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Identity crisis... What am I?


#1

Hi Folks

I think I’m a jeweller that makes jewellery out of sterling silver
(plus occasionally a few other things). The dictionary tells me that
a jeweller can be a variety of things including one that just trades
in jewellery and doesn’t actually have jewellery making skills. A
lot of people think I’m a silversmith but I’ve always thought that
they are those that make larger objects such as bowls, trays and
cutlery. I’ve recently been told that a jeweller that actually makes
jewellery items is actually a goldsmith (even if they only make
things out of silver).

Would be curious as to other Orchideans view on this conundrum.

Cheers, Renate (currently undergoing a small identity crisis)


#2

Renate-

You are not alone in your puzzlement. I called myself a silversmith
until I had a workshop with Jennifer Friedman and learned that my
correct title was goldsmith because I make silver jewelry but not
large objects (although the jewelry that I fabricate is quite large
and bold). So,here I am working in silver and labeled a goldsmith.
I’ve been called worse in my life.

Marly


#3

i think you should stop worrying and think about what you do that is
positive and think positivly about yourself make everything you touch
beautifull and leave it better than you found it. you are most likely
all of what you said rolled into one, dont limit yourself

best regards goo


#4

Renate,

It matters little other than to those who can read between the lines.
Most of the public, once they know you deal in jewellery, will regard
you as a jeweller - whether you work in silver or gold, whether you
make or sell, or even if you went through the apprenticship system or
taught yourself as a hobbyist.

I was apprenticed in the trade and the course title was “Jewellery
manufacture and repair” and so I call myself a manufacturing
jeweller. Years ago I would hold in disdain anyone who gave
themselves a similar title who had not gone through the trade. Now I
realise that it does not matter whether you are trade trained or not
provided you can do the work, and not pretend to to do the work. I do
have trouble regarding someone who does not have general all around
bench skills (manufacture and repairs) as a bench jeweller - I know
of many who pretend to be without being able to do the work.

How do you see yourself?
Roger


#5

Been there Renate,

When I was young I wanted to be a “silversmith” and make hollowware
and perhaps some jewelry also. Hollowware is a tough sell these days.
Not such a big part of our culture as it was a hundred years ago. But
I called myself a silversmith even though much of what I made was not
silver. As time went on I became a jeweler, but I started calling
myself a “metalsmith”. The problem now is that insiders like
Orchidians know what I mean by metalsmith, but the public in general
is somewhat confused. I get calls now and then wanting me to shoe
horses or weld stainless steel sinks. I now have years of advertising
and promotion with the metalsmith moniker, so I will stick with it,
but I see now that some other jewelry business identity would have
been less problematic. I have a second store that opened 2 years ago
90 miles from the original. We do not emphasize “metalsmith” there,
but use “jewelry” in the store name.

There are people who still refer to me as a “silversmith”. Whenever
I get the chance, like if I am introduced as a silversmith I use it
as an opportunity to let people know that I do more. I will answer,
“How am I supposed to sell diamonds, gold and platinum if you
introduce me as a silversmith?” Say it with a smile and it gives you
a perfect opportunity to explain who you really are and what you do.

There are always some people, way to many in my opinion, who adopt
an identity and then try to live up to it. You especially see it in
teenagers, but you see it all the time when people stereotype
themselves. I think people in the arts are especially prone to this.
You try to be authentic by living up to the cultural expectations for
the identity you choose. The McDonald’s commercial “confessions of an
ex-hipster” hits it right on the head. The guy loves cappuccino and
this leads him to assume the identity of a beatnik until he realizes
that he does not have to give up who he really is just for a
beverage. It took me a few years after art school to figure out that
establishing myself as “an artist” in a way that won the approval of
the arts establishment was not really that important. The audience
for my work isn’t tuned in to that channel. Getting too serious about
identity leads to identity crisis. So just relax and be who you are
and don’t get too emotionally invested in the words that label you.

Stephen Walker


#6

Renate- Why stick to conventional labels and definitions? I kinda
like Jewelry God or Goddess. Or Metal Manipulator. Or Author of
Beauty. Price or Princess of Fire and Silver.Ooooo! Emperor of
Eutectics!

