I, for one, would like to see the discussion on this topic here, for
all to see. It's a topic that I've had to grapple with as a bead
vendor a lot, trying to please my customers - jewelry designers.
I think the primary motivation for choice of natural and untreated
beads is a "slosh over" from the gemstone world where synthetic and
treated are often seen as deception. Then there's that whole
"organic" idea that sloshes over from the world of food. So, people
tend to see the natural stone beads as more appealing, healing, or
simply ethical materials for use in jewelry.
However, I have a great deal of appreciation for the manmade
material beads. Really, many of them are far prettier than the
natural beads. Swarovski crystal, for one, has such gorgeous cut and
color it's hard to say they don't deserve a place in costume jewelry.
Being glass, of course, makes them prone to breakage, but no more,
and in some cases less so, than many of the natural stone materials.
OK, so most people would not put a Swarovski crystal next to a
tanzanite stone in a gold setting because they would think that the
crystal may cheapen the piece. Maybe. However, mixed media artists
are free to combine both cheap and expensive materials in their work,
so a really free thinker may do so and get away with it if they
combine true excellence in design with the mix.
There is a certain stigma to some materials, such as bone, horn,
shell, or glass. They carry with them a tone of primitive or cheap.
However, I've seen some really great jewelry (expensive too) that
uses them as components.
Personally, I think the choice of material should be driven by the
design. If it's a piece that will take heavy wear, then don't use
soft (natural or otherwise) materials. A case in point - opal rings
- Wow, what a design error. However, if practicality doesn't matter
to you, then go for it. (I own an opal ring myself, just wear it for
special occasions only.)
I would like to see people break out of their design boxes that they
create for themselves, as I think it would produce some startling
results. However, as long as the customer is impressed by those words
"natural" or "untreated" and unimpressed by the word "manmade" or
such, then those design boundaries will remain.
Off my soap box now.
Sun Country Gems