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If you are going to be speaking about jewelry as art, then you should
know that according to the philosophy of aesthetics, jewelry is not
art. Painting and sculpture are art. They have no other function
than to exist for aesthetic appreciation. If an object has a
function of any kind, it can not be art, neither can it be considered

Jewelry is a craft. An artist can work in the media, but the jewelry
will not become art because an artist has done it. Jewelry has
primarily the function of body ornamentation. Since there is
function, no art, no beauty.

I know the spirited debates we had in aesthetics class about this
issue, I didn’t write the rules of art!! If you would like to
research this and I suggest you do, read “Analytic of the Beautiful”,
by Immanuel Kant.

Barbara Gillis

I think there is a distinction missing here. Because it sounds as if
all jewelry makers per se are craftspeople. In the jewelry craft then
there is a major difference between a crafter and designer. And I
think the principles of art would apply here.


Kant’s is not the definitive definition of art–it’s just his
definition of art. And who says that body ornamentation is not for
the sole purpose of aesthetic appreciation?

I might also add that music and literature also had their own special
muses. Or as Lord Byron so elegantly wrote:

Hail Muse!, et cetera.


I’m sure that the above will have many responses. Who makes the
rules? Are you going to accept the writings of one, or a few people,
as the absolute truth? I thought that we have come a lot further than
this by now, the 21st century of the modern era. To put it very
simply, art is in the eye of the beholder. To say that if something
has a function, it can’t be considered art or beautiful, is to be
living in the dark ages. I hope that no one is offended by this but I
must say that I am somewhat offended by such narrow views of life and
the world that surrounds us. My opinion. What do the rest of you

Joel Schwalb

This is guaranteed to light a fire!! Barbara, have you ever seen work
in a Jewelry I class? Most of that work is all look, no wear. Many
pieces that I have designed do not ‘function’ in any sense of the the
word, except that they follow some basic concepts to be considered a
piece of jewelry (i.e. a hole for the finger in a ‘ring’ that would
amputate the finger if worn, etc.) If we must follow the rules of
Immanuel Kant (never say that you kant do something :slight_smile: then there are
many things that violate basic principles that most people hold dear.
Quite simply- why is he right? He is not. Neither are those who
would exclude things from art simply because they are functional.
Does the painting stop being a work of art when used to cover a hole
in the wall? Is the Acropolis not a great work of art simply because
it is a building? (it does function!) Are we so led by those who are
critics that we will let those who cannot do determine what we

Ben Silver

Does jewelry really serve a utilitarian function? I don’t see how
hanging metal and stones from my body serves any real purpose. Back
in college I had an OK painting that had a very utilitarian crack
hiding function. Ornaments on bodies and ornaments on walls seem to
be the same in many respects. They make a statement about who you
are. They evoke emotions. They may have religious or philosophical
meaning. In jewelry’s favor, I’ve never seen anyone buy it to match
the couch.


I think you are confused - art & jewelry are one! Art is an emotion ,
Division of space, color & design. Jewelry is all of the above -
giving pleasure, a statement, & evoking the inerself as does both
mediums. I taught fine arts ( watercolors, etching, paper making,
pastels, basic drawing, acrylics, color & design, & advanced mat
cutting) Believe me they require the same requirements to reach the
end result. To design jewelry it is helpful to know the basic &
advanced methods of art & design, & sketching and color combinations.
Sorry I disagree with you immensely.


“jewelry cannot be Art”“because it has a function” “sculpture and
painting are Art because they have no function” one thing to say to
all of you who agree with these opinions, sculpture and painting ,are
the exact same thing as jewelry is. more so than any other craft Art
since it has no function than to sit on the body and ornament it ,
(since the first finds of craft works of cultures all but jewelry
have had functions,jewelry almost always being connected with some
sort of spiritual existences,so have sculptures and paintings)

How is it the same ?where are sculptures and paintings placed
,buildings ,homes ,dwellings… so they ornament
buildings,architectural spaces… (function???) (aesthetic function??) I
am a sculptor ,in discussing this issue which has been going on for
at LEAST20 years the way I interpret the sculptures ,“jewelry for
buildings” comes to mind. granted not all jewelry falls in the art
category,but at this day and age it has to be recognized as an Art
just to name a few of the jeweler artists who believe in the Art
form,do check them out .The argument will go on forever…it is high
time we change the RULES of art from the 17th century ,to the 21st.

Hratch Babikian ATELIER BABIKIAN P.O. Box 54147 Philadelphia, PA 19015
USA 215 465 9351

If an object has a function of any kind, it can not be art, neither
can it be considered beautiful.  

Barbara, with all due respect,


Having studied in and been associated with, over the years, quite a
number of different art schools, I can tell you this is not any sort
of currently accepted definition of art. Art and craft can coexist
within a piece. A painting most certainly does have a function. A
decorative one. Is making your living room more attractive not a
function? Is a painting suddenly not art if you hang it on a wall in
order to liven up your wall? The nature of art is in the creativity
that went into the piece. it does not need to exclude function in
order for that aesthetic need and requirement to be met. While
painting and sculpture have traditionally been called the fine arts,
while other media have been called the crafts, the distinction stems
as much, from the historical aspects of where and how they were
taught, rather than any actual aesthetic differences. There is skill
and craft involved in the production of sculpture and a painting as
well as aesthetics. And while there are many many craft objects which
do not exhibit the personal aesthetic explorations and creativity we
associate with good art, there are also many fine jewelers who’s
work is most definately accepted as art in it’s finest sense, by
galleries, museaums, teachers, and philosophers of aesthetics today.
And you can also just as easily find paint on canvas in images so
kitschy and tired and commercial that there is no vestige, even
slight, of art therein.

You need to read well beyond Mr. Kant.

Peter Rowe

And while we’re on this subject …

Art has more than the sole role of aesthetic appreciation. One of
it’s roles is to prophecy the future. Ever seen the painting, “The
Scream.” or read Kafka’s “The Trial?” or read Huxley’s “Brave New
World” – now that was truly a book that prophisied the future. You
might also marvel at the music of Gesualdo, whose chromatism in music
predated jazz by – oh 500 years. I could even add that Warhol’s
stuff “phophesied” the power of mass marketing advertising as a
determiner of peoples attention and focus. His gigantic Campbell’s
soup cans were showing us the relationship between icons and

And art also has a role in showing us that we CAN break the rules.
Picasso is an excellent example there, as is Stravinsky’s “Rite of
Sring” which caused an absolute riot when it was first performed. But
now that Stravinsky has stretched our ears, his music seems “dated.”

Things don’t always have to be beautiful to be art either. There are
many philisophers who have tried to define aesthetics and art. Plato
posed that there were ideals, and physical objects were just poor,
imperfect imitations of the ideals.

The expressionist philosophy of art (20th century) posed that art was
that which evoked emotions, and you could judge it by what you felt
about it. (A weak definition in my mind.)

My preferred aethetic discipline is “structuralism,” which examines
how well an object is put together–it’s visual design, use of color,
materials, and overall construction. Structuralism can also extend
its analysis to how well an object fits into its environment, time,
society, etc. It’s a much more rigorous methodology for understanding
and valuing an object. So craftmanship is just one component that
gets evaluated via structuralism.

So there!