry, which is true, then all these
people will set out to crucify me. I said once thatit could
accurately be called folk jewelry and someone got real huffy about
that, here on Orchid. But it's actually also true when you
understand the hierarchy of the industry and don't take terminology
Fact is, right now someone is making a little gizmatchie that will
go into a little plastic capsule and a kid'll put a dime in a
machine and get that capsule. That person is an artist. Somebody at
the Franklin Mint is making the cutest little dog thingie, and
someone else at Hummel is doing the same. They are artists, too.
Maybe you like what they are making, maybe you don't, all I know is
nobody asked ME. The thing is, we just don't get to say "that is art
and that is not". We CAN say that this is good jewelry and that is
not because the industry has standards, as does the buying public.
Yes, we here at Donivan & Co. make fine jewelry with gold and
platinum and diamonds and stuff. What did you think, we just sit
around sticking settings on stuff all day? Don't confuse "arty" with
art. Art doesn't need to have drama to exist. John D.
I mean no offense to bench jewelers and of course, I do sit at a
bench to do what I do. I would love the opportunity to apprentice
with someone who has the skill and knowledge of a bench jeweler and
practices daily that which I still want to learn. This list includes
faceted stone setting, engraving, enameling, hollow ware,
blacksmithing, working in metals other than silver and gold, most of
the lapidary world and much more. I know several people who do
contract work for local jewelry stores and I know that I just don't
have the temperament to do what they do all day long. I have tried
small scale manufacturing and don't especially care for it. I get
distracted by other media and creative processes and lose track of
that on which I should be working. For me art is the process of
working in some medium (virtual or physical), applying the processes
that are appropriate to safely manipulate it, and produce something
pleasing, new, different, and of which I can be proud. One of my
greatest joys is to give my work away to someone who appreciates it.
There is room in my definition of art for the work that we call "art
jewelry", I just wish that is was done better and that our customers
better educated about what is good practice regardless of the
medium. Obviously this is always evolving, but it isn't hard to look
at something and know that it is at least finished well.
Unfortunately, In the end, it is the art of making money that drives
much of what we do and are able to sell. I am lucky that I don't
have to rely on my work for my income and I am free to do what I
want to do and take as long as it takes to do it. Since I am new to
orchid, I will take a look back in the archives to see if anything
has changed. Thanks to all who have contributed to this discussion.
It's all Art. some good, some crap, some in between. All Art!
Some Goggled definitions of Art:
1. the expression or application of human creative skill and
imagination,.... producing works to be appreciated primarily for
their beauty or emotional power.
2. the various branches of creative activity...
3. subjects of study primarily concerned with the processes and
products of human creativity and social life...
4. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to
aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more
than ordinary significance.
Who gives a flying damn how anyone titles one's work. if ya wanna
call it Art, call it Art (I do). If you want to call it something
else, do it! If you don't want to call it anything but jewelry, do
I am a studio, art, teaching, writing Jeweler. I make adornment for
the human body, I teach and write about it. That's who I am (mostly)
and what I do. Works for me. Too old to fuss with this anymore.
Tired old subject, isn't it?
I had to give myself some time to reply to this. all the guidelines
made my head spin. lol Yesterday, I was in a little gift shop in
Gulf Shores, AL, looking at the local handmade jewelry. A pretty
seahorse pendant cut from copper had not been filed completely and I
felt the rough edges, thinkinghow it would snag on a sweater or
something knit. Filing down points like that is a drag, but having
jewelry get caught on your clothes is an even bigger drag.
Sometimes, details like that are overlooked if the creator has not
had to deal with that particular issue. Keeping my jewelry smooth
aroundthe edges is an important detail, but depending on the piece
and who its intended for, I overlook other things like invisible
solder lines. It's a matter of personal taste, I guess. I'm not a
fan of sleek, polished, faceted jewelry, whether I make it or buy
it. That being said, I would rather appeal to more than just art
collectors and thinkers, something I learned at my current job.
Still, there is a place for art jewelry that is not functional. I
feel inspired when I see rings which protrude four inches from the
hand or big necklaces with sharp edges, and maybe that's the point.
As far as the artist statement, I only like to have something which
states my materials and the fact that it's all handmade. People are
usually impressedwhen they realize I make my own beads, but can't
figure out what they're made of. Other than that, I don't have any
kind of statement that outlines my feelings or journey, etc.
If I were to say that most gallery jewelry should more accurately
be called fashion jewelry, Now tongue in cheek, I will take you to
task on this statement. I spent years working in fashion jewellery
and it really is crap.
Built in obsolescence and far too expensive.
The best or worst example depending on your point of view. I got
some sequins in leaf shapes and really tacky pastel colours.
Put on on an surgical steel ear wire showed it to my boss a very
sophisticated and savvy lady. Said these cost 5 cents how much in the
shop? $5 she said. I thought LOL never sell. I was young then and so
wrong we sold thousands.
Now that is fashion and crap.
My fashion career had a bad ending, I got a conscience. And could
not longer rip people off.
So learned to make gold and silver with gem stones.
All the best Richard.
Dear Robert and all
I will open with a short statement, been reading this thread for a
while. here is what really needs to be an earring to your ear as the
Armenian saying goes, as in (keep it in mind).