Somebody please stop me now.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com


#7

It’s first my post on the forum so forgive me as I figure out how
this one works.

I have always liked to consider myself as an artist and craftsman
who works with precious metals and everything fabulous (gem stones).
I’ve heard debates about the subject you’ve brought up and I’ve
always found to be labeled goldsmith / silversmith / platniumsmith a
little restricting.

I like term “Jewelry Artist” but it doesn’t seem to roll off the
tongue as well as “Jeweler”.

I’m apprenticing at being a “Jewelry Blogger”… there is new
language popping up everyday isn’t there?

http://goldndesigns.net/


#8

Renate -

What I understand is that silversmiths make large objects of
precious metals that have utility in everyday life: bowls,
candlesticks, cutlery. Goldsmiths make small objects of precious
metals, usually for personal adornment. The skills of shaping metal,
using the torch, setting gems, etc., are the same. Jewelers deal in
jewelry, and may or may not have (gold/silver)smith skills.

So, I guess you are a jeweler who specializes in silver jewelry.

I suspect that since the ‘smithing’ trades have become much reduced
in importance to most Americans or Australians, it’s no wonder
people don’t know the differences between a goldsmith and a
silversmith. (I get asked all the time, “What’s a goldsmith?” They
probably have no idea what a gunsmith or blacksmith are either.)


#9

Hi Renate,

This has been a subject that has been tossed around along time here
on Orchid. Traditionally, a goldsmith makes jewelry both silver and
gold a silversmith forms vessels out of sterling silver.

Over the years the definition has gotten messed. But yes you are
correct. I am both a silversmith and goldsmith, but have had to
redirect by “title” as a “metalsmith and goldsmith” so that the
"common folk" understand better. Yes, I prefer to be known as a
silversmith (vessel creator) and goldsmith.

jennifer friedman
http://www.jenniferfriedmanstudio.com


#10

i can relate! in addition to working in sterling and gems, my
identity crisis also includes doing mosaics, ceramics, painting, and
drawing, along with working to build an orphanage and school in
Kenya by raising money through one of my jewelry lines. so am i
jeweler?, silversmith?, goldsmith?, bead stringer?, craftswoman?,
artist?, philanthropist? HELP


#11

Hey Renate,

People that sell jewelry are ‘jewelers’, people that work on jewelry
in any fashion are ‘bench jewelers’ - kind of a subset of the broad
range of people involved in the jewelry trade.

You qualify as a bench jeweler if you, for instance, can (only) do
ring sizings. And you can be very competent at that. But a goldsmith
usually is considered someone with a broader knowledge of the art,
and should be able to take a design from concept to completion by
him/her/self.

A silversmith would be similar but within that tradition.

Pete


#12
Why stick to conventional labels and definitions? I kinda like
Jewelry God or Goddess. Or Metal Manipulator. Or Author of Beauty.
Price or Princess of Fire and Silver.Ooooo! Emperor of Eutectics! 

I love your exotic names, however I would pragmatically use “Art
Jeweler”, as it’s fewer letters, and most readily recognizable and
still gives differentiation from ‘mall jewelers’ and the like. Keep
on with the exotic, unconventional names it challenges me (& others)
to bigger ideas.

Ed Wales


#13
I think I'm a jeweller that makes jewellery out of sterling
silver (plus occasionally a few other things).The dictionary tells
me that a jeweller can be a variety of things including one that
just trades in jewellery and doesn't actually have jewellery making
skills. A lot of people think I'm a silversmith but I've always
thought that they are those that make larger objects such as bowls,
trays and cutlery. I've recently been told that a jeweller that
actually makes jewellery items is actually a goldsmith (even if
they only make things out of silver).

