From the nomadic people of hunter-gatherer cultures to the kings and queens of Egypt, jewelry has an extensive history of symbolism and status. While today’s pieces may not suggest royalty or personal skill, jewelry is still both decorative and symbolic of personality and preference. However, mass production loses some level of personalization, which is why many people prefer handmade jewelry for its custom look and artisan touch.
Specialization and Customization
Capitalism often leads to great innovation and ingenuity, but it can also expedite the death of craft. The commercialization of jewelry led to the evolution of mechanical processes capable of spewing out thousands of necklaces, pendants and bracelets free of discrepancies or imperfections but absent of human touch and craft. It turns out that many people still long for the customization of artisans with specialized and proven skills. While you may never find a technically perfect piece, handmade jewelry is valuable and iconic because of the effort and dedication of its crafters. People realize the quality of human-made products has value, which is why the techniques of jewelry designers are once again in demand.
If you are looking for a unique piece of jewelry, search for those jewelers specializing in fabrication. Artisans dedicated to fabricated pieces use bench skills and metalsmithing to craft unique and creative pieces, from gemstone rings to pendant necklaces. They use basic tools, such as a metal saw and soldering iron, to manipulate the materials into works of art. While the minimalist toolbox often means anyone can practice such a skill, fabrication takes patience, time and practice to master.
Wire wrapping is a technique where beads or stones are wrapped with intricate wire designs, creating beautiful pendants or charms. However, skilled makers can manipulate the wire to create spectacular coils and weaves. While some designs may appear fragile and simplistic, many wire experts use labor-intensive techniques, using a combination of wire gauges and tempers.
As the name implies, a maker of assembled jewelry takes different pre-existing components, such as pendants, chains and beads, and assembles them into a more intricate piece of jewelry. While this is the simplest form of the craft, assembling leads to more affordable pieces. The process is also an excellent introduction to the jewelry making process because of its approachability.
Most people are familiar with beaded jewelry. Unfortunately, some people may only know it from childhood projects with thick plastic beads. While kids’ crafts are always fun, the gaudy designs do not speak to the intricacy and beauty of true beadwork and craftsmanship. Real beaded jewelry use beads of various materials, like clay, silver, wood, gold or even glass. The sizes of the beads range from sizeable pendant pieces to tiny pieces that make up chains or borders.
Enameling leads to some of the most beautiful and colorful handcrafted jewelry. Using a soldering torch or kiln, an artisan fuses glass powder to a metal surface, creating a permanent bond. Some makers specialize in the cloisonné technique, which uses wire to form little compartments for the glass powder that leads to a stained glass effect. However, there are multiple techniques like torch firing and plique-à-jour that range in difficulty and skill.
Stamping or Engraving
Jewelers specializing in stamping or engraving can offer a variety of metal jewelry at varying prices. Stamped pieces use a metal blank and a stamp impression that a maker hammers onto the blank. Engraving is often a free-hand process for personalization, but expensive equipment exists to help artisans and limit waste. The beauty of both methods is the customization offered to potential customers.
While wholesale jewelry is readily available with minimal imperfections, it lacks an individual style and value that handmade pieces offer. Find a piece of jewelry that speaks to your personality, and let DIY makers know that their skills are in demand and appreciated. Shop the DIYvinci Market.Support our Artists by Becoming a Sponsor