ALL of the masters in painting and sculpture and various other
media, whomever one can think of, lets say Picasso or Van Gaogh
(since majority of people can relate) Had to train and become
unquestionably good at their (craft) before they did or could do what
they achieved."Art Jewelry" falls in the same groove. All art falls
in the same groove my personal history is 30 plus years in the Art
jewelry "business" got the BFA from U of Arts and come from a
goldsmiths/watchmakers family (summer jobs at dads shop at the bench
since 8 years old).
and at no point crappy craftsmenship is accepted hands down, not
open for discussion. but on the other hand Idid go back and worked
and taught at the University and then at a few small art
institutions and museums, and to my dismay till this day I am
amazedat the Disqualifications of the people who are accepted as
teachers in Metals and Jewelery. I would not hire any of them to
even do my remedial tasks (Sanding, filing) in my studio. and they
are teaching, and the students who are coming out of those classes
think they are artists and jewelers etc. when its your first or
second class in metals and the teacher is encouraging you to
melt/burn the crap out of your metal and make it look like ART, make
it look "intentional",is not good for our field, does not make it
art metal or art jewelry. once one has learned and is proficient at
their craft and alchemy of metal then you can go ahead and do the
melting and burning, because then it will show intention and
one of my jobs i worked for a very well known jeweler designer, on
the first or second day, he had me sit down and take a peice of 5x5
cm gold sheet and blast it with my torch as much as I could till it
burned /melted, and said thats how long it takes to mess up, now you
know, go forward and start working.
It takes over 10,000 hours of work at your craft to become a master
at it, so think about that.
there are Some amazing Art Jewelers with work that stops you in your
tracks and makes you think How they did that, or worse stops you and
makes you want to quit because theyare soo good. those are the
people one needs to aspire to.
how many of us know people who consider them selves painters, but
are no where near being artists, nothing creative about Boats and
kitty cat paintings, and they are considered artists in the public
eye. Choose the artists Jewelers around and be inspired by them and
aspire to be so. there are many, in this chat line alone there are
few. if one is going to listen to gallery and store owners, one
would end up painting kitty pictures (equivalent of). in all the
years i been working, the terms, Art Jewelry, craft Vs art or fine
art v fine craft, designer jewelry, fine art jewelry etc. etc. ALL
are a distraction, one needs to push all that aside and get to the
studio/bench and get the work done. for years the argument went" is
it Craft vs fine art " finally one day a while back I realized it is
not my battleor war, one is not going to change their style of work
or body of work just because of titles and arguments by others. move
forward do the work and let history decide, if there is such a
thing. one would be lucky if yourpieces actually survive for future
generations to Judge. just my opinion, Hratch
Atelier Hratch Babikian contemporary Jewelery and sculpture
I mean no offense to bench jewelers and of course
I, for one, took no offense Rob. I wouldn't call myself a bench
jeweler to begin with though. And as Linda said, this is really
tired. I think the root of all of this faux argument is one of
perception. As long as "those people" are clich=ed, then we are OK.
The minute they become living, breathing, talented skilled designers
then we have to actually think and maybe wemeasure up and maybe we
don't. I just chuckle a little because I reallydon't have that
baggage and never have. I'm just John......
Every now and then I like to go to the Basel World website. That is
THE premiere jewelry show in the whole world. I'm going to post some
links below as I find them. I'm not saying they are the best, it's
just what people are doing who are probably "bench jewelers", likely
in Europe. I haven't started yet so it's hard for me to say what will
Well, that's enough - only a quick search of
.Once you step out the door,
the world is big.
Thanks John for clearing the air! My first real exposure to great
art was Michelangelo's Pieta. I saw it at the world's fair in NY in
1964. There was a conveying belt walkway that took you through to
keep the traffic moving. After going through 3 times I got up on the
railing so I could sit and stare (I was only 17), and didn't realize
this was a security effort. The watchman was patient, but eventually
asked me to move. Possibly for this reason I spent the next fifty
years of my life correcting my customers that I was not an artist. I
am a designer/craftsman. I have been told by others occasionally,
that I was not giving myself enough credit, but I get a little sick
also when I have been asked to do the artist statement. I make stuff
because I know no other way. Having gallery owners asking for titles
for my jewelry was a little ridiculous, but it helped sell, so we
(wife and I) played little games when I completed something that was
going to be priced a little high.
What an irony that a term I held with awe should be used to hustle
my baubles first, then to be derisive about it later. In my opinion
there are many artists out there producing beautiful art pieces that
happen to be jewelry. Certainly Tom Herman creates art. There is
content in almost everything I have seen coming from his shop. He
doesn't follow some of the rules being posted here, but art and
excellence are present in everything he does. Pigeonholing everything
you find inferior as "art jewelry" is simply a misnomer. It is a sort
of prejudice that will keep you from stepping out of the box, if you
are careless about using the term. Thomas III
J and JA- Funny you should show European jewelry. Tim and I both
learned our best skills from european trained jewelers. The old guys
used to talk trash about American jewelers and jewelry. Quite frankly
they were right back in those days. 10 and 14 k instead of 18k. White
gold instead of platinum. Cast, especially prongs and clasps, and
mass produced junk. Sure there's now plenty of that world wide. But
still. they were spot on.
I guess that it's now my turn to be the crusty old geezer jeweler
complaining about "Those kids these days. and That's not fine
jewelry that's. Or that's not art, that's dumpster diving and
gluing." Have fun and make lots of jewelry and art.
Please consider the following in this discussion:
1. 1000 Rings published by Lark Books
2. The work of Ramona Solberg, Merry Rank, Margaret De Patta, Fred J.
Woell, Ken Cory, Andrew Cooperman
3. Pay a visit or refer to the websites of:
a. Velvet Da Vinci gallery, San Francisco CA
b. Facere gallery, Seattle WA
In 1974 Larry Van Craeynest said to me that there are many different
types of jewelry. I believed him.
Richard Paul Leaf