Yes, the age-old question of a defining title. In agreement with you,
I learned from what I consider a very reliable source (the
Goldscmiedeschule in Germany) that “Silversmithing” is the working
of silver in its traditional format, being hollowware & such, and
"Goldsmithing" is the working of gold in its tradtional format,
which is jewelry, personal adornments. So, when someone says they are
"taking a silversmithing class", I first assume that they want to
learn to make bowls & candlesticks, and then I usually realize that
no, they were just using that term to mean working in silver. Well,
of course most metalsmithing (to use the more generic term) classes
don’t start by teaching you how to work in sterling or fine silver,
they start with a cheaper metal so you can learn the skills, then
you work up to the more expensive metal when you’re comfortable with
it. So does that mean you start in the first few weeks as a
coppersmith or a nickelsmith, then work up to silversmith? No, that
means you’re learning the techniques of goldsmithing and then
applying them to various metals as is appropriate. Coppersmithing,
for that matter, has an alltogether different connotation, of turning
out ladels and urns in copper, sort of like a silversmith but in
copper.

Now for the name “jeweler”. I’ve often wondered what that really
means as well. I think often people who own a jewelry store are
considered “jewelers”, though perhaps they don’t have the actual
skills to make much of anything, and of course maybe they do, but
then maybe they’re considered a “goldsmith”. I don’t refer to myself
as one, also, because that could mean too many things that aren’t
me. Of course, no matter which name you choose that could be a
problem. If you want to think of it as a problem, anyway. For me, I
wander between the names “Artist” and “Metalsmith”. I don’t tell
people “goldsmith” because then they think I work in gold (again, the
common misunderstanding in the terminology), and I feel a bit like I
shouldn’t anyway because I’m not a “Master” goldsmith, though it’s
not like I was going to call myself a “master goldsmith”, just maybe
"goldsmith". I’ve been doing crafts & fine art for forever, so
"Artist" comes naturally to me. My jewelry tends to be more on the
"art" side, anyway, not the more traditional "jewelry store"
variety, if you know what I mean. But if I say “Artist” to people,
they ask what I paint! As far as the IRS is concerned, though, that
is my title. So, to try to make it as easy as possible, I tell people
I’m a “Metalsmith”, usually followed closely by “I make jewelry”, so
they aren’t imagining me welding ironwork fences. In the end, there
is not easy solution. Try some names out, see what works for you. In
the end, just have some cards on hand & you can just show people what
you do instead of trying to label it. :wink:

Lisa
Designs by Lisa Gallagher


#14
I was apprenticed in the trade and the course title was "Jewellery
manufacture and repair" and so I call myself a manufacturing
jeweller. 

I had a guest Scottish jeweler at a show we did several years ago. He
was yammering away calling himself a “manufacturing jeweller” talking
to the public until I told him that in the US this would imply
"factory". I asked him to call himself a “craftsman” because that is
what he would be considered here and would communicate the impression
most likely to charm the public. This name/identity business gets
pretty tricky because we want to flatter ourselves with who we are.
The thing is to do it in a way so the public gets it. Not just any
public, but the audience and customers for what you are making.
Insider jargon can be confusing to the public. It is important what
you call yourself. Words mean things. Sometimes they mean different
things to different groups of people.


#15

Hello Renate!

Here in Germany it’s simple to find out what you are. A jeweler is
the one who buys and sells things made of precious metal. He don’t
need any skills in the craft - he is a tradesman. A goldsmith is the
one who builds things like rings, brooches, chains, bracelets and so
on. Of course he can be a jeweler, too. A silversmith is the one who
builds things like cans, candleholder, knifes, forks, spoons, plates
and so on. Of course he can be a jeweler, too.

So it is not the material, what makes you a gold- or silversmith,
it is the product you build in particular. A silversmith needs some
other tools (bigger ones) than a goldsmith. Imagine you fabricate a
large silverplate (maybe 50 x 80 centimeters) - for polishing you
need a bigger machine than a goldsmith would need for a little
ring…

Cheers, Mario.


#16
What I understand is that silversmiths make large objects of
precious metals that have utility in everyday life: bowls,
candlesticks, cutlery. Goldsmiths make small objects of precious
metals, usually for personal adornment. The skills of shaping
metal, using the torch, setting gems, etc., are the same. Jewelers
deal in jewelry, and may or may not have (gold/silver)smith skills. 

