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Arts and crafts tradition in silver jewelry


#1

Looking at jewelry history, there seems to be some continuity from
the English Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century to the
American Arts and Crafts that continued into the 1940s and then the
American Studio jewelers of the 40s and 50s.

Much of the jewelry made in these periods was handmade, one-off,
silver with relatively inexpensive cabochons–emphasis on design and
originality rather than intrinsic value.

In the 60s and 70s there was some continuity of these ideas but it
seems to have faded away except perhaps in the case of some of Bjorn
Weckstrom’s work.

Did everyone go upscale into gold and expensive stones? Does anyone
still make one-off silver pieces?

A hundred years from now will anyone be able to find a continuation
of the line from Arts and Crafts to the Studio jewelers and beyond?

If so, who are the currently active artisans?


#2

Look at Metalsmith magazine. There’s a great deal of handmade
original jewelry being made out there.


#3

Hello Bill,

I hesitated about responding to your posting because it seems so
obvious, but here goes. There are scads of studio art jewelers
working in silver and creating one of a kind pieces in many different
styles. Check out the Orchid gallery to see some of this work. Go to
juried art fairs - screen out the beaders, and you will find much
beautiful silver work. Granted, many are now incorporating copper and
brass in some of their work (myself included). Even with the rise in
price, silver is still the metal of choice for many.

Judy in Kansas, where a fox crossed the driveway this morning. I’m
hoping it was a mom with kits and the family will keep the voles and
moles under control.


#4

Bill, there are a lot of artists out there that are making one of
kind silver, silver and gold, silver and just about every thing else.
You just have to know where to look for them. Local arts shows are a
good starting place, not to mention here on orchid. I make a lot of
one of a kind in precious metals using all kinds of stones. You can
see them on my web site at http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep807j


#5

Hi Bill,

I am trying hard to learn to be one of these artisans you are
speaking of. That said, I’m doing this as an unpaid amateur, just to
have something to do after most of the software jobs in this country
have been offshored.

I’m technically unemployed, in actual terms I have inherited
illnesses that no modern employer now wants to deal with so I am on
SSDI.

I think you will find that most of the silver jewelry such as you
have describe has been offshored as well, with the main buyers in
this country being adolescents, young adults, and the bottom 99% of
income earners in general. But you’ll see nothing original even if
the latest ‘bling’ is being trumpeted as such on television.

Now, in craft fairs, gift shops, and other minor venues you may see
such things. But you’ll still find many of the parts or even entire
articles imported rather than made because the minimum wage in this
country would make most hand-made silver articles far too expensive
to buy relative to value of materials.

So yes, I think people have upgraded to gold and gems because that’s
where the current niche is, catering to the upper 1% of income in
the population. Look forward to even this niche disappearing within
the generation, as the 1% loses its sense of style and class and
becomes parvenu to the point where they don’t care how it’s made,
they’re wearing it for status only, not beauty.

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#6

Bill -

I am a jewelry hobbyist with a preference for working in silver. I
buy inexpensive cabachons of all types and bezel set them in silver
to sell them for a reasonable price. All my pieces are handmade and
one off - this is my sales strategy. The market for this type of
jewelry is still there - not all jewelry consumers want gold or
precious stones. I am sure that I am not unique in my approach. I do
think that the proliferation of jewelry making as a hobby has
eclipsed more formal classifications and organizations like the Arts
and Crafts movement or American Studio jewelers.

Sincerely
Andrea Krause


#7

I am here and still working one off in sterling, sometimes I use
precious stones but I also work with the emphasis on the design, I go
back and forth. Sometimes the stone is the star of the show and I
have to step back and provide a stage but other times the design or
new technique drives the work. Please go look at my sites;


http://ganoksin.com/blog/patania-jewelry/
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep807m

My dad was a big influence in my work and was one of the 50’s-70’s
studio artists who was caught up in that movement.

Sam Patania, Tucson


#8

Andrew-

So yes, I think people have upgraded to gold and gems because
that's where the current niche is, catering to the upper 1% of
income in the population. Look forward to even this niche
disappearing within the generation, as the 1% loses its sense of
style and class and becomes parvenu to the point where they don't
care how it's made, they're wearing it for status only, not
beauty.

Good Lord I sure hope they don’t disappear!

I love rich people! They are the ones keeping the local symphonies,
ballet companies, and art museums alive. They buy art and fine
jewelry thus keeping artists and custom jewelers like us employed so
we can make our house payments, send our kids to school, and spend
money on things like locally made beer and the art our friends make.

