An artisan is someone who creates art, specifically by coming up with the idea and then actually creating the physical art piece themselves. Artisan jewelry is created by artisans, and there are some important distinctions to remember.
Handmade ≠ Artisan
Many jewelry designers describe their jewelry as handmade, but it is not made with their own hands, which can be a bit confusing. They’re not lying about it being handmade, their jewelry designs are just made by other jewelers or laborers. Small scale designers often use what is called small batch jewelry manufacturing in order to produce enough of their designs to sell. Artisans design and handmake each and every piece! Simply put, artisan jewelry is always handmade, but handmade jewelry is not always artisan.
For Artisans, It's a Labor of Love
For artisan jewelers, each finished piece takes an immense amount of time and effort to complete. These individuals who both design and create each jewelry piece have mastered not only their craft, but the technicalities of bringing their unique aesthetic to life. When it comes to jewelry, there is so much that goes into it: gemology certifications, metalsmithing classes, wax carving and casting training, fabrication experience, and more. Many hours of practice are required for each and every skill in order to produce quality jewelry. It takes a special kind of person to both have a creative vision and bring that idea to fruition, and it is an even more rare find in the jewelry industry.
It's Not Just Art... It's Science!
Most people see jewelry as fashion. It is an accessory, there are trends, and that is all. But when it comes to fine jewelry and gemology, there is so much science behind the art. The metals and gemstones that are used behave in different ways and require both training and experience to truly master. In manufactured jewelry, whether small batch or large, there is an exact set of rules that someone put into place. When those rules are followed, each piece comes out as it is meant to.
For artisan jewelers, each piece is an adventure. Different wax types and melting temperatures will affect the final piece when it comes to lost wax casting. Precious metals have different properties related to oxidation, durability, and more. Gem durability is an important factor when designing and creating stone settings for a particular piece. There are so many scientific details that must be understood to make jewelry, and there is no art aspect to jewelry without a truly creative mind. While designers can be focused solely on the creative and makers can focus more on the science, artisans must have a very solid handle on both.
Want to learn more? Check out our other blog posts about gemology and jewelry making!