That depends on what part of the world you are from. In the eastern
US a silversmith is as you described: a maker of bowls, etc. from
silver. In the southwest US silversmith is thought of to make silver
jewelry just as the Native American silversmiths make jewelry. Of
course they are all just labels and I detest labels and being
pigeonholed. I’m still a non-conformist hippie from the 1970’s. I use
the term silversmith because in my locale it best describes my work
and trade. Although I do occasionally work with gold I feel referring
to myself as a goldsmith wouldn’t best describe me or my work.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
rockymountainwonders.com


#17
jeweler?, silversmith?, goldsmith?, bead stringer?, craftswoman?,
artist?, philanthropist? - 

I’ve always preferred to call myself an Artisan or Artisan Crafter.

Jeweler doesn’t cover my leatherwork, knitting or cooking, and the
"proper titles" for those don’t cover my beadstringing, carving,
forming things in silver, copper and brass or woodworking…

There’s also a term used in the Steampunk subculture that I like:
Maker.

LJ
(Who has several pieces of jewelry, a couple leather projects and three
carving commissions working right now.)


#18

Hi All

I created a name for one of my favorite jewelers/teachers who wears
gold cowboy boots - Precious Metal & Rock Star. She declined the
title so I am practicing hard so that I may someday be worthy of
that title.

PS VL - you know who you are…

Kelley Keogh


#19

I don’t consider myself as having any professional chops whatever as
a jeweler or as a silversmith. I think if I were to claim either
title with no formal experience and very little informal experience,
a lot of people would likely resent it, and probably sue me. Just
like professional engineers would sue anyone who advertised
themselves as an engineer without taking the PE exam, or even Texas
engineers suing anyone calling themselves software engineers.

What I see myself as, is as an a laid-off software designer who now
focuses on automating procedures for machining and assembling
precious materials into one-of-a-kind customer specified items that
can be created using a just-in-time production and supply chain.

While I enjoy the prospect of making pretty things, that really is a
means to an end.

For me, I enjoy trying to find out-of-the-box solutions for
conquering the design challenges involved in attempting to simplify
the various tasks in volved in creating certain types of jewelry.

It gives me something to do while being unemployed and unemployable
due to disabilities.

So I guess my title is: “Precious Materials Process Engineer”

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#20

Renate:

Don’t worry about labels, just do whatever it is that you do.

I’m moved to remember a conversation a couple of us had in art
school, many moons ago. One among us was worried about defining “his
style” because he wanted to do a couple of pieces that he didn’t
think fit within whatever he thought of as ‘his style’. (As if you
can have a ‘style’ at the age of 20…) This was causing him much
grief.

The consensus was to just do it and not worry about ‘styles’. Your
style is simply whatever you do, as defined by you. Equally, you can
call yourself whatever you like, including Fred, and/or Ginger, if
that’s what fits your mood. The titles will adapt to fit the work.
Don’t straight-jacket yourself by worrying about someone who’s never
met you’s opinion of the nature of your job description. Do the
work, and let the critics figure it out later, if it happens to
matter. Personally, I strive to make the critics work as hard as
possible, by crossing as many boundaries as I can find. I started out
as a swordsmith/blacksmith, got two degrees in metalsmithing, and
have won awards as a silversmith, and have made everything from
platinum wedding rings to spare parts for a sherman tank. I also do
product photography, and have been a professional prepress manager,
and database wrangler. You want to figure that one out?

My normal card says ‘Metalsmith’, but I’ve got another one for my
graphics consulting firm that says ‘Reality Engineer’. I think I
actually prefer that one. I’ve had ‘official’ cards, issued by some
of the companies that I’ve worked for that have had titles as varied
as ‘Dark Lord of Production’ (really) and ‘Speaker to Machines’.

The point I’m trying to make here is that the title’s irrelevant.
Just do your work, and don’t worry about what the piece of paper
says you ‘should’ be making. As a practical matter, pick whatever
title you think will help you sell your work, and don’t be afraid to
work ‘beyond’ that title whenever the mood strikes you.

Regards,
Brian.