Our clients are educated and discerning customers who love beautiful
and well made things. We prefer to offer our goods in gold and
platinum because they stand the test of time, are impervious to
chemicals, don’t oxidize, and wear much longer than silver. A silver
ring worn every day will wear out much sooner than gold or platinum.
A plat ring will last two generations. You understand that I was a
liturgical silversmith for years.

I don’t hate silver at all. Love the stuff for certain applications.

The folks who buy for status only are buying “Brands” like Tiffany.
Often in silver. The are paying for the Tiffany stamp inside.
Certainly not the craftsmanship or style.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#9

Another good thing about rich people - I’ve never got a job from a
poor person.

Al Balmer
Pine City, NY


#10
I think you will find that most of the silver jewelry such as you
have describe has been offshored as well, with the main buyers in
this country being adolescents, young adults, and the bottom 99%
of income earners in general. But you'll see nothing original even
if the latest 'bling' is being trumpeted as such on television

The better part of the post quoted above couldn’t be more
misinformed. First, one-off art jewellery isn’t “offshored” it is
fabricated in small to not so small studios by designer
gold/metalsmiths working in whatever their materials of choice for a
given piece dictate, be they precious metals or not or pieces using
no metal and found objects (from Bob Ebendorf to JAR for instance…[
For more on the high end art jeweler JAR here is an article from
Forbes that supports the notion of art jewellery being "off-shored"
but in a more realistic and appropriate context
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep807s).

Arts and crafts “movement” in metals exists in a very wide, vast
range of designer artists making all kinds of work and displaying it
/marketing it in all kinds of venues from juried shows to buyers
markets, some doing a circuit of artisan oriented shows to arts and
craft ‘fairs’ (beaders excluded) that cater to a market that has
income to spend to either stock their stores if reselling one-off
pieces, to collecting the work of favourite “brands” like the work of
Marianne Hunter, Elisabeth Gaultieri/Zaffiro, Andy Cooperman,
Abrasha, Patsy Croft, etc.

As for the “main buyers” in I presume the USA, is where the poster
lives, he couldn’t be more wrong: designer jewelers I know rarely
get adolescents in their studios or calling to have commissioned
pieces made When a designer maker gets 3500 bucks US for a pair of
relatively small, sometimes all silver enamelled earrings I hardly
think they consider their market of young adults and other than the
super wealthy the bottom 99%.In fact that statistic is just plain
wrong:Silver or mixed metal arts and crafts movement continuum
jewellery is exactly what is sought by those young adults that have
realised life beyond a mall.

And for the record, adolescents, teens and young adults are the
largest groups of on-line buyers and the single largest group with
the most disposable income having no rents to pay, living at home, no
insurables to pay for, and making their own "spending money"the
under 21 set still considered dependants on their parents tax
surrenders. the next age group that may have some practical life
bills also spends more in e-commerce and in brick and mortar stores
than other groups for “adornment”…as a mass, not singling out the
super wealthy few.

The mass market garbage that is cranked out in China, from stones cut
in India and secondarily in China and sold on home shopping networks
isn’t arts and crafts inspired, one off, nor being marketed to a
young age group. More correctly to the 40-65 year old age group with
some income to spend, some credit, and certainly not the bottom 99%.
Marketing aside, it isn’t the silver jewelery the poster is referring
to: not one-off, not a thing to do with arts and crafts inspired
pieces and by its nature couldn’t be sent offshore for reasons beyond
simply it misses the point of artisan made jewelry, but would not be
cost effective and even if the work were a small contract cast
production run, we’re talking about a nominal charge for the contract
work (for instance a ring cast by Hoover and Strong of a moderate
weight may cost the designer 6-15 dollars for a single piece, and
that would be mailed to and from the State of Virginia!).

I hope the poster asking the question will recognise the difference
in speaking to the form that the different perspectives presented in
this forum represent. In my opinion the person that posted the
comment quoted above has no idea what you were talking about relative
to the arts and crafts movement as it is today, nor what it has
evolved intbut it should be clear that I completely disagree with
that post. rer


#11

Bill, my wife and I, do our own lapidary and metal work and our
business, is growing slowly. We are doing little to promote our work,
although we have a facebook page, we have not been putting anything
up for sale on it, as we are having a hard time keeping our inventory
up. Right now, I have 5 commissions and do not know how many my wife
is working on. I am looking forward to retiring, so that I can spend
more time creating.

