Design, Maker Resources

11 Things You Didn’t Know About Handmade Jewelry

November 30, 2017

Handmade jewelry has been a sought after closet “staple” for decades. Whether it’s the only kind of jewelry you buy or something you picked up on vacation, you have at least one piece of handmade jewelry. What is it about something that’s made by hand that draws our attention? My theory is that an artisan’s personal connection and love of their craft transforms ordinary objects into jewelry masterpieces. Still, most people don’t understand the true value of handmade jewelry compared to its mass-produced counterparts. There are many reasons why handcrafted jewelry is more of an investment than pieces that are produced in mass quantities, so we thought we’d break it down for you! Below are 11 things you didn’t know about handmade jewelry.

“I get to hatch an idea for a new piece and BOOM! I can make it appear. Feels magical.” — Britta Ambauen

1. You’re Supporting Real People

It’s hard to know exactly where your money is going when you buy from a big corporation. Investing in handcrafted jewelry means you get a connection with the artist. Whether you know them in person, or feel like you know them after learning their unique story, you can remember that your purchase supports a real person. This money is used to buy clothes, food, and vacations for someone whose artistic ability you admire. There’s something very rewarding about knowing your money will go towards something good.

When it comes to creating jewelry, Kathy Bransfield can’t stop. “My main drive is the fact that each piece has so many different meanings for its owner.”

2. A Story Behind Each Piece

When you wear handmade jewelry, you’re part of the story the maker or artisan is telling through their work. Each artist has a unique reason for designing jewelry. Their designs are sending a message. Maybe only you know the true meaning behind it, but you feel that connection between you and the person who created it.

Marion Cage McCollam’s Big Easy workspace in her studio in New Orleans.

3. No Mass Production Machinery Involved

By definition, handmade jewelry is literally just that, made by the “hands” of the artisan or maker. The pieces are soldered, sawed, carved, and shaped without the use of manufacturing machinery. A machine can crank out hundreds of units per hour while an individual can only make a finite quantity. Why does this matter? Attention to detail, my friends! Your handmade jewelry will be far less likely to have flaws and imperfections than something made in bulk.

Tools of the trade ready to be put to work in Britta Ambauen’s studio.

4. The Value of Time

As previously mentioned, since there are no machines involved, it takes an incredible amount of time to produce just a single piece of handmade jewelry. As a designer myself, I often spend hours designing a single piece of jewelry for a client. Once the design is complete, it can take up to several weeks to make. That’s a lot of devotion, care, and attention to your piece of jewelry.

Alex Monroe in his London shop.

5. The Designer’s Process

The maker has a very intimate relationship with each piece or design they create. The design process is key to the value that is inherent in each piece. Emilie Shapiro talks about her process and says, “While creating jewelry, there is a very intimate relationship with my work. I know every curve and line is put there with intention. As a maker your energy goes into the piece.”

Emilie Shapiro at her NY NOW trade show booth.

 6. Exclusivity

Machines can keep going even once the designer is gone. Handmade jewelry is different. Makers and artisans can only create a finite number of pieces in their career as a designer. Owning a piece of handmade jewelry means you likely have a limited edition which gives you a sense of exclusivity. Remember, they could retire at any time, making it impossible to get another.

“The process of imagining, designing, and creating a piece of jewelry make for a triumphant ending that leaves me wanting to do it over and over,” says sea glass jewelry artist Suzie Thomas.

 7. Materials

In almost every case, the materials involved in a handmade piece are of stellar quality. It’s difficult to regulate or even know exactly what alloys are used in mass production factories where unexpected nickel or other metals can cause unwanted reactions. Handmade materials are generally sourced from highly reputable suppliers.

Tagua seed, also known as “vegetable ivory,” carved and colored.

8. Sustainability

Jewelry makers are often dedicated to sustainability and ethically sourced materials. By nature, being ethical can be much more costly than taking the easy route and purchasing from the refiner or dealer with low prices and shady sourcing. Tagua jewelry designer Paola Delgado further defines sustainability: “By giving the artisans that we work with education opportunities and fair trade wages, we try to give them the tools to achieve financial independence and come [into] their own. For me, treating the people that you work with [with] respect is sensible and sustainable business practice.”

Paola Delgato, right, at work with one of her artisans.

9. Quality

Smaller-scale production is almost always higher quality because the ability to track and control the process from start to finish is inherent in the making process. Makers and artisans are extremely proud of the work they produce. They aren’t going to let something of inferior quality leave their studio with their name on it.

“My intention is that each piece of jewelry tells a story to the wearer and evokes a sense of love and wonder.” — Nancy Nelson

10. Locally Made with Love

There is HUGE value in supporting local from a sustainability standpoint. Artisans and makers infuse love and energy into each piece of work and many designers use local products, materials, and people to help produce their creations. Along with the extra value inherent in handmade jewelry, you are also buying a truly unique product which helps to support communities.

“Inspiration can strike at any time and when it does, I make notes on anything I can and collect them on my desk.” — Lee Ann Jones, winner of the JCK Tucson design challenge.

11. Always One of a Kind

When you think about it, handmade pieces are always unique in their own way. No two pieces of handmade jewelry are exactly the same. Even if the handmade creation is part of an edition, you’re not likely to bump into someone wearing the same piece of jewelry as you at a party. You are the only person with that specific piece of jewelry which says a lot. From the finishes to the lines, they are always different or custom. It’s something just for you, every single time.

Past Present Future Necklace created by Beth Lawrence | Waterfall Ring created by Emilie Shapiro | 3 Stone Sea Glass Necklace created by Courtney Gillen

The next time you consider purchasing a handmade piece of jewelry, remember that even though the piece may be a little more costly than a mass-produced design, you are supporting something bigger than yourself. You should feel really good about your purchase knowing that you have a special piece of the artist forever in your jewelry collection.

See more handmade jewelry here »

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3 Comments

  • Reply Lori Romero December 1, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Great article! Love Emily Shapiro’s quote about her creative process.

  • Reply Pahari Jewellery December 5, 2017 at 1:21 am

    Hi Tracy you really have a great skill…love your art..

  • Reply GALANTA JEWELS December 9, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Great article!

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