Also, I believe the beaders are just pushing us towards more sales
of our metal works.

Keep working and you will find that, when you make something and you
like it someone else will too, and it will sell if you have it
reasonably priced.

Having fun, is the most important part!
Dave Leininger


#12

If you could give a genre name to silver jewelry of the current
time, what would you call it?

Also, could you identify a few influential designers/makers of this
style?


#13
Our clients are educated and discerning customers who love
beautiful nd well made things. We prefer to offer our goods in
gold and platinum because they stand the test of time, are
impervious to chemicals, don't oxidize, and wear much longer than
silver. A silver ring worn every day will wear out much sooner
than gold or platinum. A plat ring will last two generations. You
understand that I was a liturgical silversmith for years. 

It’s the younger generation you need to be looking at. They will be
educated far more than media by their parents. They won’t have a
classical education in high school like their parents, because public
schools now cater to the fastest speed of the slowest student.

College might have originally once been meant to provide a liberal
education meant to develop the young adult into a more well-rounded
human being, but I haven’t heard of any soft studies major being
hired as anything but a barista, unless you’re from the Ivy League
with a 3.8 average or higher.

Your clients, our generation, may well be your favorite customers but
as they age and pass on they will leave behind children with no sense
of appreciation for art or fine things for their own sake.

I’d LIKE to learn to be a goldsmith, but silver is all I can afford.
And I know that learning by myself silver will be all I can use for
the rest of my life, as my skill level will never merit the use of
gold, unless I am very very, very, lucky. I don’t mind silver at all.
I can understand why it costs so much, it’s a wonderful substance to
play with: you can make it as hard or as soft as you want.

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#14
If you could give a genre name to silver jewelry of the current
time, what would you call it? 

Designer craftsmen

Mary Lee Hu


#15
A hundred years from now will anyone be able to find a
continuation of theline from Arts and Crafts to the Studio
jewelers and beyond? 

I think that your question has an obvious answer. Also, I think that
your letter shows why you don’t already see the answer. You said,
“Did everyonego upscale into gold and expensive stones? Does anyone
still make one-off silver pieces?”. I think that the answer is that
the continuation of the Arts and Crafts movement is in gold and more
expensive stones. The reason for this is economics.

Personally, I don’t work in gold and more expensive stones yet. I
make a piece in silver with cabochons which I cut and polish myself
about once every two weeks. I spend about 4 hours on each one. They
are worth about $250each retail. If I sold them through a gallery, I
would be making less than $25 per hour.

In the next step, I will add a small amount of gold and 10 point
diamonds. The value will go to about $400 each, retail. Still about
4 hours each, Iwill be making about $40 per hour.

So… The Arts and Crafts ethic continues, but economics pushes it
into gold and more expensive stones.

I know that the roots of the Arts and Crafts movement was in simple
craftsmen making items to be purchased by middle class people for
everyday use. Today people want to live in houses with indoor
plumbing and electricity. They want to own cars, have medical
coverage and see their children in college. I am not trying to sell
my work yet. I am making student pieces for my personal education.
When I retire, I will start my second career and at that point, I
will have migrated to gold and more expensive stones.

The Arts and Crafts movement marches on.


#16

Bill,

another couple of thoughts (and I wasn’t going to respond at all in
the first place!)…When you put the idea of continuity between the
arts and crafts movement from its beginning to the mid 20th c.
creative people engaged in creative pursuits -as a livelihood - were
experiencing a new freedom to go beyond the constraints put on them
from females still being forced to wear only dresses on campuses as
they got their MFA’s to ceramicists being allowed to bring in their
own clays often dug locally instead of using what the universities
ordered, and woodworkers having access to rare and exotic woods as
well as indigenous species not seen in the pieces turned out in the
early 1900’s and newly developed materials developed by chemical
companies that allowed design to evolve though still part of the
arts and crafts continuum. Then once graduated from Universities and
design schools and beginning in businesses where one’s income and
quality of life directly correlated to what they could produce and
the reputation they developed (before or at the dawn of our current
concept of ‘branding’) word-of-mouth was still the most effective way
to gain acceptability in retail markets (as wholesalers of one off
work) or in garnering commissions from both corporate and individual
clients and local networks of design professionals (that were
somewhat closed groups and dominated by gay men in the 60’s and
70’s). The personal nature of a ‘movement’ as part of a continuum
was at its core. That has now evolved out of the movement when
revolution and counter-culture allowed artists and artisans to push
the ticket, so-to-speak, and use materials as a statement in speaking
to the form, whereas the form was the impetus that propelled artisans
before then.

You also have to remember silver was a choice as more people were
appreciating it purely for the colour - white gold being delegated
back then almost exclusively to bridal jewellery and having a greyer
appearance than fine or sterling silver. Also the price of gold was
still quite inexpensive relative to the cost of having custom made
jewellery commissioned. Yellow gold was just becoming out of style
in the 60’s and 70’s, though many art jeweler’s were beginning to
incorporatie high karat golds as a trademark of their design
aesthetic that again ’ pushed the envelope’ into being able to
command a higher price because of the perceived value and expanded
the target markets/audiences that artisan business owners were
reaching whilst venues for marketing one-off art and craft met the
"show circuit" that was developing mid century into what it
represents in sales today.

A good book you may want to check out is Tait’s “7000 Years of
Jewelry”. Its a good examination of the history of jewellery (not so
much about making it) that I think is essential to anyone’s library
of Jewelery related titles involved in studying the subject.

Hope this helps. rer.


#17
In my opinion the person that posted the comment quoted above has
no idea what you were talking about relative to the arts and
crafts movement as it is today, nor what it has evolved intbut it
should be clear that I completely disagree with that post. rer 

“Don’t know much about history.”… true 'nuff.

But my wife and I lived near a reservation near Gallup for five
years. While I was learning basic skills by poking my head into
supply stores and asking lots of questions, I noticed at least one
room where Dine’ artisans were making “one-off” jewelry in the most
crowded and squalid conditions possible.

Through most of the stores in Gallup where I saw such jewelry sold,
the prices were all rock-bottom or near so simply due to the
saturation of the local market.

Also, I remember reading local news articles about fake turquoise and
even imitation Native jewelery being imported from overseas, making
the situation even worse.

Effectively, folks, the Navajo Nation compared as a sovereign entity
with respect to most other countries is a Third World economy in its
own right. (Baa shini!)

So now you have a local laboratory where you can see first hand
exactly what I am talking about, where the inhabitants earn roughly
$1 per day. THAT is going to be the future of one-off silver
jewelery, if it is not already.

It’s no surprise for me to see Africa, Pakistan, Mexico, and China
chipping away at the bottom end of handicrafts in general, and there
is no stopping them from doing so for silver handicrafting in
general.

I KNOW what I am talking about, at least in a local sense if not a
historical one, about the off-shoring of one-off silver jewelery,
because we are ALREADY offshoring to a Native Territory.

I’ve got the dust of my boots on the ground to prove it.

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#18

Actually we have plenty of young clients and most of our young
clients are getting wedding/engagement rings and baby birthing
presents. Mostly in platinum. My son called the necklace we made for
his wife on the birth of their daughter as the “push prize”:slight_smile:

There are young people out there who have plenty of money and a good
education. They seem to go hand in hand. Think computer geeks, trust
fund kids, medical professionals, engineers, and small business
owners. In the US fewer people are getting married these days.
Marriage is now an option for most folks. It used to be something
that most every one did. The numbers now show that the majority of
folks who are getting married now tend to have higher educations,
higher earning potential and marry to combine and protect their
assets. So when they do get married they tend to buy very well made
higher priced goods. They also now have lower divorce rates so they
keep what they have earned. Single parents mostly have less
discretionary spending money. I know. I was one.

Also silver is much harder to solder and finish than gold so don’t
sell your skills short just because you work in silver. Really.
Although it is more expensive that regular sterling silver, I’d
recommend that you try using Continuum silver. It solders much like
gold and kiln hardens to 150-170 vickers which is as hard as 14 kt
gold. It also sets and engraves more like gold too.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#19

“Designer craftsmen” is too erroneously gender-specific for me to
want to use to describe myself. “Designer jeweler” might work for me.
You can say that the words “men"and"man” are generic and really mean
humankind until the cows come home, but it never will be what I want
to call myself. I could live with “Designer craftswoman”, but I
would really prefer to keep gender out of it, since it’s not the
point. But, please, call yourselves whatever you like. The artist’s
life is all about choices and freedom, in my book! - M’lou


#20

Here in Scotland and most other parts of the UK there are still lots
of jewellers still making one off silver jewellery. About 70% of mine
is and there are companies that still sell it on the high streets.

Robin Key
Clavis Jewellery,